Congratulations to your student for choosing to study abroad!
Studying abroad is a wonderful and exciting process that can help develop a student’s critical thinking skills and sense of independence. The experience is often life-changing for the student and the student’s family. The Office of International Education (OIE) encourages family members to learn about study abroad so you can help your loved one as he or she embarks on this unique journey.
There are five stages of the study abroad process: Planning, Preparing, Departing, Abroad, and Return. As a parent/guardian, you will have the ability to support your student through each stage. It is important to encourage your student during each stage, and also to remind him or her to take responsibility for preparing adequately and participating fully. The experience will be most rewarding if the student plays an active role in each stage.
The Study Abroad office offers an array of programs with varying requirements, lengths, and costs. Parents should encourage students to research programs that best suit the student's academic program and personality. The Finding the Right Program section of this website contains information on individual programs, the application procedure, and each stage of the study abroad process. If your student has questions, encourage him or her to set up an appointment with the Study Abroad Coordinator.
To ensure that each traveler's passport will be valid for the entire length of the program, encourage your student to apply for a new passport immediately if he or she does not currently own one or if his or her current passport it is set to expire within six months of the return date.
During this phase, your student should apply for one program. Once the application is started, our staff will evaluate the documents and assign a status. At this point, your student may have additional paperwork or online documents to complete. Some of these materials are time sensitive and should be done in accordance with any program deadlines.
All students planning to study abroad are required to enroll in IST 300, a one credit hour pre-departure preparation course prior to going abroad. This course will assist students in becoming better prepared for their time abroad. You might want to ask your student to share the information acquired in this course with you.
In addition to your student’s pre-departure course, certain programs may hold supplemental orientations and information sessions. It is mandatory for students to attend all program orientations and meetings.
During this stage, you and your student should discuss and set expectations for frequency of communication and consider a budget. There are many logistical components to study abroad, so make sure you discuss these with your student. The Money Matters section can help assist you in creating a budget and will address scholarship opportunities. Make sure you are on the same page and setting realistic expectations.
You can also access the OIE Study Abroad Student Handbook as a reference.
Preparing for departure can be stressful for students and their families. During this time, students may feel excited and/or anxious about starting their program. Your role is to reassure your student that nervousness is normal, and while studying abroad may be challenging, it is also empowering and life-changing. Staying positive is a great way to keep students focused and facilitate a confident beginning to their time abroad.
Remind your student to pack only what he or she will absolutely need while abroad. Students will be responsible for carrying their own luggage, so they should make sure they can carry their luggage on their own.
Also be sure your student makes two copies of their flight itinerary, passport, credit cards, or other important documents; one copy for the student to keep on hand and one for you to have in case of emergencies.
For other helpful pre-departure tips, you can check out the U.S. Department of State's Traveler's Checklist.
While abroad, it is important that families support students as they go through the adjustment of being in a different culture. This adjustment can sometimes result in culture shock and occurs when a student is in an unfamiliar environment and experiences emotional ups and downs. This stage is full of good and bad experiences that can be confusing for students. The length and intensity of culture shock varies and there is no way to predict whether or not your student will experience it. When a student experiences a bad day you can help by encouraging them to go out and explore the local area, or try something new. Remind your student that they are abroad to study and take advantage of the many opportunities that are present in the host country.
The safety of each USA abroad students is OIE's number one priority. The Health and Safety section provides information on our procedures, as well as helpful links for students and families to explore. We will do everything we can to facilitate a safe and happy abroad experience. You should encourage your student to follow guidelines outlined by his or her program and to be mindful of surroundings at all times while abroad.
When your student returns from their term abroad, they will most likely go through a readjustment period. During this period, your student may experience reverse culture shock. Reverse culture shock may cause students to compare everything to their host country. Students may experience mood swings and/or be bored at home. The length of the reverse culture shock period depends on the individual, how long they were abroad, and how frequently they were in communication with people at home.
You can help your student readjust by showing enthusiasm for his or her experience by asking questions, looking at photos, and encouraging him or her to utilize new skills. Your student will gradually adjust to being home.
Additionally, OIE will offer a re-entry workshop for returned study abroad students to help with their transition and inform the students of opportunities they can explore on USA’s campus. Getting involved once back on campus can help study abroad alumni feel connected to their host country, maintain their language skills, and encourage other students to participate in study abroad.
As a parent, it is important to realize that the student you send abroad will probably not be the same when they return. No matter the length of the program or the location, study abroad provides students the opportunity to expand their perceptions and knowledge. Celebrate the change in your student and encourage them to continue growing intellectually and emotionally.
Finally, remember that OIE is always a resource for you and your student. If you have additional questions during any stage of the abroad process, please do not hesitate to contact us. It is our desire to help your student prepare for and experience a rewarding time abroad. We look forward to getting to know you and your student!