Info for Parents
Study-abroad students often deal with the unexpected as they experience new cultures and lifestyles.
Studying abroad could be a defining period in your child’s educational experience — transforming your youngster into a global thinker with international attitudes, and putting him or her a step ahead of the competition in the eyes of prospective employers. In spite of all the potential benefits, however, you may be experiencing mixed feelings about letting your son or daughter study abroad, including excitement about the opportunity, fear of what might go wrong, and stress about being so far apart. Remember that your child is likely feeling similar emotions. You can help each other by understanding and supporting your respective feelings and decisions before, during, and after the period of overseas study.
Before your son or daughter leaves, be sure he or she knows that you offer your full support. Open a discussion on what your child hopes to gain from the experience, and talk about any fears or concerns you both may have. Say you are there for your child before he or she leaves, and that you can still be reached from overseas. Be available to lend support, but avoid the temptation to become too involved. Ultimately, this is your youngster’s learning experience.
When your son or daughter first arrives in the new country, you may be contacted frequently and will likely be told about the difficulties and frustrations being experienced. In most cases your child won’t expect you to solve the problems — as much as you may want to — and is just looking for an understanding ear. Overcoming these initial difficulties will help your child quickly rise to a new level of independence. And remember, along with the difficulties, your child will be experiencing many wonderful things as well, although you may not be the first to hear about them.
It is important that you avoid visiting your youngster during his or her time overseas. Study abroad students are not on vacation, even though you may be. Going to class with your child or taking him or her out of class to go sightseeing will be detrimental to your child’s schoolwork. If you want to visit the country in which your youngster is studying, do so during a break in the studies or, preferably, when the program has finished, so you will be able to travel together.
When a child returns from studying abroad, he or she will likely experience culture shock and will need to readjust to being back home. Your youngster may experience a period of depression, or you may find that your son or daughter is not the same person he or she was before studying abroad. Your child may have a new way of dressing, a new hairstyle, or a craving for a new type of food. This can provide an excellent opportunity for you to share in your youngster’s international experience. Once again, your support, interest, and understanding are all essential to your child at this point in time. As you learn the details of your child’s experiences abroad, the full value of this life-altering experience will become apparent.
Helping Students Prepare
Studying abroad may be the first time your child spends a significant length of time away from you, let alone travels overseas. Being caught up in the excitement of the experience, the logistics of the whole process can be overwhelming. Don’t forget that the study abroad experience is first and foremost your child’s experience; however, be available to lend assistance to your child to organize the financial, social, and administrative aspects of this endeavor.
Here are a few suggestions of things you can do to help your child prepare for their time out of the country:
- Make arrangements for how you will contact each other. Given the cost of telephoning, it might be best to set up a regular schedule for e-mailing rather than telephoning. In addition, you may want to contact your long-distance service provider to arrange for a calling card or find out the best way to call collect from your child’s destination country. Plan together how you will handle any family emergency that may arise while your child is away.
- Help organize your child’s finances. Depending on the program location, some monetary instruments are preferable. It’s advisable to talk with someone at your bank about how (or if) its ATM card will work and what extra fees there might be. Setting up a personal credit card with cash advances, or buying traveler’s checks might also make sense. Help your child to decide how to access money for everyday financial needs as well as for emergency funds. Make arrangements to pay your child’s monthly bills and to file his or her income taxes. If necessary, sign the appropriate paperwork to establish “Power of Attorney” while your child is out of the country.
- Make arrangements to take care of your child’s health care needs. Set up an appointment for a general physical exam, dental checkup, and, for females, a gynecological checkup. If your child wears glasses or contacts, be sure he or she has a typed copy of the prescription. Ask your child to talk to the family doctor about the best way to handle any routine prescription medications. Make sure your child takes a complete medical record.
- Make sure your child has insurance for any valuables taken on the trip, such as a laptop computer, camera, or video recorder. Advise your child not to take things that aren’t replaceable, such as family jewelry.
- Make sure your child’s passport and any required visas are in order.
- Help with travel planning. Check out travel costs or book flights. Find out international regulations on the type and size of luggage that can be carried. Help pack lightly and avoid taking anything unnecessary. Purchase a money belt or pouch for the journey.