Exchange - Researching Your Placement

In the lead up to you departing for your time abroad it is really important to research your placement.  Below are a number of topics for you to consider and resources to help you conduct your research, if there is anything you think we have missed please email us.


It is your responsibility to find accommodation for the duration of your time abroad. Most exchange partners will provide you with full information on how to apply for university accommodation but you must ensure you follow their procedures and deadline dates.  

It is worth noting that at our exchange partners (and similarly for inbound study abroad students to Suffolk) student accommodation is limited and you should not assume that you will be allocated a room in halls at your host university.  We recommend that you research thoroughly the private accommodation options available to you as well as apply for student accommodation.  

It is very common for students to rent private accommodation and to secure this once they arrive in country rather than before.  It makes things easier if you go out early and book yourself in to an Air BnB, or hostel while you look for your private accommodation, check the noticeboards and student forums at your host university to find flat shares and other accommodation options. Be sure to read the contract carefully, including the small print, and question anything you are unsure of. If you pay a deposit get a receipt and never sign a contract or pay any deposit or advance on rent before you have seen the property.

Speak to Suffolk students who have returned from Study Abroad placements at your host institution chances are they will have some great hints and tips for you on how to find accommodation.  The Study Abroad Team can help put you in touch with returning students.

Birth Certificate

It is advisable to take the original (and a copy) of your full birth certificate with you. Do not part with the original. Some authorities require a certified translation of this document. Students going to France should ensure that they hold a certified translation of their full birth certificate.


Culture and Customs

Whether your placement will be in Europe or further a field it is important and valuable to research the culture, customs and etiquette of your host country.  Being aware of the customs and etiquette of your host country will help you integrate and avoid social faux pas.  

  • Did you know that French people don't really hug, in fact there isn't even a French word for hug? 

When you consider the subtle social customs and etiquette here in the UK it makes sense to ensure you have a good knowledge of the basics.  

Email and Data Protection

It is important to check your Suffolk student e-mail regularly. You should also feel free to contact the Study Abroad Adviser if you encounter any problems. The Study Abroad Adviser will help and support you as much as possible while you are abroad, provided we are made aware of any problems.

In line with the Data Protection Act (1998) no member of staff at the University of Suffolk is able to discuss details of any student with a third party (including parents). It is therefore your responsibility to contact the Study Abroad Adviser regarding any significant change in circumstances or serious difficulty you encounter. If you are happy for the University to discuss any issues/problems with your parents you should inform the University. You may also want to consider making arrangements such as giving power of attorney to a parent/guardian which might facilitate matters while you are away, eg dealing with finances.

Global Health Insurance Card

Before going abroad to an EU country you must obtain the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which is available online. For more detailed information see the leaflet Health Advice for Travellers which is available from any Post Office or visit the Department of Health website.


  • Insurance

You must arrange comprehensive health and travel insurance before you depart, if you are attending an institution outside of Europe it is very likely that your host university will expect you to take out their insurance policy, alternatively the University of Suffolk offers a comprehensive policy.

  •  Inoculations and vaccinations:

You should ensure that your inoculations and vaccinations are up-to-date and we recommend that you are vaccinated against Meningitis C and MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella).

  • Prescriptions and other medicines:

If you are prescribed or take any regular medication for an ongoing health condition please ensure you have access to a regular supply for the entire period of study abroad as medications, trade names and dosage levels may vary. Make sure that you label medication and keep it in containers that clearly show the prescription. If you need to take a large amount of medication it is advisable to ask your doctor to provide you with a diagnosis/prescription describing the medicine. It sounds obvious, but students who wear glasses or contact lenses should take a spare pair and plenty of contact solution if needed.

  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs):

Lack of adequate precaution means you could be at risk. If you suspect you have contracted an STD see a doctor immediately.

  • Emotional Health:

New surroundings, new language and new people all affect our means of communicating. Homesickness is another common emotional reaction and should not be dismissed as insignificant - many students feel like a fish out of water at first. Being aware of what is happening to you is the first step towards coping. Talking things through also helps, so keep in contact with friends and family and work hard to create a new support network.

  • Culture shock:

Living in an environment which is culturally different from what you are used to at home is exciting, but it can also be disorientating and may make you feel emotionally and even physically unwell at times. This experience is called "culture shock". Feelings of culture shock are experienced by many people as they get used to living in a new cultural environment. Some typical causes of culture shock are differences in: personal freedom, privacy, accommodation, relationships between people, the way people dress and act in public, and learning and teaching styles.

Being able to share experiences with friends can help you cope with culture shock so for health reasons make sure you spend at least some time socialising, even if you are very busy with your studies. Your host university can help you find out about social activities during your time abroad where you can have fun and meet like-minded people.  If you think you are experiencing culture shock ask for help.  Your hosts, the Study Abroad Adviser in Suffolk will be able to help you.


Check your passport is valid with an expiry date of at least 6 months beyond the end of your year/semester abroad. If your passport is near its expiry date we recommend that you apply for a new one in plenty of time. As always when travelling abroad, it is advisable to keep a copy of your passport at home with other copies of documents and take a spare copy with you but don’t keep it in the same place as your passport.


Always take plenty of passport sized photographs for use abroad on official cards (student IDs, travel cards etc.)

Safety and Security

  • Check before you leave:

Embassies and Consulates are an excellent source of country-specific information including safety, security, crime medical facilities and traffic safety.

  • General safety:

It seems obvious, but please remember that not all things are the same as at home. Before you leave you should attend any briefing sessions organised by the Study Abroad Adviser.

You can overcome most problems with flexibility and common sense. Making yourself aware of your immediate area when you arrive will help you. You should attend orientation sessions at your host institution, which, as well as providing you with important information, are also an excellent way to meet other new students.

  • Key hazards (something with the power to do harm) are:

  • transport
  • accidental injury (eg from handling heavy items, sharp objects, falls)
  • fire
  • lone-working
  • Risks (the likelihood of harm occurring) can be reduced by:

  • road and vehicle safety awareness, forward journey planning
  • wearing protective clothing/equipment (eg hand or eye protection)/good quality footwear
  • awareness of procedures for obtaining first aid and calling the emergency services
  • regular communication with your Suffolk co-ordinator, colleagues and family (mobile phone calls and texts, email)
  • Theft:

Be responsible for yourself. Only take essential items with you. Do not keep your valuables on windowsills.  Be careful when considering inviting new acquaintances home. Don't forget your insurance documents.

  • Alcohol:

You should never feel pressured into drinking. Check the legal drinking age in your host country. Again, be aware of your surroundings and the people you are with and how you are going to get home safely.

  • Gender issues:

Women travelling alone should always be aware and observant and the following tips may help when faced with an uncomfortable situation:

  • Do not be alone with a stranger. This includes anyone in your residence - ask for their identification if you are unsure.
  • If you find yourself in a difficult situation remove yourself as quickly as possible.
  • Turn the conversation around by asking some questions. Be in control by initiating rather than reacting to events.
  • If this fails, tell the other person very directly to stop whatever is bothering you. Be specific, be calm and be serious.
  • Firmly say "no" to any unwanted invitation and give address information only to people who can be trusted. Be cautious until you can be confident.
  • Stay in public areas.

Sexual Harassment is unacceptable wherever you are. If you find yourself in such a situation please seek help from your host university to determine a course of action.

Serious Issues

If there is a serious issue with your placement, if you experience bullying or racism do not be afraid to raise it with your mentor or a representative at your host university.  In addition you can also contact the Study Abroad Adviser.

It is always better to try and resolve any issues of harassment and bullying informally if possible (although there may be some incidents which are so serious that it would not be appropriate to resolve things informally).  If possible go and talk to the person concerned, tell them that their behaviour is causing offence and ask them to stop.  Often speaking with the person about their behaviour can bring the situation to an end.  Sometimes people do not realise that their behaviour is upsetting and explaining this to them can be enough to make them rethink their actions.  It is best to approach the person at the earliest opportunity to prevent the behaviour escalating.

It may be helpful to have a note of incidents including times and dates so that you can give examples of the behaviour that may have caused offence.

Visa Information

You will almost certainly be required to obtain the appropriate visa or permit to allow you to study as an international student.  Please note that the Study Abroad Team is not qualified to offer visa advice.   Please be aware that immigration legislation changes frequently and without warning, so please check the relevant embassy and immigration website for the most up to date information.

You should be aware that taking the necessary steps to acquire your visa is your own responsibility and you may incur costs for example: TB blood tests in order to obtain your visa.  

If your visa is refused you will be responsible for any costs incurred.