What To Do When You Arrive

Arrival & Customs

Upon arrival in your host country you will want to be sure to have your passport, visa (if applicable), and other important documents in hand and ready to go.

Passport Control

Once you depart your airplane, you will be required to pass through Passport Control. Present the border agent with your documents and let them know you are there for a short term study abroad program. You should receive a stamp in your passport at this point and they will let you through. Lines for passport control are often long, so leave enough time for connections!


Once you exit the airport to enter the destination country, you will be required to pass through customs in order to declare what you are bringing into the country. Be sure to dispose of any perishable foods and other prohibited items prior to customs in order to avoid problems.


If at any point you have questions about what you should do next, do not hesitate to ask an airport employee. They are there to help you so ask away!



European Arrivals

Please note that if your program is in the Europe Union (EU) and you have a connection in another EU country that is part of the Schengen Zone before you reach your host country, you will be going through immigration in that connecting EU country. This is where you will have to present your documentation and get your stamp.

Day One

Connect With Home

First things first; contact your family. It will be easy to get distracted with all of the excitement of arrival but your family is just as eager to hear that you made it to your destination safely, so do not forget to contact them. Most students will take advantage of the airport or accommodation’s wifi to make a quick Whats’App or Skype call.

To call the USA from abroad dial 001 first. If you are dialing direct, dial: 001+ area code +number

Take it All in & Stay Alert

Once you arrive in your host country it is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed. This is prime time to lose documents or important items, so be extra mindful during this time and pay attention to what you need to do and know where your belongings are.    

Exhaustion from the trip, jet lag, and new surroundings are often triggers of culture shock as well. Be sure to block off the first few days to rest and explore your new city. You will have orientation soon after you arrive which will help you get familiar with your new city, but don’t be afraid to explore on your own or with your new roommates. Make it a fun event to go to the grocery store for the first time, or walk the streets to find the local attractions you surely Googled before you left home! Give yourself time to adjust. It’s not going to happen overnight. As Melanie, our Director of Operations, always says “You haven’t truly experienced your city if you haven’t gotten lost at least once”.



Time Zones

When calling home upon arrival remember to check the time difference between your host country and your home time zone. Don’t worry, it’s just a quick Google search away!


Jet Lag

Jet lag occurs when your body’s own time clock is out of sync with the country you are visiting. Symptoms of jet lag include insomnia, fatigue, irritability, dehydration, problems concentrating and sometimes nausea, anxiety, sweats etc.

Tips for minimizing jet lag during air travel:

  • Get good sleep the night before you leave.
  • Drink plenty of water on the flight and prevent dehydration. Avoid coffee and alcohol during the flight/upon arrival.
  • Avoid overeating; this may give you indigestion.
  • Exercise your legs & take a walk around the plane. Stretch your back, arms & leg muscles, walk up and down the aisle.
  • Wear loose clothing for comfort. Your feet may swell during the flight so wear loose fitting shoes.


Tips for adjusting to a new time zone on arrival:

  • Get on the new time zone right away. Try to stay awake during the days and only sleep at night.
  • Try to keep the day of arrival free to rest & get settled in.
  • Drink lots of water and avoid caffeine.




The Night Before You Leave

Between the adrenaline & excitement of leaving, we know it’s going to be tempting to stay up all night before your flight, but don’t give in! You & your body are going to be going through a lot of changes over the next few days so it is imperative that you get a good night ‘s rest before your trip. Plan ahead to have your suitcase packed 24 hours ahead of time and just relax the evening before you leave.

Culture Shock

When studying abroad, a normal and expected response is culture shock. Culture shock occurs when one experiences a clash between his/her way of viewing and interacting with the world (determined by a person’s home culture) and a new cultural environment.

Signs of Culture Shock

  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Loss of control
  • Fear/Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Loneliness
  • Anger
  • Vulnerability/Confusion

Such reactions are completely normal responses to a transition such as studying abroad. Everyone experiences culture shock differently. For some it will last a couple of days. For others, a couple of weeks. Some may not experience it at all. Culture shock is not a psychological disorder and does not indicate an inability to cope with change.

If you experience culture shock, it is important to talk to others about these feelings. Roommates, on-site advisors, friends, faculty members, family and religious/spiritual leaders can all be sources of support.

Cultural Adjustment Tips & Tricks

Whether you experience culture shock or not it is going to be a big adjustment once you arrive. Here are some tips and tricks to help you adjust to your new city:

  • Educate yourselfResearch your country before you depart. Google will be your best friend.
  • Learn the languageTry to learn common phrases and terms. Download a dictionary app.
  • Make friends with localsBy being open to meeting natives, you will be better prepared to understand your new environment.
  • Be open to new experiences Try to let go of your own ways of doing things and allow yourself to learn from your new host culture. Open yourself up to embracing a different way of life.
  • Keep a journalSome people find it helpful to keep a journal or blog of their experiences. This is a great way to document your adventures and keep in touch with others back home.
  • Try to be positiveWhen faced with lifestyles very different from your own, it’s common to feel a bit judgmental. Try keeping an open mind and not belittle the host culture.
  • Take care of yourselfEat well, exercise, and try to get an appropriate amount of sleep. When you’re feeling healthy, it is easier to have a good outlook.

To learn more about culture shock and how to cope with it, we recommend this article: How to Deal with Culture Shock While Studying Abroad



Take Baby Steps

When first arriving overseas everything can seem overwhelming; navigating the streets, doing laundry, going to the grocery store…when this happens, just remember that you’re not alone. Your roommates & fellow classmates are experiencing the same thing as you. So get out there together!

Make your first trip to the grocery store together. Experiences are only new the first time you do them. As soon as you do them once they are no longer new. Just take baby steps.


Alyssa Meehan – Florence, Italy Alumna

“When I first came I had a count down for 120 days until I got to leave. I could not wait to leave. I emailed every person possible to figure out a way home. All I remember is everyone telling me to stick it out, it will get better. All I thought in my head though was, “It’s not. Are you kidding me? This is awful. Why did I ever make this decision?” But now I could not be more thankful for those people who kept telling me that and pushing me, because it is truly a real thing in life. I sit here today thinking how badly I don’t want to go home and trying to figure out every possible way to stay in Italy.”

Athena Study Abroad • Big World. Made Smaller. © Copyright 2005 - 2020