June 20th, 2014 by Ross Mason
What Belgium Offers International Students
When looking at international destinations to study abroad, most students who are looking to Europe tend to opt for England, Spain, Italy or maybe even Germany. But, a country that is often overlooked is Belgium – and we are here to tell you why you should consider it as a study destination as Belgium has so much to offer.
So what does Belgium offer to International Students?
Without a doubt, you cannot get more centrally located in Europe than Belgium. The country borders France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, all within a few hours drive or train, and you have access to the EuroStar which takes you directly into London, and of course air connections to all of Europe. Without a doubt, you cannot get a better location if you are looking for a starting point to explore all parts of Europe when you have time.
Most schools in Belgium teach in English, so for a lot of students this is an added benefit – but the level of multiculturalism is unrivaled. For example, there is not just one official language, not even two – but they have in fact 3 official languages; French, German and Dutch. You could not pick a better country if you are looking to really dive into languages and immerse yourself!
With prices across Europe generally increasing, with the UK now costing up to £38,000 in some places, international students in Belgium are typically going to be able to save more money. The cost of living is generally low, especially if you are also permitted to work during your studies, and you still have access to some of the world’s leading universities.
Quality of Life
Like other parts of mainland Europe, the quality of life in Belgium is very high. Not only do you have a vast array of architecturally rich cities like Bruge or Ghent, but you also have the benefit from being in one of the safest parts of Europe and access to an internationally renown healthcare system. All these things come together to offer students a very high quality of life, that perhaps other parts of Europe could not.
To learn more about the various options for international students, including health insurance and visa requirements, please visit our Belgium International Student center for more information.
June 9th, 2014 by Victoria Troupe
Applying for a F1 student visa to study in the United States can be a long and tedious process. Once you finally make it to the interview at the US consulate, you’ll want to be ready to tackle any questions that are thrown at you so that there is no doubt that you are a qualified candidate to study in the States. Here is a list of the top 5 F1 visa interview questions that you can expect.
- “Why are you going to the US to study?” This and similar questions regarding your plans to pursue higher education outside of your home country can be expected. You’ll need a good reason why an education in the US is better for you than an education back home and why you prefer to study instead of joining the workforce.
- “What university will you attend and why?” Your choice of university says a lot about you as a person and student. Acceptance into multiple, reputable universities and your comparisons among them can shed light on your ambition and future goals.
- “What are your GPA, GRE, GMAT, SAT, TOEFL, and IELTS scores?” Not surprisingly, you will need to prove your academic capability. Being a successful student at home does not necessarily mean that you will be successful at an US university. Study abroad experience is something to mention, as well as strong written and spoken English.
- “How do you plan to pay for your educational and living expenses?” Arguably the most important aspect of your interview is proving that you can afford to study abroad. Be prepared to give details about your income, your sponsor’s income, and your plan to budget for things like room and board, food, insurance, transportation, etc., as well as your tuition and fees.
- “Do you plan to return to your home country after your program is completed?” F1 visas are only granted to those that have ties to their home country that will ensure that they will return there after their studies are over.
Although these are popular F1 visa interview questions, there is no way of knowing what questions your interviewer will ask of you. Being confident and prepared is the key! Check out this article on Questions to Expect during your F1 Visa Interview for more information.
June 6th, 2014 by Ross Mason
June 2014 Travel Warnings
The June 2014 travel warnings are a listing of any warnings that have been posted by the US Department of State in the month of May, warning travelers who plan to visit those countries. Countries listed through the month of May 2014 include:
Libya – May 27th, 2014
The security situation in Libya remains unpredictable and unstable. The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security following the 2011 revolution. Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including antiaircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation. Crime levels remain high in many parts of the country. In addition to the threat of crime, various groups have called for attacks against U.S. citizens and U.S. interests in Libya. Extremist groups in Libya have made several specific threats this year against U.S. government officials, citizens, and interests in Libya. Because of the presumption that foreigners, especially U.S. citizens, in Libya may be associated with the U.S. government or U.S. NGOs, travelers should be aware that they may be targeted for kidnapping, violent attacks, or death. U.S. citizens currently in Libya should exercise extreme caution and depart immediately.
Iran - May 22nd, 2014
The Department of State warns travelers to carefully consider the risks of travel to Iran. Dual national Iranian-American citizens may encounter difficulty in departing Iran. Some elements in Iran remain hostile to the United States. As a result, U.S. citizens may be subject to harassment or arrest while traveling or residing in Iran. Since 2009, Iranian authorities have prevented the departure, in some cases for several months, of a number of Iranian-American citizens, including journalists and academics, who traveled to Iran for personal or professional reasons.
North Korea - May 20th, 2014
The Department of State strongly recommends against all travel to North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK). Travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea is not routine, and U.S. citizen tourists have been subject to arbitrary arrest and long-term detention. North Korean authorities have arrested U.S. citizens who entered the DPRK legally on valid DPRK visas as well as U.S. citizens who accidentally crossed into DPRK territory. The Department of State has also received reports of DPRK authorities arbitrarily detaining U.S. citizens without charges and not allowing them to depart the country. In the past 18 months, North Korea detained several U.S. citizens who were part of organized tours. Do not assume that joining a group tour or use of a tour guide will prevent your arrest or detention by North Korean authorities. Efforts by private tour operators to prevent or resolve past detentions of U.S. citizens in the DPRK have not succeeded in gaining their release.
Philippines - May 19th, 2014
The Department of State warns of the risks of travel to the Philippines, in particular to the Sulu Archipelago, the island of Mindanao, and in the southern Sulu Sea area. Travelers should continue to defer non-essential travel to the Sulu Archipelago, due to the high threat of kidnapping of international travelers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there. Over the past nine months, there have been kidnappings and attempted kidnappings of foreigners in the Eastern Sabah province of Malaysia and in the southern Sulu Sea area by terrorist or insurgent groups based in the Sulu Archipelago of the Philippines.
Kenya - May 17th, 2014
Travelers in Kenya, and those considering travel to Kenya, should evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing and recently heightened threats from terrorism and the high rate of violent crime in some areas. The U.S. government continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western, and Kenyan interests in Kenya, including the Nairobi area and the coastal cities of Mombasa and Diani. Terrorist acts can include suicide operations, bombings – to include car bombings – kidnappings, attacks on civil aviation, and attacks on maritime vessels in or near Kenyan ports.
Central African Republic - May 13th, 2014
The Department of State warns against all travel to the Central African Republic (CAR) and recommends that those who remain in CAR depart immediately by taking advantage of existing commercial flights. The Government of Chad closed its border with CAR May 12, 2014. Only citizens of Chad returning home will be able to cross the Chad-CAR border.
Nigeria - May 6th, 2014
The Department of State warns of the risks of travel to Nigeria and in particular all travel to Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states because of the May 14, 2013 state of emergency proclamation for those three states by the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Department also advises travelers to exercise additional caution while traveling in Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, and Zamfara States.
Syria - May 5th, 2014
The security situation remains volatile and unpredictable as a civil war between government and armed anti-government groups continues throughout the country, along with an increased risk of kidnappings, bombings, murder, and terrorism. No part of Syria should be considered safe from violence, and the potential exists throughout the country for hostile acts, including kidnappings and the use of chemical warfare against civilian populations. Indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardment, including of densely populated urban areas across the country, have significantly raised the risk of death or serious injury.
While traveling, please keep these travel warnings in mind and remember to exercise extra care if you are visiting these countries, and check with your travel insurance provider to make sure you still have coverage in place – sometimes some benefits can be excluded for countries under a travel warning. Travelers are also advised to enroll through the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to stay up to date on travel security information.
June 2nd, 2014 by Bryanna Davis
If you plan to come to the US to become an international military student you know that this training provides you with the experience and tools to become a future leader. However, to be an international military student you must meet a few requirements- including having adequate international student health insurance for the entire time you are inside the United States.
To meet the DSCA medical policy requirements, your international military student insurance plan must include a few specific benefits like having at least $500,000 in coverage and a deductible of $1,000 or less.
Many international military students purchase the Atlas Travel plan to meet their school requirements since it also gives students flexibility when it comes to coverage and pricing. You can choose either the $500,000 coverage amount to meet your minimum requirement or a $1,000,000 policy maximum if you want even more coverage.
Having the option to also pick your own deductible with this plan means finding coverage that can meet your requirements, needs and budget. When you use your insurance plan, the deductible is the amount you must pay out of pocket before the insurance will begin to pay. Choosing your deductible on the Atlas Travel plan allows you to control how much you must pay when you use the plan. Although picking a higher deductible can lower your initial premium, when it comes time for a doctor’s visit or trip to the emergency room, costs are much easier to handle when a lower deductible is chosen.
Keep in mind some schools also require that your plan includes maternity. Check with your international military student office before you buy your plan to see if this requirement applies to you. If so, contact us for international military student insurance options that include maternity coverage.
May 23rd, 2014 by Victoria Troupe
What insurance is required for me in Spain?
Looking for insurance for studying abroad in Spain or traveling to Spain? Good job thinking ahead! Spain is a part of the Schengen region and insurance is required to enter the country.
There is a chance that citizens of some countries have a reciprocal agreement with Spain that determines the amount of coverage you must have in order to enter. However, most people will want to make sure they at least meet the requirements of the Schengen visa. These requirements are:
- €30,000 policy maximum
- Coverage for Emergency Medical Evacuation
- Coverage for Repatriation
Citizens of the European Union or the European Economic Area or Switzerland are usually covered by their European Health Insurance Card for most medical care in public hospitals. The card, however, will not cover you for prescription medication and some other non-emergencies.
Which insurance plans will meet my needs in Spain?
Although your insurance needs may differ depending on where you’re from, there are a couple plans that meet the needs of most people going to Spain. First, the Europe Travel plan is a great option, offering payment in British pounds, Euros, or American dollars. You can renew your plan for up to 3 years.
The Travel Medical plan is excellent for short-term study abroad students and travelers visiting Spain for one year or less. It covers some extreme sports, offers a $0 deductible, and up to $1,000,000 in coverage.
If you’re staying in Spain for a year or more and will be a full-time international student, you are also eligible for the International Student Insurance plan, which is designed especially for international students. It will cover your for organized sports, maternity, mental health, and is annually renewable.
For more information about health insurance in Spain and appropriate insurance plans, check out our Spain International Student Insurance page.
May 23rd, 2014 by Ross Mason
After the huge success of our US Healthcare System Overview video from 2013, we have dived into the world of video again to create a series of videos that are geared towards helping international students learn more about our products and to understand if they are right fit for them!
The first in this series is our Student Health Insurance Overview Video, which is just over 1 minute in length and is designed to explain who the plan is for, how the plan levels differ and what are some of the main coverage items. You can view the video below or on our Student Health page:
Let us know what you think, and keep an eye out for more videos to come in the future!
May 19th, 2014 by Bryanna Davis
You never realize how much dental pain can keep you from talking, eating or sleeping until it strikes. If you have a sudden tooth ache and aren’t able to visit the dentist right away- these home remedies to deal with dental pain are a great temporary fix. However, be conscious of any allergies you have when trying these home remedies and know that not all toothaches are created equal- this means not every remedy will work for every toothache.
- Mix one table spoon of salt with a glass of warm water and swish.
- Pour a small amount of hydrogen peroxide in your mouth and swish.
- Mash a garlic clove and hold it on the toothache.
- Make a cup of tea using a teabag. Take the used teabag and place it on the dental pain. Black tea or peppermint usually works best for this.
- Wet a cotton ball or cotton swab with water and roll it in baking soda. Apply the cotton to the tooth ache.
- Mix a table spoon of baking soda with a small glass of water and swish.
- Dip a cotton swab in vanilla extract, then hold it on the toothache.
- Take one clove and hold it in place against the toothache.
Keep in mind that these remedies are not meant to replace the care of a doctor or dentist. If you have a toothache, pain is typically a sign of something you need to have examined.
Before pain strikes, make sure you know the ins and outs of dental insurance and what you can expect to pay if you need to visit the dentist. If it’s too late, make sure you get the information you need before your next dental emergency. You can learn more on dental insurance here.
May 16th, 2014 by Jennifer Frankel
Are you planning to study in Greece? If so, you will want to make sure you’ve got your Greek international student insurance plan in place before you go. That’s because even though they have nationalized health care, international students will not have coverage under this system.
What type of insurance works best for Greece?
The best type of insurance plan will depend on your personal situation. Here are some questions to ask yourself to narrow down your choices:
- How long will I be studying in Greece?
- What type of medical conditions am I trying to protect against?
- Does my current insurance cover me overseas?
These three questions will help to determine which plan will work best. Our most popular insurance plan for Greece is the Euro Travel plan as it covers you for accidents and illnesses that could occur during your travels. This plan will even cover if you travel to other countries throughout Europe.
How do international student insurance plans work?
With our Greek international student insurance plans, you will have access to 24 hour travel assistance which can help you locate a provider anytime of the day. You will get your documents emailed to you immediately which include your ID card that you can present to your provider. Don’t speak Greek? You don’t need to! Our travel assistance can get an interpreter on the line to help you get the medical treatment you need.
Need proof of insurance?
Our insurance plans provide immediate documents right away, allowing you to present proof of coverage – even if you don’t need your coverage to start until several months down the line. Simply print or email these documents to your school, consulate or embassy to show that you’ve met their insurance requirements.
Want to learn more? Check out our insurance page for travel to Greece to learn more about the health care system and insurance for international students.
May 12th, 2014 by Victoria Troupe
International students come in many different shapes and sizes. Some are experienced world travelers while some are leaving their home for the first time. As exciting as studying in a foreign country can be, many people underestimate the probability of suffering from culture shock. Each culture is unique in different ways, and these differences can take a toll, no matter how culturally diverse you may be.
How do you know if you are suffering from culture shock? Culture shock can take the form of many symptoms, including irritability, tiredness, loneliness, withdrawal, headaches, stomach aches, over-concern with health, and hopelessness. These may manifest a couple of weeks after your arrival and after the excitement of a new place has worn off. But not to worry! There are many fun ways to deal with culture shock so that you can enjoy your experience to the fullest. Here are my suggestions:
- Don’t forget about your hobbies. If you enjoy jogging or playing a musical instrument, for example, don’t forget about them when you go to a new place! Find a cool running path, join a gym, or buy a beat up guitar in a thrift shop. These can be great stress relievers!
- Make friends with locals as well as other international students. Close friends help you understand cultural nuances that might seem bizarre, and other international students can share in your new experiences and make you feel like you’re not alone. Fun ways to make friends are by joining groups and clubs at school, and attending other school events and hangouts. Don’t limit yourself to just one group, as isolation can cause even more adjustment hardships.
- Bring a taste of home to you! Think about what you miss the most about daily life back home and try to recreate it for your new friends! If you miss a certain type of food, find a specialty grocery store to find all of the ingredients, or ask a relative to mail you your favorite candy or treat!
- Talk to someone! Sometimes just letting it all out will make you feel a lot better. Culture shock is so common that most schools have counselors available to chat with you about your stresses. Seeking guidance and help to feel better is not a bad thing and should not be looked down upon. These counselors are a resource and will be your friend, even if you feel all alone.
- Finally, remember that laughter heals. Maintain a sense of humor about the mishaps and predicaments you find yourself in. Learning to brush it off and try again will get you closer to conquering your new domain.
Remember to allow yourself to learn and respect the customs of your new country. In doing so, your own values and customs will be challenged and re-examined. This is one of the most beneficial aspects of studying internationally. Your culture shock will subside and you’ll return home with a new outlook of your world.
Check out our Insurance Explained section for more information on staying healthy while you study.
May 9th, 2014 by Ross Mason
Traveling can be lots of fun – you get to unwind, experience new things and generally disconnect from every day life back home. But if you are planning on being away for an extended period, or you want to keep in touch with family and friends, our top 5 ways to keep in touch when traveling will put you in good stead!
Staying connected when abroad
1. Start a Blog or Journal
The old way of keeping in touch was to send postcards back to family and friends from all the different places you have been. While some still do that, the modern way to handle this is to write or keep a journal or blog of your time abroad. Especially if you are going to be traveling to lots of different places, a travel journal or blog is not only a fun way to capture all your memories, but also allow you friends and family to follow you if they want to. The more popular blogs such as WordPress offer free solutions, and if you are technically savvy you can maybe work out how to get your own domain. Or you can just use one of the many travel journal sites like travellerspoint.com or mytripjournal.com.
2. Smartphone Apps
There are a plethora of smartphone apps now that pretty much let you do anything you want to keep in touch, from Facebook to Twitter, then there are the messaging apps like Whatsapp and then of course the free calling apps like Skype and Facetime. Do you research ahead of time and you can have all the apps you need downloaded that will let you talk and message with your friends and family when abroad. This is a pretty good list to get started with – if you have others, please add them in the comments.
3. Country Sim Cards
Mobile phone companies are starting to realize that charging users extortionate amounts of money to roam internationally does not make sense, and over the last year we have seen the price of using your phone abroad come down. In Europe, by 2015 it will be illegal for phone companies to charge you when you roam within the EU – and in the USA, AT&T just came out with a free international roaming package. So using your phone should be easier – but there are still many companies that charge “a lot” of money if you roam internationally. So to get around that, you should purchase a local sim card for the country you are traveling to and avoid those roaming charges. Check out the choices available here, for a range of international sim cards.
4. Find Free Wifi Hotspots
Most of the time you can find free wifi hotspots either at your hostel or hotel, or at the airport. If this is not the case, then you might want to do some advanced research and locate those hotspots that are free. There is an excellent app call JiWire where you can search for hotspots around the world – just plug in your location details and it will tell you where to go. Certainly worth checking out!
5. Plan Your Check-Ins
While not really a way to keep in touch, our #5 is really a safety measure for yourself when you travel. You should always plan to check-in with family and friends at least once a week – whether that is just an email, skype call, or post on your blog. It will let your family know that you are safe and well, and they should not sound the alarm because you have not responded to their emails. You can also use our 4 points above, for ways to organize this weekly checkin!
Good luck with your travels and we hope these points help you have a safe, and connected travel experience!