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Study Abroad and Communication
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By Elana Goodwin, Uloop
When your college student is going to be studying abroad, a big concern for parents is communication. You want to be able to reach your son or daughter and make sure they are able to contact you so you can hear about their experience and confer often.
Knowing about some of the challenges that you may face when it comes to communicating with your student while they are abroad may make keeping in touch with your student simpler. Here are some communication facts and tips to keep in mind if your student is going to study abroad.
Technology is key
With more technology and communication options available today than in any other era, staying in contact with your student while they are studying abroad should not be a major challenge. Beyond phone calls, which may be harder to schedule with you and your student in two different countries, there are many free and convenient apps that will allow you to communicate with your student more readily. Skype is great as you can both message, call, and video chat each other, and it is all free.
WhatsApp can be downloaded to your phone and uses Wi-Fi to let you and your student message each other for free and is great as you can have your whole family in a group. It is also easy to send pictures, videos, and voice messages on the app as well.
Email is another convenient way to keep in touch as it may be easier to write out longer updates or ask questions about your child’s experience so far.
Lastly, Facebook is probably the most convenient tool for keeping in touch. You can see when your student posts or is tagged in pictures while they’re studying abroad and can privately or group chat with them on the site or in the app, all of which will allow you to easily follow your student’s adventures and keep in touch with them abroad.
Don’t expect daily contact
A lack of contact may occur once your student is more settled into their program abroad and gets busy taking advantage of all their host country has to offer. If they are only there for a semester, they will want to take in as much as possible during their time abroad and really experience the country. Staying in contact can then become more difficult because of time zones and business.
To avoid any communication challenges, consider setting up a schedule with your student when you will catch up or check in each week or every day, depending on their availability and your relationship. If you are in two different time zones, having a designated calling period will ensure you do not miss each other, too. However, try to be available to communicate whenever your student reaches out as much as possible — sticking to a schedule is not always doable and you do not want your student to feel as if catching up with you is a chore, so try to take the communication as it comes in whatever method they decide to utilize.
Communication frequency will vary
While you should not expect daily contact, the frequency of communication with your student will vary on a number of factors, including things like how close your relationship with your student is, whether they are a boy or girl, where they are studying abroad, how good of a time they are having, etc. Expect the rate of communication to vary throughout their time abroad.
Even if your student doesn’t call or respond to your Facebook chats, WhatsApp texts, emails, etc., as often as you would like, it’s important that they know you are thinking of them and are interested in what they are up to abroad. Frequent communication on your part will be appreciated, as long as it does not cross the line into seeming smothering.
When your student first arrives abroad and is adjusting, they may feel homesick or anxious and be in contact more often as they lean on you for support. Listen, encourage them, and be engaged in your conversations, checking in more often initially. As their time abroad goes on, you will still want to communicate with them often but understand that if they are not in contact as much, it’s because they are having a good time and are busy enjoying all that being abroad has to offer.
Studying abroad will no doubt be a great experience for your student, broadening their horizons and promoting self-growth, and you will want to be a part of it as much as you can while being countries away. Keeping these communication facts and tips in mind while your student is studying abroad will enable you to stay in touch with your student better and more easily.
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