Living Abroad


Looking for a meaningful souvenir from your time abroad? Try keeping a journal or travel blog. Jot down all of your cultural mishaps and language disasters. The Office of Study Abroad would love to link to your blog in order to share your experiences with other MSU students.

Your Host Country and Its Laws

It is vital that you remember that you will be a visitor while studying abroad. It is YOU that will have to adapt to the new culture—not it to you. Don’t assume that American culture is better; it is only different. Open your mind to new things and to new ways of doing old things. Before you leave, plan to do plenty of research before you leave on your host country’s customs, beliefs, politics, religions, holidays, and laws. Talk to MSU students who have visited the same country or to students from that country who are now studying at MSU. Remember: just because something is acceptable behavior in Mississippi does not mean it is acceptable where you will be living.

Not only could your behavior be loud and offensive to some, it could even be illegal. Drunk and disorderly behavior and drug-related crimes are among the most common reason U.S. citizens are arrested abroad. Always remember that you are a guest in another country. The more you learn now, the easier your transition will be later. Review the following resources before you leave:

Advice from the U.S. Department of State

Please review the Department of State’s Students Abroad website for further tips on travel, health, embassies, news, and alerts for students studying abroad.

Staying Safe

The safety, security, and well-being of study abroad program participants are of utmost importance to MSU and the Office of Study Abroad. While we cannot guarantee a risk-free environment, all efforts are made to best ensure the safety and well-being of our participants throughout the duration of the program. The Office of Study Abroad follows prudent measures ensure the safety of our programs and to reduce risk for study abroad participants.  All students complete an application, which includes health information and emergency contact information.  We require all students to complete an Outbound Orientation, purchase adequate international health and emergency assistance insurance, and register through the Department of State.

The Office of Study Abroad closely monitors U.S. State Department (DOS) Travel Advisories and Country Specific Risk Indicators at all times. OSA also regularly reviews reports by the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), as well as information provided by trusted security analysis services, local governments and media outlets.

While MSU is firmly committed to the provision of this support, we also emphasize to students, faculty, and parents that all program participants must take responsibility for their own safety and security. This is highlighted during pre-departure preparations, on-site orientation, and throughout students' stay in the host country. Points of emphasis during the orientation include students using common sense, being aware of their surroundings, and not putting themselves in compromising positions with the abuse of drugs or alcohol. The same precautions anyone would follow in their home communities in the U.S. should be maintained when traveling abroad.

Points to keep in mind:

Your actions and opinions (intentionally or not) will contribute to your host country’s opinion of the USA, Mississippi, Starkville, and Mississippi State University. Locals will ask you many questions while you are abroad, and it is wise to think about these topics before you are asked by the gentlemen selling you a baguette in Paris. Possible topics might include US foreign policy, Afghanistan, Iraq, Bush, Obama, slavery in Mississippi, Katrina, US banking industry’s role in the economic collapse, and other controversial issues.

  • You are still considered an MSU student while abroad,  which means you are still responsible for upholding the Student Honor Code while abroad.
  • While abroad, try to blend in with the locals. Stay informed of local news and LOOK AT A MAP! You may not have had geography since you were 12, but that is no excuse. Learn the names of capitals and countries that surround you.
  • Speak softly. Avoid the U.S. stereotype of being loud and obnoxious.
  • Try local foods and experience local culture. Eat at McDonald’s in Mississippi, but please don’t let the cashier at the McDonald’s in Hamburg, Germany know your order by heart. You didn’t cross the Atlantic to eat a Big Mac.
  • Don’t do drugs unless you want a tour of the local jail. Understand and respect local laws.
  • Do not drink excessively. Most of you will be allowed to drink legally while abroad, and some of you will even be able to purchase beer from your university’s cafeteria. Don’t abuse this new “power.” U.S. students are notorious for drinking in excess and getting themselves in trouble (and even getting robbed) while abroad. Drinking excessively in a foreign country is bad for your health and your reputation. Due to these reasons, MSU recommends that you avoid alcohol.
  • Use the buddy system. Never go out or travel alone. If you are traveling with friends that are outside of your program, leave their names and contact information with your roommate, program director, or host family.
  • Try to avoid protests and demonstrations that could escalate into dangerous situations. Anger intended for the U.S. Government could be directed toward U.S. citizens in the area.
  • Don’t carry all of your credit/debit cards with you at any point in time. Avoid carrying a lot of cash or flashing your money around in an obvious way.
  • Avoid being surrounded by a crowd. This is a perfect environment to be pickpocketed.
  • Only use official taxis. This is very important to keep you safe. Also, learn local taxi customs. In many countries, meters are not used, and you must agree on a fare before you get in the taxi.
  • Ask your program director what the safest means of transportation is throughout the city.
  • Act confidently when in an area that seems unsafe. You usually won’t be targeted if you look like you know where you are and what you are doing.