Checklist for Preparing for International Travel and Exchanges
Once you have found an exchange partner and administrative approval has been secured, you are faced with a number of questions which need to be resolved. This brief checklist, representing the collective wisdom of librarians who have planned and carried out international job exchanges, is a starting point. It is posed as a list of questions to ask yourself in four categories: General Living Arrangements, Financial Arrangements, Professional Concerns, and Health and Medical Concerns.
GENERAL LIVING ARRANGEMENTS
1. Can you bring your family?
2. Will you need a special visa or work permit?
Inquire into this well ahead of your proposed departure date.
3. What are the entry and exit (Customs) rules?
4. Where will you live while abroad? Will it be furnished?
Perhaps your host institution will assist you in renting a home. Perhaps you'll exchange residences with your partner. If so, you'll want to be sure your insurance coverage is adequate; you'll want to come to agreement about who pays the various household bills (water, electricity, heating fuel, trash collection, etc.) about how yard work will be taken care of, and about looking after pets, if any. Instruction booklets for appliances and a list of service people to call on in case of emergencies would be useful for your partner.
5. What local transportation is available?
6. Will you exchange automobiles?
If so, be sure to check your insurance policy for coverage of your car with your exchange partner as driver and coverage of you as the driver of your exchange partner's car. You'll want to come to agreement on who is responsible for routine maintenance of the car registration/licensing, parking stickers, paying damages in case of an accident, etc.
7. Will you need to get a driving license in your host country?
You may be able to use your home license. You may want to obtain an International Driving Permit. You might want to get a driving license in your host country, especially as it may be a useful means of identification.
8. What essential items must you take with you?
Consider the necessity of carrying, rather than acquiring on location, things like medications, extra glasses, clothing (according to climate), household goods (depending upon room and board arrangements), letters of reference and appointment.
9. How will you learn about the area to which you are going?
In addition to normal online and print reference sources, such as the CIA World FactBook, State Department Travel Advisories, and the ALA World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services, novels written on location and reports about the ex-patriot experience can be very valuable.
10. What digital devices are you bringing?
Remember to inquire about mobile phone service and service providers. If you choose to bring your existing mobile phone, it is possible you will need to replace a SIM card. You might also check with your current provider to see if they offer international service. Be sure to inquire as to whether or not you can access wireless Internet with any plan or provider you choose. Also be sure to bring the correct adapters for charging your mobile devices.
l0. Who will pay your salary?
It might be your host institution if you and your partner switch salaries as well as jobs. It might be your home institution if you and your partner are granted paid leaves of absence to work abroad. (Note: this plan would probably make it easier for your host institution and your host country's government to allow you to enter a work situation there; it should also reduce complications for your home institution. It might be a sponsoring agency if you have received a grant to work abroad.)
11. How will your exchange affect any benefits offered through your home institution?
You may need to make special arrangements for either continuing or discontinuing medical insurance, life insurance, retirement funds, etc. during your absence.
12. Will your income be enough to meet your expenses?
You will want to gather information about costs of living in your host country. You should plan for extra expenses at the start of your visit, for travel while you are overseas, etc.
13. What kinds of bank accounts and credit cards will you need both at home and in your host country?
14. Who will handle your business affairs while you're away from home?
If possible, appoint an agent to take care of your banking, to pay regular bills, and to handle mail coming to your home.
15. How will your exchange affect your tax situation, both at home and abroad?
Check into this carefully, as it could affect your plans for the length of your exchange.
16. What are your job responsibilities? What training must be engaged in ahead of time?
17. Will you have a mentor or contact person?
18. What language training will be available on-site?
19. Will you have access to an office or computer?
20. Are you culturally fluent?
Remember that workplace culture and customs vary widely throughout the world. While you will be working in a familiar institution such as a library, it is important to learn about what is considered acceptable and unacceptable in your new workplace.
HEALTH AND MEDICAL CONCERNS
20. What will you need in the way of medical insurance while you are abroad?
21. Does your host country require any special vaccines or inoculations?
Look into these well ahead of time!
22. Will you be able to purchase medical supplies?
23. Do you have any food allergies or related medical conditions?
Conditions such as celiac disease often dictate what you can or cannot eat. Be sure to be aware of what foods are readily available in your new environment.
Note: This document was developed by the American Library Association IRC/IRRT Joint Committee on International Exchange of Librarians and Information Professionals with special assistance from Linda Williamson, 1-17-86. Revised in June 1995 by John Ober. Revised 5/2015
The committee welcomes your input. Please send comments to Robin Kear.