What To Bring Abroad to Each Center
Advice from CRC Alumni!
1. Credit Card and Money for Personal Expenses
You must bring a major credit card for use in case of medical emergencies. You will have health insurance, but you must pay out of pocket for all medical services and then the Costa Rica Center staff will help you file a claim for reimbursement. Additionally, you must plan on having money available for personal expenses. Past students have recommended having at least $1,000-$1,500 per semester for personal expenses (independent travel, entertainment, and personal needs). You will be able to access bank accounts in the U.S. through ATM Plus, Cirrus or VISA credit cards or international debit cards.
Please keep in mind that Costa Ricans take a lot of pride in their appearance. It is important that your clothes are clean and neat regardless of your fashion style. In Costa Rica the clothing style is casual, but clean and neat, generally consisting of jeans and a nice shirt or t-shirt with a cardigan or sweater
- Shorts and Tank-tops for the beach
- Long pants/jeans for the city
- Plenty of short-sleeved t-shirts, several long-sleeved as well
- Lots of socks and underwear
- A sweatshirt or jacket for chilly nights. It can get very cool/cold in the mountains, so bring a light and a heavy one (fleece).
- One nice outfit for fiestas or cultural events
- Bathing suit
- Sun-block and hat to shield against tropical sun
- Comfortable walking shoes; strap-on "Teva" style sandals; nice shoes; flip-flops to wear within the house.
- Umbrella and rain poncho or jacket
- Pajamas, light-weight robe and slippers
- Towel and washcloth
(consider getting these items insured in case of damage, loss or theft):
- Laptop computer with integrated wireless (For spring semester you will need Photoshop).
- Flash drive
- Digital camera and memory card (memory cards are expensive in Costa Rica). Make sure your digital camera has video capabilities or if you are interested in making quality videos, consider bringing a digital video camera.
- Mini alarm clock
- Digital tape recorder (this will come handy especially in the Spring Semester when coducting your two week independent study projects! In Costa Rica tape recorders cost anywhere from $80 to $100)
- If you wish, a cell phone with a SIM card. In Costa Rica you can purchase a local number with pre-paid SIM card of differing amounts.
- A valid passport
- International Student Identification card
- Photocopies of all important documents (Passport, Health insurance, etc.)
- Prescription medications, enough supply for the amount of time you will be away from home.
- Medical history sheet if you suffer from a particular illness or health condition.
6. Personal First Aid Kit (required)
this kit should include the following items:
- Bandaids in multiple sizes
- Antiseptic (Iodine works well)
- Medicine to treat a mild cold, such as a decongestant, alone or in combination with antihistamine, pain or fever reducer (one or more of the following): Acetaminophen, Aspirin, Ibuprofen
- Immodium AD or similar to treat diarrhea
- Antifungal and antibacterial ointments or creams (1% hydrocortisone cream)
- Dramamine or similar medication for motion sickness
- Sun screen
- Insect repellent
- Any medications, prescription or over the counter, taken on a regular basis at home
- Battery operated radio (in case of emergency while at remote locations) and extra batteries
- A Costa Rican Guidebook (i.e., Lonely Planet), though the center has many
- International phone card to call the United States, though many use Skype or you can purchase international phone cards from the local phone company here. Students may also choose to buy a local cell phone or use the one they bring from the States that is compatible with the pre paid SIM card system here.
- Money belt or pouch
- Photographs of your family to share with your host family
- Possible gift for host family representative of your home (book of photos from home city/region, souvenir from where you live, etc.)
- Research books, especially if you have a particular academic interest, as English language books are limited here.
- Water bottle
- Day pack to carry books to and from school and smaller suitcase/duffel bag/backpack for short field trips.
- Spanish/English dictionary.
If convenient, the following will also be useful:
- Lightweight binoculars, small pocketknife (pack in your checked luggage when flying), anti-itch ointment, altitude sickness medication, a good book or two to read and leave behind (handy while waiting in line at the bank, etc.).
- We are asking all of our incoming students to bring at least one educational material (books, coloring books, crayons, markers, scissors, glue, glitter, etc.) to donate to underprivileged children in Costa Rica as part of our Service Learning projects. Gracias!!!!!
8. Ways to Access Money
There are many different ways that students can access money from their personal U.S. bank accounts. Depending on each bank there will be an international fee for taking out money at an international location and/or a foreign exchange charge so please check with your bank before arriving to Costa Rica to see what your best options are.
(These conditions are subject to change so please review these with your bank before arriving to Costa Rica!)
- Students that have access to an USAA bank account have NO international checking, purchasing, withdrawing money fees and you can use it in any country as you would normally in the United States with no extra charge. To check if you are eligible for this type of bank account you may visit: www.usaa.com
- The Citizens Independent Bank, charges 1% for all international transactions (includes taking out money from ATMs and charging). For more information visit: www.bankcib.com
- Wells Fargo Bank charges $5.00 for each time you take money out from an ATM. www.wellsfargo.com. Students that had a larger fee for taking out money usually took out a large amount every month or every other month.
- Previous students highly recommended bringing traveler’s checks to Costa Rica. Many consider them outdated, but they are convenient! All the student has to do is take their check and passport to a bank (Banco de Costa Rica and Scotia Bank are the best), and tell them how much you want in USD and Colones.
- Washington Mutual/ CHASE charges 50 cents to 2 dollars for every transaction.
A word of advice for ALL students:
It is highly recommended that students have two cards: one for daily use and for withdrawing money from ATMs and the second to have in their house as a credit card to use for emergencies, or going to the doctor. MasterCard and Visa are the most widely used credit cards in the country.
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- Laptop computer with integrated wireless. While the China Center is fully equipped with student desktop computers, we recommend students who have the means to bring a laptop computer, since there are no restrictions on bringing laptops into China. It will be much more convenient to be able to work on your own in your room or apartment when you have a big project like a Learning Portfolio due. Also, it is possible to set up Internet access on your laptop in the dormitory and to conduct email correspondence outside of the China Center.
- A valid passport - please renew before arriving in China if it is nearing expiry
- Any natural remedies and vitamin supplements you use regularly and that you will need during the course of your stay, such as natural sleep aids like Melatonin, which can be useful for recovering from jetlag.
- Any non-prescription drugs you typically use to control cold, flu, cough, allergies, and indigestion. While cold medicine such as Contact®, aspirin and ibuprofin can be readily purchased at local pharmacies, many other common OTC remedies, such as Tums®, Robitussin®, etc. are not.
- Students might want to get a few parting gifts for your Chinese friends in Hangzhou. Remember, your hosts and friends will almost certainly be giving you gifts, and so you will appreciate coming prepared to reciprocate.
- We recommend that all students bring a collection of photographs in a small album that you can easily show to people you meet. Pictures of you and your family and home are a great way to meet people and to practice a new language.
- Students expecting to purchase a bicycle while in Hangzhou should bring a fitted bicycle helmet, since these can be difficult to purchase locally.
- While Hangzhou is an extremely safe city with very low violent crime, bicycle crime is a problem in all large cities and Hangzhou is no exception. So students expecting to purchase a bicycle in China should consider bringing their own secure bicycle locking system from the U.S. In addition, students should always lock their bikes to a fixed object during the day and inside during the night.
- While Hangzhou has a wide variety of domestic and imported products, some products to which we are accustomed are difficult to purchase or are limited in variety. For example, while there are a wide variety of some feminine hygiene products, including numerous brands of sanitary napkins, only OB tampons are readily available. Likewise, while deodorant can be purchased in large supermarkets, antiperspirant can not be purchased, as is the case with dental floss.
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Comparative Religion and Culture
- As a general rule for packing, bring clothes you can layer and feel comfortable in. Backcountry wear is not necessary. You do not need a sleeping bag or sheets for CRC, though some students bring slipcovers. Bringing a lightweight towel is also a good idea.
- The best advice is to bring versatile clothes that you really like to wear because you will wear them over and over and over again. Comfortable, sturdy shoes are a must (sport sandals are a CRC favorite).
- When packing, bear in mind that in all the countries you will visit; clothing customarily covers more of the body then does the clothing worn by young Americans. Moreover, to be a university student is considered an honor. Most students dress rather formally by American college student standards. Both men and women should bring one slightly dressy outfit: there will likely be some occasions when you will want to dress up, such as thank you luncheons or an evening at a concert.
- Men will want at least one pair of long pants. One regular and one lightweight pair of cargo pants are a good start.
- Women will need a long skirt and a scarf to cover the head when visiting mosques and temples. In virtually all places of worship, it is appropriate to dress modestly – shoulders covered and at least knee-length pants or skirt. Tank tops and sleeveless shirts may keep you cool in hot weather, but they are not always appropriate. Make sure to carry something that you can throw over your shoulders when necessary.
- ne benefit of buying local clothes is that they are more often culturally appropriate and designed for the weather and terrain on the place you are visiting.
- Laundry facilities will vary from laundromats to buckets – expect it all.
- A laptop computer is indispensable. It is not necessary to bring a printer, although it is convenient. However, most students choose to save their work to portable devices and print at local print shops or libraries. For the purposes of backing up your work and portability, USB storage devices (flash/pen/thumb drives) are recommended by past students in lieu of portable printers. Oftentimes assignments can simply be emailed to your faculty advisor, and printing is not necessary.
- All students should bring a power converter/transformer as well as plug adapters or “shape changers.” Most laptops are equipped with a power converter, in which case only the plug adapter is needed.
- For other appliances (e.g., battery chargers, hair dryers), both converter and adapter are necessary. A helpful website on electrical requirements and accessories is www.traveloasis.com. The use of a surge protector is recommended whenever possible, as the electrical current in countries traveled to on CRC is much less stable than in the United States.
4. Identification: International Student Identity Card & Passport Photos
The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) can be used for discounts on travel, museums, and lodging worldwide, and provides a limited amount of health insurance (but can NOT be used to waive the program’s health insurance requirement). It is recommended, but not necessary. STA travel at www.sta.com issues these cards. In addition, bring 6-10 passport size photos. The group has used them on several occasions in the past when encountered with unexpected bureaucracy.
Don’t run out and buy a huge backpack for CRC. If you have a good rolling suitcase, that may be as good as or better than a backpack. The vote is split among past CRC students. Some people who started out with backpacks eventually sent them home and purchased rolling suitcases because they were easier to pack, unpack and handle at the airport. Others swear by their big backpacks. It seems to be a personal preference, but there is no need to spend a lot of money on new luggage for CRC.
- How much to pack
As for what to pack in your luggage, try this test: can you load up all the things you would like to bring and carry them by yourself around a quarter-mile track? Can you carry them up two flights of stairs? You WILL have to do this—don’t make things difficult for yourself. You will have opportunities to purchase items as we travel. For example, you will be able to buy excellent and inexpensive clothing in Turkey, Thailand and India.
- Mail and Communication
- Since the CRC program involves so much travel, it is impossible to guarantee that mail sent from the US will be received by students. Email communication and/or blogging are the preferred modes of communication for most CRC students.
- We have had problems in every country receiving packages. What is dutiable varies from country to country. It is best not to send massive quantities of any one thing to any country we visit. Also, it is better not to send any electronic equipment through the mail: usually it is dutiable and additional charges that must be paid to receive the package can be very high.
- It is possible to mail items home from every country in which we study, so if you find that you packed too much or have bought too much you will be able to mail some of it home. Airlines impose strict limits on the permitted weight of luggage, and students are individually responsible to pay the penalties for excess luggage.
ATM cards are the best way to get money everywhere we go. Make sure that the card is on either the PLUS or Cirrus network (you can tell by looking at the symbols on the back of the card). However, there may be instances when, inexplicably, your ATM card will not work. Bring some back up money in the form of cash or travelers’ checks (probably not more than a few hundred dollars) and/or a credit card.
Some of the things students spend their own money on are entertainment (going out, movies, concerts, etc.), internet, coffee, laundry, phone cards, transportation (buses, taxis), gifts for family and friends, books (both for pleasure and for classes), copying and printing, newspapers, etc.
The amount of money spent by former students has varied greatly. Each student receives a food stipend to cover basic meal costs. You will need extra spending money to cover food beyond basic meals, nights out, transportation (buses or taxis to use during your free time); and buying clothing or souvenirs along the way. Students are also responsible for all expenses during the fall recess. Over the course of the program, some students manage to stretch their food budget to cover some personal spending, while some end up spending a lot of extra money.
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Advice from CRC Alumni!
- You can’t have too many pairs of underwear.
- Don’t pack for the entire time of travel. There are plenty of places to pick up clothes. Your bags will be lighter and it is more fun to find things locally. No need to bring 4 months of shampoo, deodorant, etc. unless you are very particular about the brand you use.
- If you start CRC with a bag full to the brim, it is hard to pick up anything along the way. Accumulation of stuff is inevitable.
- White clothes won’t stay very white.
- Not many people wear shorts in Asia.
- A portable music player (such as an I-pod) is recommended.
- Bring a Nalgene or other brand camping bottle.
- Small items from your home state (magnets, pins, etc.) make good gifts for hosts along the trip.
- Ziploc type bags are a great cheap way to keep things waterproof and organized.
- Do not bring any item of value, sentimental or monetary, that can be lost, stolen or damaged. On the other hand bring items that you cannot do without (specific toiletries/cosmetics) as they may not be available.