Study Abroad Parent Support
Whether your student has already committed to a study abroad program or is considering one, you may be excited as well as a bit apprehensive. While parents know the personal, social and career benefits of study abroad, there may be concerns about student safety, responsibility and cultural assimilation.
Understanding the experience from registration through re-entry can assist you in supporting your student. The following tips can help you get started:
- Get Connected
Whether this is the first time a family member will be traveling overseas or is one of many such trips, you can connect to your student by:
- Researching his/her travel destination as a way to discuss cultural, culinary and sightseeing components of the trip before, during and after it.
- Talking about his/her plans, goals, areas of anticipation and excitement, as well as any concerns or frustrations.
- Encourage Practicality
There are numerous traveler tips available online and through BW's Explorations/Study Abroad Center. With regard to practical matters, your student may benefit from the following suggestions:
- Pack light and smart.
- Be aware of items that cannot be brought into a country as well as those that cannot be brought home.
- Set a budget that allows for necessities, splurges and unexpected expenses.
- Use a social networking site to share information and photos.
- Designate priorities with regard to time management and avoid activity overload and other stresses that can be detrimental to academic studies, wellness and enjoyment of the experience.
- Suggest Safety and Health Precautions
Common sense measures can go a long way in preventing unexpected crime, accidents and illnesses. While most students may be aware of the following suggestions, it may be helpful to discuss them prior to departure:
- Safeguard passports, cash, credit cards and travelers' checks at all times and protect personal belongings.
- Follow recommended guidelines for registering with appropriate domestic/overseas offices.
- Avoid risky behaviors with regard to alcohol, drugs, dating and socializing.
- Know and follow the laws and customs of a particular country and be aware of criminal activity.
- Be cautious of personal safety when traveling, sightseeing and interacting with others.
- Have an emergency plan and list of contacts.
- Be aware of pasteurization and other health and food safety practices before eating and drinking anything.
- Prior to departure, talk with your physician about health matters and your insurance company about coverage.
- Recognize the Realities of Cultural Assimilation
Even with the best preparation, a student can sometimes experience anxiety, disillusionment and/or uncertainty about his/her study abroad experience. While these feelings are likely to occur at the beginning of the experience and disappear over time, they can be disheartening. Also unsettling can be the adjustment period after a student returns home or to campus. The following tips can help you support your student:
- Discuss a communication plan with your student prior to departure, but be patient in allowing him/her the opportunity to become immersed in the experience so the impressions you hear are overall ones rather than day-to-day details.
- If your student expresses frustration, take time to listen as he/she vents, but also try to help him/her see all sides of a situation.
- Be aware that your student may be experiencing disorientation (rather than dissatisfaction) as he/she steps out of his/her "comfort zone" at times.
- When a student fully connects to his/her study abroad experience, he/she may express interest in returning there to live or study. This should be seen as a positive sign that your student is having a wonderful experience. One way for your student to stay connected to his/her overseas experience is to continue contact with international friends and other persons who may have accompanied him/her on the trip.
- Sometimes a student will experience reverse culture shock upon returning home or to campus. If this happens, be patient in allowing him/her to re-adjust by listening to frustrations and offering encouragement and praise about new-found independence and worldliness.
- Want to Visit Your Student?
If you plan to visit, it is best to do so at a time that is convenient for your student's schedule. Your student has responsibilities. Avoid the first and last week of his/her stay and exam time.