Tips for Parents

What is my Role in my Student’s Study Abroad Experience?

By Andrea Bouchaud

Parents are an integral part of their student’s college experience, and that doesn’t stop when it comes to studying abroad. You can help your son or daughter prepare for and succeed in this experience by following these 5 tips.

Assist your student in finding the best program that meets major/career needs.

According to a 2013 study from the British Council Education Intelligence, American students choose study abroad programs based on fun, cultural experiences and not the program course’s impact on their major and career goals. Guide your student to pick the program most beneficial to his or her major and career development by reviewing his major’s course curriculum. Your student should also review the program with his advisor to make sure credits will transfer correctly. Helping your student choose a study abroad program wisely will ensure a greater return from this opportunity.

Establish realistic expectations and budget.

At twenty years old, your college student needs your help with creating an affordable and realistic budget for their time studying abroad. Sit down with your student to find out what she expects in terms of travel, eating out, sight seeing, and shopping. Due to elevated cost of living, make sure your student has a monthly expense budget of $700-$1,000 for food, laundry, public transportation, and other living expenses. Travel should be a separate budget from living expenses.

Organize Legal, Medical and Safety Preparations.

Be prepared for the visa process and any medical or safety issues while your student is abroad by making these preparations before he leaves:

  • Encourage your student to start the visa process as soon as possible as it can be a lengthy experience. In addition, make 10 copies of every requested document.
  • Make sure your student has current Meningitis, HPV, Tetanus, Hepatitis A & B and Rabies vaccines.
  • Confirm that your health insurance covers your student abroad. If not, visit the government’s travel site to look for health insurance that will cover him abroad.
  • Develop a plan for medical and safety emergencies for your student’s time abroad by visiting the U.S. Department of State’s website. It lists every country’s emergency phone numbers, safety issues and tips on how to stay safe in each country. 

Set up weekly communication. 

Setting up weekly communication gives your student the comfort of home while abroad. You can upgrade her cell phone to an international SIM card and/or upgrade to an international plan which allows internet access, messaging, and minutes abroad. A downside to this option is a higher cell phone bill and fees for overseas use. Laptop/tablet communication via Skype and e-mail are the easiest and most cost-effective ways to connect. Communicating with your student overseas is affordable, easy and will help you show your support from thousands of miles away.

Send Care Packages and letters.

Nothing says “I’m thinking about you” like a surprise care package. Care packages should include something special from home like your son or daughter’s favorite bag of cookies or a photo of your family. Another great surprise to send is a letter. It’s more personal than an e-mail and your handwritten words of pride and encouragement can help get your student through a tough week.

Studying abroad is a unique investment in your student’s college career. Your support and guidance for this experience will help your student have a successful time abroad.

Andrea Bouchaud is an author and blogger on the experience of studying abroad and immersion into the French language and culture as an American student. A French major at Rutgers University, she studied abroad in Paris for a year at the Université de Paris-Sorbonne, Paris IV. In August 2013, she published Twenty in Paris: A Young American Perspective of Studying Abroad in Paris with Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon. She lives in Dallas, TX. Connect with Andrea for more tips, advice and stories on studying abroad at www.twentyinparis.net. 

Did you enjoy reading this article? Sign up for UniversityParent’s weekly eNewsletter for additional tips and advice to help your college student succeed. You can also add to the discussion and get feedback from fellow college parents by joining our College Parents’ Facebook group. 


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