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Travel Logistics

Passports and Visas

What is important to know about passports?

Passports are required for international travel.  This is your most important legal document when you are out of your home country.  Do not travel far and most definitely do not attempt to cross international borders without your passport.   If you already have a passport, check the expiration date.  Your passport must be valid at least six months after the date of return from your study abroad program.  Processing of passports and renewals often take months. It’s best to apply for a new passport or renewal as soon as possible.  Additional details are are available on Global Engagement's resource page on Passports.

Will I need a visa?

In certain countries, you will need a student visa to study abroad. Your program will provide guidance about deadlines, important documents and other visa requirements. Be sure to follow their instructions carefully, and don't put it off to the last minute! Some student visas are relatively easy to obtain, while others take months to prepare for. If you are an international student, check on the website of your host country's embassy whether students of your nationality require a visa to study in that country.  Your program is the best source of information regarding the visa process for your specific program. General information on visas can be found on Global Engagement's resource page on visas.

Booking Travel

Can I book/purchase my own travel for study abroad?

No.  Students must book their airfare through Swarthmore's study abroad travel agency, Key Travel.  If you purchase your own airfare, Swarthmore will not be able to reimburse you for this expense. 

When can I begin booking my flights?

After you have committed to a program, a "Flight Itinerary" form will be available in your GEO portal as one of your post-admission requirements. You will use this form to submit travel preferences such as flight dates, gateway city, etc. This form should only be completed after you have received definite arrival and departure dates for your program, AND you have determined how the visa process may affect your travel plans (if applicable).  Once you have this information, submit your travel preferences as soon as possible for review/approval. Note that travel requests will be declined if they are not in compliance with the travel policies for study abroad.

After you have submitted the Flight Itinerary and completed all other GEO portal requirements, Key Travel (Swarthmore's travel agent) will email you flight options. You will then communicate with Key Travel and GEO to select a flight.

Will Swarthmore cover the cost of my flight for my semester abroad?

The Global Engagement Office will calculate a "fare threshold" for each student's flight using airfare averages for the cost of a round trip flight from Swarthmore to the host city.  This threshold is based on a changeable ticket on this route using the official arrival/departure dates.

You do not need to depart from Philadelphia. However, airfare will only be covered up to the cost of this route.  This provides students flexibility to depart from their preferred city and identify their preferred dates and carriers.   

If a student's preferred flight is less than the "fare threshold," Swarthmore will cover their full ticket. If a student's preferred flight is more than the "fare threshold," the student will only be responsible for the difference between fares. When you are contacted regarding booking arrangements, you will be informed of the “fare threshold” and if any flight options you receive are above this threshold.

Once you have authorization from Key Travel and GEO, do not delay in moving forward with your flight arrangements.  If you delay purchasing your flights and the costs go up, you will not be given additional funds.

If I am studying abroad for more than one semester, will more than one flight be covered?

Yes, flights to/from your program site will be covered for each Swarthmore semester abroad.  This is true if you are studying abroad for a full year in one location, or for two semesters in different locations

Will Swarthmore cover the cost of my ground transportation?

Students can request reimbursement for transportation to/from the airport as required.  

If I need to change my flight, who pays for change fees? 

Sometimes travel plans change and you may want to adjust your dates after your flight has been ticketed.  In such cases, the costs for changing flights will be covered by the student, not by Swarthmore.  In contrast, when a change is instead due to a change in the program or the result of a health/safety issue, these change fees would be covered by Swarthmore. 

Who pays for luggage fees?

The Global Engagement Office will cover the cost of up to two checked bags, as necessary. If your second bag is not included as part of your initial ticket, submit your receipts for reimbursement through the GEO portal

However, GEO will not cover the cost of overweight bags. To avoid surprises in the terminal, it is always wise to weigh your bags prior to check in at the airport.  Make sure you know the limits on the weight and amount of luggage. Make sure to check the baggage allowance for each leg of your trip, as the weight limit and amount of luggage vary by flight.​​ If luggage is overweight, you will have to pay very expensive fees. Note that budget airlines may have lower baggage allowances; budget airlines work better for shorter trips once you are abroad and have less luggage with you. 

Dates and Location

Is there flexibility on my program start date and end date?

You are subject at all times to the policies of the host institution. Under no circumstance are you allowed to negotiate a different start or end date to your program. You are required to take final examinations according to the scheduled program timetable. Conflicting start dates of summer jobs and internships are NOT considered valid reasons to request an early dismissal from the program. You may be able to arrive in your host country earlier than the program start date and/or remain following the program end date.

Is there flexibility on my flight dates?

Under no circumstance are you allowed to arrive in your host country after your program start date or return before your program end date.

You may arrive in your host country earlier than the program start date or depart later than the end date. It is YOUR responsibility to take the following steps:

  • Check whether your visa is valid during your extended stay 
  • Secure your own housing outside program dates (if program-arranged housing is unavailable)
  • Purchase extended insurance abroad
  • Pay all other fees associated with your extended stay (e.g., meals).

Swarthmore is not responsible for any safety, financial, or other aspect of students’ stay abroad outside program dates. 

Is there flexibility on my departure location?

You may depart from any location of your choosing, but you will need to pay part of the cost if your selected trip exceeds the "fare threshold." Flights booked by Key Travel must always arrive in your program location before or on the program start date, and depart from the program location on or after the program end date.

Swarthmore’s “fare threshold” for Key Travel will be based on a round-trip flight to/from the program site.  With that said, it is possible to book a ticket that includes an inbound flight to your host city from one gateway with a return flight terminating at a separate gateway (from your host city).  Note that a more complicated itinerary may result in costs above/beyond those covered by the program.  

When flying to my program, is there flexibility on my arrival location?

It is Swarthmore's responsibility to provide international airfare to a student's program city or proximate airport.  We are unable to approve any itinerary that arrives at an alternate location and/or includes an extended stopover in a site other than the program base.

When flying out at the end of my program,  can I choose the location of my departure?

It is Swarthmore's responsibility to provide international airfare from a student's program city or proximate airport.  While you can specify your final destination, we are unable to approve any itinerary that departs from somewhere other than your program location and/or that includes an extended stopover in a site other than the program base.