Preparing for Your Fulbright Trip

Preparing for Your Fulbright Trip

Disclaimer: the thoughts and opinions in this post and website our mine, not those of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program or Institute of International Education.


 

Although I will be in Mexico during my Fulbright grant, this post might help others traveling to different parts of the world for extended research trips.

Things to keep in mind:

Visas/Passport

You will need a passport to travel. This may seem obvious, but it is something that can easily be overlooked and become a bigger deal than it has to be. Keep in mind that getting a passport can take up to a month, so plan well in advance. Make sure that your passport is up to date and will not expire when you are abroad. For more US passport information visit this site.

Depending on the grant that you receive, you might get help during the visa process. The Fulbright-Garcia Robles did provide us with assistance, which made the process very easy. You are going to want to keep visas in mind because you might not be able to travel outside of the United Sates prior to your departure. So plan accordingly.

 

Total cost= Free for Fulbright recipients (prices for dependents or companions vary please see this link to see prices for Mexico)

Physical Exam

This is another aspect of the pre-departure phase that you will want to stay on top of. I was given 6 weeks from the date that I was awarded my Fulbright grant to complete and submit my physical form online. My physical examination was conducted at the University of Arizona’s Student Health Center. For those of you that are students, that might be the easiest route.

The process at my university is to schedule an appointment to see a nurse, she or he then screens your form to see if you need blood work or things of the like. After she or he assesses your form, you will be allowed to schedules an appointment with a doctor who will complete the examination. To be clear, the Fulbright does not require blood work, they leave it to your doctor’s discretion. This will depend on your overall health.

Total cost = Your copay ($15 in my case)

Medical Insurance

The Fulbright will provide you with emergency insurance. You will have to acquire or maintain insurance for yourself and your dependents. This is especially important if you want to fulfill the requirements of the Affordable Health Care Act and if you take medications regularly. I would strongly urge you to insure that whatever insurance you do go with, can be used in the country you will be staying in. A PPO will usually work for this purpose. You want to be able to see a doctor in Mexico, in network.

Total cost= Depends

Apartment

This one can get dicey. If you have never visited the country you are going to, you are going to want to get in touch with some contacts. If you do not know anyone in the country, see if you adviser can give you some leads. Contacts are important because they can help you assess if a neighborhood is safe or not. They might also be able to go and see if a particular building or apartment looks true to the pictures the landlord posts on the internet.

For Mexico, craigslist is a good place to start. Keep in mind that you are going to want to be close to where you will be spending most of your time, and in a place that is affordable and safe. I personally would rather pay a bit more, and be close to places where I will be researching, than pay less an commute for an hour or more on the metro.

Total cost= I would say that allocating $900 a month (for your own place) is a good starting place. This can be cheaper if you have a room mate or two.

Luggage/Packing

This one is going to link to booking a flight. For those of you going to Mexico, particularly Mexico City, I would recommend Southwest Airlines. Why? Because I like the color of their airplanes. No, because they offer 2 free checked bags to and from Mexico, plus a carry-on. This will save you up to $150 each way. Remember, you will be in Mexico for at least 9 months, you will need a lot of stuff.

With that said, pack with a luggage scale close at hand. You will be surprised how quickly your bags can get bulky and heavy. I always fly with a scale, it helps me stay within the weight restrictions– ultimately saving me money. I would recommend a scale like this one. I always add a pound or two to the reading just to be safe.

Since we are on the topic of weight, I would recommend getting luggage that is light. Spend the extra cash, the lighter the luggage, the more stuff you can pack. I am a fan of soft side luggage precisely because it is lighter (unless you spend top-dollar on hard side luggage).

Another tip for saving room and weight in your bags: You do not need 100 of everything. For example, most Mexicans do not wear shorts as casually as in the US, irrespective of gender. So you do not need very many. Maybe 2 pairs for a 9 month trip. You will probably only need them when you travel to very touristy areas. Do some research and see what clothing is typical and appropriate for the area you will be in. You do not want to make people uncomfortable in public or private spaces, especially while you are doing research. For instance, wearing shorts in an archive in Mexico City might seem unprofessional and odd to others working or conducting research there.

Try to bring a reasonable amount of clothes, the right amount is subjective. You can always buy clothes and shoes in Mexico, it will be a nice memento for when you return to the US. Also, soap, shampoo, and other toiletries can easily be purchased in Mexico. This might not be true if prefer using very specific brands or BPA and cruelty free items, so check ahead.

  • You will want to bring:
    • A tie
    • A suit
    • A dress shirt

You will need to dress up and meet with professors or other important people from time to time, and you might not want to spend money on a new suit.

Supplements

For those of you that take supplements such as multivitamins and protein, load up! This is especially true for whey protein and other protein supplements. For example, a 5lb tub of protein will run you anywhere from 45-60 USD in the US, in Mexico, the same tub can cost up to double. Multivitamins are available in Mexico, but they can be expensive and they might not be the same ones that you take. I would advise to take at least a one month supply of multis and other supplements, this will provide you with sufficient time to find a source to replenish.

Medications

This is another topic that can get dicey. You want to act early on your meds. Try and see if your pharmacy or doctor can get you a vacation override. This will give you some wiggle room while you adjust to Mexico and find a source for your medications. You will also want to call ahead and see if the medications you take are sold, and widely available in Mexico. Getting a PPO will be important for medications, especially if you need a prescription to get your medicine. As many of you know, getting medications in Mexico is much easier than in the US, however, they don’t always carry the same exact medicines and the dosages may differ. Consult your physician for proper adjustments.

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