What will you talk about when you meet people?
Gain background knowledge -- then don't neglect to learn about some aspect of your destination that interests you! Movies -- sports -- art or theater. Learn how to consult Cornell's e-resources (books, journals, encyclopedias, images) through links from the Library's home page and research guides.
Find reliable country information quickly: these are efficient and reliable sources for facts and summaries about national politics, economics, education, infrastructure, media and much more. Use them to gather information or to check your understanding. Online (mostly); link through the Cornell Library Catalog.
eiu.com [Economist Intelligence Unit] Country Profiles, Country Reports, Country Commerce, Viewswires for nearly 200 countries, regions and organizations.
Europa World Plus Political, social and economic information about 250+ countries; incudes country maps and a directory of business, cultural and political organizations in each country and 1,900+ international organizations.
World Factbook (US Central Intelligence Administration) "information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities."
Statesmans Yearbook (Current year in print only: Olin Ref JA51.S79;previous years in multiple formats/locations) "This classic reference work presents a political, economic and social account of every country of the world together with facts and analysis."
Cultural Sociology of the Middle East, Asia and Africa (2012; Print: Olin Reference HM626 .C843 2012, 4 volumes; online)
Greenwood Encyclopedia of World Popular Culture (2007) Olin Ref HM621.G74 2007; 6 volumes. Covers six continents, each in one volume, and offers topical essays which include additional resources such as architecture, fashion and appearance, food and foodways, films, books, sports and recreation, transportation and recommended websites. (Print only, unfortunately.)
ILR School researcher looks at "tight" and "loose" cultures (Science 27 May 2011:
Vol. 332 no. 6033 pp. 1100-1104)
Literature Resource Center Learn more about writers, their works, their lives and their times in this huge full text resource. Includes living and historical writers of both fiction and non-fiction, global coverage. Try searching by author's name or nationality, country, genre, work title, and more.
Words without Borders "The online magazine for literature in translation." Articles, features, reviews. Especially good for work outside the publishing mainstream.
Dead Sea newspaper; credit: inro, Flickr, Creative Commons license.