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Common Study Abroad Challenges Parents Can Prepare For
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By: Elana Goodwin, Uloop
Each year, more and more college students are opting to study abroad, and it can be a great experience for all involved — if the necessary steps are taken beforehand to adequately plan. As a parent, you’ll obviously worry about your student when they’re abroad but there are ways you can get ready for that occurrence and feel better about your student studying abroad.
Here are some common study abroad challenges that parents can prepare for.
One of the biggest study abroad challenges parents and students are often faced with is how to fund your student’s study abroad experience. Know that while studying abroad has its benefits and is a great way for students to immerse themselves in other cultures and broaden their horizons, it’s not mandatory and you shouldn’t have to foot the entire bill. A number of factors, including the length of time your student will spend abroad, how far ahead your student starts planning their study abroad experience, and where they’d like to study abroad, can affect the cost of studying abroad.
In some cases, a semester abroad may actually cost practically the same as if your student had stayed on campus, in terms of tuition and board — especially if they choose to study abroad in a developing country. Additionally, if your student starts the study abroad planning process early, they can apply for some of the many study abroad scholarships available, both nationally and through individual colleges, to help offset the costs of their studying abroad experience.
If your student is set to go spend a semester abroad, a challenge you can prepare for is homesickness and doubts. Before your student leaves, they may feel anxious and have doubts about whether they really should go study abroad and if they’ll enjoy being in another country and so far from home for a semester. Going off to college for a semester, even if it’s not close to home, is very different than heading off on a study abroad program in another country for a term.
It’s very common for students to be homesick once they’ve begun studying abroad as they have to adjust to a new university, new living situation, new people, new culture, and perhaps a new language. Be supportive and try to be available to talk, email, Facebook, etc. when your student reaches out to connect and share about their experiences and daily life studying abroad. Remind them of why they wanted to study abroad in the first place and what made them choose their specific study abroad destination and how quickly the semester is going to fly by, so they should enjoy each moment there.
3. Lack of contact
With more technology and options now than ever, staying in contact with your student shouldn’t be a major challenge –though a lack of contact may occur once your student is more settled into their program and gets busy taking advantage of all the country has to offer.
To avoid any communication challenges, try to set up a schedule with your student on when you’ll catch up or check in each week or every day. If you’re in two different time zones, having a designated calling period will ensure you don’t miss each other, too. Plus, you can also use Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook, etc., to help you keep in touch more easily as well.
A major challenge parents can try to prepare for as much as they can is safety. Before leaving, make sure you and your student both have any important numbers, addresses, and other info written down and put in a safe place and that you each have a copy. Numbers like those of the local embassy, the university your student will be studying abroad at, and the Study Abroad Office number and contact info at their stateside college should all be kept handy.
Additionally, bank details, credit or debit card number information, a copy of their passport and its number, a copy of their drivers’ license, and health insurance information is key for both of you to have copies of and keep in a safe place. Before your student leaves, you’ll also want to go over some other safety concerns with them, like being smart about their valuables and money, getting pickpocketed, staying safe at night, etc. The more research you and your student do about their host country before your student leaves, the better you’ll both feel about your student heading off to study abroad and the safer they’ll be.
These are just some of the study abroad challenges you as a parent can attempt to prepare for so you’re more ready to handle your student’s study abroad experience. However, a challenge you can’t really prepare for (except by having tissues handy) is trying not to cry as you see your student off for their semester abroad.
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