Did you know that more than a quarter million U.S. college students spend a semester or year at foreign universities studying abroad? It has become a very popular part of the college experience with nearly every college in the country offering some sort of study abroad program. However, there is a lot to think about before your student hops on that plane to another country and culture.
Credits and requirements – There are a few things that your student needs to check, and double check, with their advisor and registrar before they confirm their time abroad. They need to make sure that they can afford to be away from their home university for the requested amount of time and what the credit requirements are. How many credits will they receive from studying abroad, do the courses need to be pre-approved, do any of the credits count toward their major, or do the credits simply count toward hours? Additionally, will the study abroad be an actual grade that will be factored into their GPA or will classes simply be Pass/Fail?
One additional thing to consider, if your student will be away from their school during registration for the next semester, make sure they know how to access registration for classes and get in touch with their advisor while abroad.
Health Care – Whether it is the flu, a broken bone, or just the common cold, getting sick while thousands of miles from home can be an unnerving experience. If your child is planning to study abroad, your child may need additional vaccinations prior to their trip. They will also need to plan in advance for any medications/prescriptions so that they don’t have to worry about running out while abroad. You will also want to talk to the school to determine how they would receive medical attention while abroad.
It’s good practice to have students carry a copy of their insurance cards, as well as a list of allergies, medical history, and other pertinent information
Proper Visas and Paperwork – Your student will need to make sure they have a valid passport months before they plan to head out of the country. Obtaining a passport can be a lengthy process and usually takes several weeks to months to receive your passport in the mail once all the paperwork has been submitted. If your student already has a passport, make sure it does not expire while abroad.
Your student will also need to plan their itinerary, figure out housing, and gather any visas required. You’ll most likely be heavily involved in the process along with the school.
Communication and Safety – Making international phone calls can get very pricey. Look into alternative options like Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, etc. to stay in touch and not break the bank. Have a plan for how often you want your student to check in and what to do in case of an emergency. You should also have a list of any teachers or chaperones who will also be abroad should you need to contact them.
Your student should also have the address and contact information for the American Embassy for the city in which they will be studying. Also, a photocopy of their passport and any requisite visas should be kept in a Ziploc baggie, just in case.
Keep in mind that pickpocketing is a very common in other countries. Make sure your student is always aware and keeps their wallet, phone, etc. secure. Avoid backpacks that are easily opened, and they should avoid putting money or phones in their back pockets. Purses should be carried “cross body” to avoid “snatching”. Few simple safety tips can save hours of angst and frustration when your student is stranded with no money or I.D.
Spending – Traveling with large amounts of cash is never smart and figuring out exchange rates can be difficult. You will want to make sure they have a credit or debit card and one that does not have foreign transaction fees. You will also want to create a realistic budget with your student. Keep in mind, things may be more expensive in other countries – so understanding the exchange rates is important!
Now, all that is left to do is help them pack and trust that everything will be all right. It can be helpful for many parents to learn more about the country where your child will be studying. Knowing more about what they will experience will help you to envision that they are safe and having a fantastic time. It is only natural for parents of students studying abroad to be nervous. With a little forethought and preparation, sending your child to study abroad can be a positive experience for both student and parent. We can help with a student Graduate Account. To learn more, give us a call or stop into any of our locations.
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