Is your college student considering a semester abroad? What might the experience be like — for him and for you as a college parent? How do families make this decision, and prepare?
Most colleges and universities offer programs for students to study abroad for a semester or full year; summer programs may be an option as well. The Study Abroad (or Global Education/Affairs) Office and website at your student’s school should have many of the resources your student — and you — require to begin the process of considering study abroad.
What are the advantages of international study? A benefit of college life in general is learning about and connecting with people from diverse backgrounds, and students who study abroad take this opportunity one big step further. Time away from the home campus may immerse them in a new language; enrich a current course of study or enable new explorations; deepen their appreciation of the world and its many cultures; and allow them to develop valuable competency as global citizens.
Is study abroad the right choice for every student? To be eligible, students must be in good academic standing. A level of maturity and self-determination is necessary to manage the extra organizational, academic, and personal responsibilities. By owning the process from the beginning, your student can demonstrate that he is ready for the challenge of study abroad.
How and when does my student choose a program? The process usually begins in the fall of sophomore year (for a planned junior year abroad experience). However, starting to consider options and work study abroad into the plan sooner can help your student choose a program more thoughtfully. Also, for some students sophomore year may be a more convenient time to travel due to class schedules. To start, your student should:
After your student has applied to and been accepted by a program, he will begin his orientation, sign a contract, and pay a deposit.
Will study abroad make it harder for my student to graduate on time? Your student is responsible for working with his study abroad and academic advisors to make sure that study abroad courses will apply to his degree and major requirements. If he participates in a program approved by the school, this is usually straightforward. In other cases, he may need to petition to have a program/course of study approved.
Is international study more expensive? Not necessarily. With programs operated or approved by the college, tuition and financial aid often transfer directly. Tuition at international universities is sometimes less than at American ones. Airfare, travel documents, and other travel expenses will be your student’s responsibility. The program should outline the various financial obligations for your student. If you cannot find that information talk to the program coordinator.
What travel documents are needed? Your student should apply for (or renew) a passport and apply for a visa (if required by the host country) as soon as he is accepted to a program. His passport must be valid for at least six months after the date of his planned return to the U.S.
What kinds of immunizations will my student need? Different countries have different requirements — this information will be found in the program handbook. Your student should schedule a check-up and get required and recommended shots well in advance (most college health centers offer these services), and also take care of other medication and prescription needs (glasses, contact lenses, etc.). Contact your health insurance provider or the college health plan to confirm your student’s coverage while abroad.
How will I communicate with my overseas student? Students and parents should investigate and discuss communication options in advance. International calling cards are sold in the U.S. at phone companies and retail stores like Target. Pay-as-you-go cell phones can be purchased abroad. Many students find the internet — email, Skype, Facebook — to be the most convenient way to stay in touch. Parents should be aware that students often can’t call home immediately upon arrival in their host country, and in some locations may have infrequent or unreliable internet access.
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