Before Study Abroad

Important Paperwork
Health Issues
Travel Arrangements
Financial Matters
Cultural and Personal Preparation

 

Important Paperwork

Your student should apply for his passport as soon as he has decided to study abroad, and at least 4 months before his departure date. Click for more information on applying for a passport.

To  obtain a passport your student will need to show proof of citizenship: an expired passport, a birth certificate, or naturalization documents. If you need extra time to locate these documents, the application process as early as possible. Because applying for a passport can be a long and complex process, as a parent you should have a valid, up-to-date passport so that in the unlikely event of illness or an emergency you will be able to travel quickly to your student’s location.

Once your student has his passport, impress upon him the importance of not losing it. For security, have him take a paper photocopy of it along with him, but kept separately from his passport, in case he needs to apply for a replacement. He should also leave a photocopy and a scan with you as backup. A copy of his passport is available on his study abroad account through our website.

 

 

Health Issues

As with all other aspects of planning for study abroad, when it comes to your student’s health, the sooner the planning begins the better.

 

The Office of Education Abroad keeps tabs on all developing health situations in locations where we have students. However, we encourage all students and parents to inform themselves of the health risks and responsibilities relating to their travel. The Office of Education Abroad requires students to visit a doctor and complete a Health Evaluation Form as part of the application process, but we do not require any vaccines or other medical procedures. We recommend that students listen to opinion of a qualified health care provider and make their own determinations about how to prepare. Some countries may require certain vaccines or immunizations. You may view a country-by-country list of recommendations and requirements on the CDC website.

 

All study abroad students are required to have study abroad insurance. We enroll students in insurance, and provide them with an insurance card via email. The program we use is the industry standard for student travel insurance. Click here to read more about the coverage provided. 

If your student needs medication or medical device (contacts, glasses, etc) make sure that he has a sufficient supply to last the duration of the study abroad program, or a plan for how to get refills while he is away. Be sure he has copies of all of his prescriptions in a safe place. He may need to present these prescriptions at airport security.

 

Travel Arrangements

Wether your student will be traveling in a group, or is making his own flight arrangements, it is up to him to understand airline requirements for number of baggage items allowed, size and weight restrictions, and the rules concerning items that are allowed in carry-on and checked baggage, flight confirmation, etc. Most airlines provide this information on their website, and will be happy to answer questions via phone if anything is unclear. We also encourage you and your student to review the TSA Website.

 

Financial Matters

The question of how much money your student will need while abroad depends on where he is going, what his personal financial situation is, how well or poorly he manages money, and what effect inflation and changing currency exchange rates may be having on the cost of living in the country in which he will be studying. As a result it is very difficult for advisors to give an answer to this, though we try strive to be as accurate and up-to-date in our predictions as possible.

You and your student discuss the budget he will have to live within and/or to what degree you may be able to help him with expenses while he is away. Knowing in advance that the first month is almost always the most expensive should help in planning and in avoiding panic if and when it happens.

Credit cards are a convenient way of making purchases abroad, depending upon the location. However, has the same pitfalls of credit card use anywhere, perhaps exacerbated by the feeling of being in a place “you may never be again.” Talking with your student about how to manage his spending, wether the money is his or yours, is a very important discussion to have before he leaves.

Some locations abroad are not credit card friendly, particularly less developed countries. In these cases, the best course of action is to use cash. Students may withdraw their cash for the week, and then carry only as much as they need for the day. Research international partnerships your bank may have, and instruct your student to use those ATMs to avoid hefty international withdrawal fees. Your students education abroad advisor will know more about the economy of your student’s destination and can advise them of the best way to pay for things.

In many parts of the world, ATM debit cards offer the most convenient way of getting foreign currency, ask usually at a favorable rate of exchange as well. If your student does not already have an account with an ATM card, you may want to have him get one for his time abroad. Be sure that the bank you are opening an account with has reciprocal agreements with banks in the country he will be traveling in, and ask wether there are any special rules governing PINs, withdrawal limits, or fees. No matter what your bank tells you, be sure to send your student with enough foreign currency to cover basic expenses for the first few days in case he has a problem withdrawing cash at first.

 

Before traveling abroad, your student should notify their bank in order to avoid having his account frozen.  

 

Cultural and Personal Preparation

Foreign Language

Almost all of our study abroad destinations have courses in English. Does this mean that students can head into foreign countries without knowing anything at all about the local language? If the program doesn’t require it and the courses are taught in English, why not? After all, isn’t English the universal language? And, especially if they will be spending time in more than one country, they can’t be expected to to learn all those languages, can they?

Of course they can’t. On the other hand, students who make the effort to learn at least a few basic phrases for each country they travel in are likely to greatly improve the quality of their interaction with the local population. It is true that in many parts of the world, especially among students, English is spoken. But it is a simple courtesy, as well as a highly effective practical tactic, to at least give fair notice to foreigners before launching into English questions. Americans tend to be very practical people and want to get straight to the business of an interaction, whereas, many cultures around the world place a much higher priority on a prescribed formula for social interactions. It’s good to learn these things, and respect them– it also helps to improve the quality of one’s experience in a country. Even if your student can’t ask a question in the local language, it’s much better to start with the words “Excuse me, do you speak English?” spoken clearly and slowly, preferably said in the native language.

Even if your student hasn’t studied the language, and has no opportunity to do so before going, he can learn a lot from a simple phrasebook. Combined with a pocket dictionary, an open mind, and the willingness to try (including the all important quality of being able to laugh at oneself and/or sound like a “fool”) he will have all he needs to begin communicating in a foreign language.

 

Researching Your Student’s Destination

One of the things busy parents and college students fail to do that could make the study abroad experience much more beneficial and enjoyable is to take the time to learn as much as you can about your student’s destination before she leaves Encourage her to approach this experience as the thoroughly educational undertaking that it is from the start. Research her destination as soon as she knows where she’s going. Libraries, the internet, and the our office are all good places to begin. Check out our Resources section for our recommended travel sites. Travel guides and documentaries are also excellent resources.

 

Taken from What Parents Need to Know! Before, During and After Education Abroad, Janet Hulstrand, courtesy of NAFSA