Practical Preparations

The Journey Begins Before They Leave Home

It’s a delicate balance between making sure your son or daughter is prepared for his or her time abroad while letting him or her take the lead at the beginning of this new experience. The following is list of essential issues that should be resolved with your son or daughter before departure:

  • Understanding program policies
  • Travel documents
  • Health preparations
  • Financial preparations
  • Insurance
  • Travel planning
  • Mobile phones
  • Packing: shipping and storage
  • Emergencies: Planning ahead
  • Make a data file
  • Program policies

Understanding policies

Make sure your son or daughter understands what policies—both CYA and home institution—apply to him or her while abroad. Ask the home institution about credit, enrollment status, financial aid, study abroad-related fees and services the school will provide while abroad. Take the time to review the terms of participation in the CYA Program which cover issues such as course load, changes to academic programs, grade reporting, fees and refunds, and student conduct.

See Students' Roles and Responsibilities

Travel documents

Insure that your son or daughter’s passport is valid and will remain so throughout his or her stay abroad. Parents should also have valid passports in case of emergency. A student visa is required for all students who do not carry a passport from a Schengen* country and plan to study in Greece for 90 days or longer. This would include students enrolled for a semester or an academic year program. Summer students would ONLY need visas if their total time abroad exceeded the 90-day period.

*The 24 Schengen countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

Health preparations

Before departure, your son or daughter should have a general physical and dental exam; women should also have a gynecological checkup. Make sure your son or daughter packs a typed copy of any medication or vision prescriptions needed. Review with doctors how best to handle routine prescription medications. 

CYA requires all students to fill out a Confidential Health Form as soon as they have been accepted. It lists any physical or mental conditions they have, medications they are taking, the name of their health insurance provider, the names and phone number of their emergency contact person(s) and physicians. Please encourage them to do this as soon as possible.
In the event that your son or daughter requires medical attention while attending the Program, CYA maintains a list of English-speaking doctors and can recommend specialists. There is also a 24-hour medical service for house calls. For more serious cases, the Program has a special arrangement with an excellent private hospital that allows immediate admission. 

Financial preparations

The currency used in Greece is the Euro (€). Decide in advance with your son or daughter how he or she will access money for both everyday financial needs and emergencies. Be aware that personal checks and U.S. postal money orders cannot be cashed in Greece; even bank or cashier's checks can take 30 days to clear. Although CYA recommends the use of bank debit/credit cards, which will allow your son or daughter to withdraw cash (local currency) directly with the use of a personal identification number (PIN), it is important to ask your bank how (or if) its ATM card will function abroad and what extra fees will apply for withdrawals. A personal credit card with cash advances or traveler's checks could also make sense. Don’t forget to make arrangements to pay any monthly bills and, if necessary, to file your son or daughter’s income taxes.


All CYA students are issued an International Student Identity Card, which provides basic coverage for accidents and illness occurring outside of North America. CYA Program fees also include enrollment in a supplemental hospitalization insurance policy for the period of study in Greece, effective from Arrival Day until the last official day of the semester. Despite the aforementioned coverage provided by CYA, continue to carry your son or daughter as a dependent on your health insurance policy (or continue whatever coverage you have had during previous college years). Investigate additional coverage as individual student or family circumstances require. Also, please be aware that in Greece the cost of medical services must be paid up front by the patient (and then reimbursed by insurance); therefore instruct your son or daughter to keep all pertinent receipts.

CYA strongly recommends that participants arrange for loss or damage to baggage and personal effects, as CYA does not provide such coverage. Some homeowners’ insurance policies include theft and damage coverage for the personal property of family members who are traveling. Contact your insurance provider about whether you have such protection before purchasing an additional policy. Valuables your son or daughter will take on the trip, such as a laptop computer, camera, or video recorder, should be insured. Also consider tuition and travel insurance. Advise your son or daughter not to bring irreplaceable objects such as family jewelry.

Travel planning

CYA does not offer group flights to Athens and therefore recommends that parents research travel costs and help book flights. Learn regulations regarding the type, size, and weight of luggage that the chosen airline will accept without penalty (there can be significant differences between carriers, and please note that baggage allowances for domestic flights are usually more stringent than for international flights). Be aware of any restrictions the tickets you purchase may have (such as a change policy). A money belt can help keep valuables safe during the trip.

CYA strongly recommends that parents planning to visit do so during the Fall or Spring recess, Christmas holiday period, or long holiday weekends. Please consult the semester calendar for the dates of scheduled breaks and long weekends. Please also note that parental visits are not an acceptable excuse for students to miss class, and that CYA cannot accommodate parents in the classroom or on CYA-sponsored field trips.

Encourage your son or daughter to pack lightly! Most students accumulate purchases while overseas, making for packing challenges as the return home looms. Remind your son or daughter that airline baggage allowances are strict and to review baggage allowances before the departure home.

Mobile Phones

All CYA students are required to carry a mobile phone with a Greek number for their own safety and security. It also helps them reduce the everyday costs of communicating with fellow CYA students. There are a number of companies devoted to providing short-term mobile phone rental, SIM cards, and service for travelers and study abroad students. Although students are free to obtain their Greek mobile telephones from any provider, CYA has contracted with PicCell Wireless to provide students with mobile telephones whereby the normal processing fee is paid by CYA and students pay only for outgoing calls and text messages. In addition, incoming calls from anywhere in the world are free of charge to the student while the student and telephone are (physically) in Greece. Detailed information can be found on the PicCell Wireless website:

Encourage your son or daughter to obtain their phone prior to departing for CYA for the added peace of mind of having the phone during travels before and/or after the Program. Remind your son or daughter to provide CYA with their mobile phone number as soon as possible after the phone has been activated.

While the simplest way to keep in touch with your son or daughter is via their mobile phone, most find it cheaper to use e-mail, SKYPE, or text messaging. Parents may leave phone messages at the Academic Center Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Athens time (dial +30 210 756-0749). Messages will be placed in the student’s mailbox. CYA strongly recommends that students have a calling card number from AT&T, MCI, or Sprint (regional telephone company cards will not work), enabling them to make calls directly to North America from most phones.

Packing: shipping and storage

Aside from the occasional care- or birthday package, CYA does not advise shipping items (such as extra baggage, computers, cameras, etc.) to Greece. In particular, electronic equipment (such as a camera, ipod, MP3, videocamera, laptop etc.) shipped to Greece may be subject to high import duties even if their purchase value in the US is low. Customs declarations must be made on all packages sent from overseas and import taxes—even on used items—can equal or exceed the original purchase price of some items. 

The mail can be extraordinarily slow (ground packages may take months to arrive); CYA regularly receives packages intended for students who have already returned home. If it is essential to ship a package to Greece, marking the package “Contains Personal Items” or "Contains Previously Used Personal Items" and declaring the value of the contents to be zero may help to avoid customs charges. Compare the rates of different shipping agencies, as prices differ considerably. All packages and personal mail should be sent to the CYA Academic Center (never the student’s apartment address), where it will be distributed to the student’s mailbox.

Mail should be marked with the student’s name, c/o DIKEMES/College Year in Athens, 5 Plateia Stadiou, GR-116 35 Athens, GREECE.

Emergencies: planning ahead

Make sure you will be informed if your son or daughter runs into difficulty overseas. Discuss how you will handle any family emergencies that may arise. It’s best to have a written emergency communication plan listing the methods of communication to use and the order in which to use them. Give your son or daughter a copy of the plan, which should include: all family telephone numbers; access codes for messages on family answering machines; phone numbers for several out-of state relatives; and several email addresses, including a backup address at an overseas provider such as Gmail or Yahoo!.

Make a data file

Gather all of the information you and your son or daughter might need while he or she is away.
A few suggestions:

  • contact information for your son or daughter at CYA
  • contact information for the study abroad office at the home school
  • doctors who have treated your son or daughter in the past
  • the citizen assistance section of the Greek embassy or consulate nearest you
  • the U.S. State Dept. Office of Overseas Citizen Services
  • insurance policy numbers and how to submit claims
  • your son or daughter’s credit card numbers
  • your son or daughter’s passport number
  • a duplicate lost passport kit containing: two passport photos, an official copy of his or her birth certificate, a photocopy of the passport photo, signature, and visa pages
  • the CYA pre-departure information and calendar