Study Abroad: What Parents Need to Know

Sending your child away to college can be difficult for any parent. But it comes with an extra level of worry for parents whose children plan to study abroad. Learn the benefits of international study, how to help your child find the right program, and other useful tips for preparing for your child’s overseas adventure in this handy guide.

Understand the Benefits of International Study

Understanding the benefits of international study will help you prepare emotionally for your child’s departure. Many students take a gap year to travel after graduating high school. This can be risky, as many young people enjoy their new carefree lifestyle so much that they struggle to go back to the books. International study is a great compromise because it lets your child see new places while earning college credits.

Employers are attracted to candidates who’ve traveled abroad, as these applicants are usually more independent, open to new experiences, and accepting of other cultures. Studying in a non-English speaking country can give your child new language skills to further enhance his or her resume.

Help Your Child Find an International Study Program

Once you’ve made peace with your child’s decision, you can spring in to action and help him or her find the right international study program. You can do some research, but get your child to ask all the questions to maintain an independent image.

Go Overseas is an excellent starting point. Its searchable database lists all available international study opportunities across the globe. Previous students rate the programs, giving you real unbiased insight into what they’re really like. Many local universities offer study abroad programs with sister colleges. Ask your child to research these opportunities, as they’re more likely to earn full credits for them.

Your child is likely to be most concerned about the program’s location, so it’s up to you think of the practicalities. Get details about the program; immersive courses involving internships or field research are often the most beneficial. Learn whether your child can transfer their existing college credits and whether the international program will delay their graduation. Cost is also a crucial consideration for most parents. Your child should be able to afford the program and living expenses and have some money left over for fun. Sometimes financial aid can offset international study costs, but not always.

Organize Travel Insurance

Most health insurance plans won’t cover your child studying abroad. Even something as simple as getting a prescription filled can be costly overseas. A serious medical emergency could easily cost thousands. You’ll need travel or student insurance to make sure your child can get any required medical attention abroad at a reasonable cost. Many international study programs require proof of insurance before your child leaves the country. Make sure the coverage is comprehensive with full inclusions such as medical evacuation.

Before your child’s departure, you can take steps to minimize the chance that he or she will need to make a claim. Book a doctor’s appointment for a complete physical and ask whether any immunizations are recommended. This should be done months in advance, as some vaccines require multiple shots over many months.

Organize Ways to Stay Connected

Organizing ways to stay connected to your child during the international study experience will help ease your anxiety and worries. In the modern world, communicating with people overseas couldn’t be easier. Skype and other video chatting software lets you have a free face-to-face conversation via your laptop or smartphone anywhere you both have Wi-Fi access. You can also send instant messages via these services. This function is ideal for asking quick questions, especially if one of you is sleeping due to a time zone difference.

If your child agrees, you might like to follow his or her social media accounts. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter can help bridge the communication gaps between your video chat sessions. Some children prefer their privacy on these channels though, so respect your child’s wishes if they don’t want to share their social media space with you.

Cell phones always make communication easy, but your child shouldn’t use his or her existing plan overseas. Global roaming rates are exorbitant! Instead, encourage your child to get a prepaid SIM card from a phone outlet, convenience store, or travel information center in the host nation. This will give your child a local phone number and the ability to accept calls from you for free. It’ll also probably be cheaper for them to call you from the prepaid local SIM than a U.S. SIM. Without any bills at the end, prepaid SIMs make managing communication costs easy.

It’s important you don’t abuse all these communication tools. While you want to hear all about your child’s adventures, you should make sure your son or daughter has the space to enjoy the college experience independently overseas. Agree on a communication schedule that suits you both, and only make extra calls in emergencies.

Help Your Child Pack

Helping your child pack can give you peace of mind that he or she has everything important for the journey ahead. Ask your child to see whether the hosting university has a packing checklist. This guide can ensure you don’t overlook anything or pack more than required.

Research the average temperatures in your child’s destination for the study period to learn the right clothes required. It might be smaller, but don’t overlook the carry-on luggage. Make sure your child has packed valuable items such as his or her passport, wallet, prescription medication, and camera in this bag. It’s also a good idea to put a change of clothes, underwear, and basic toiletries in this bag, just in case your child’s suitcase is delayed.

Ensure your child’s luggage meets with the airline’s luggage size and weight limits. Ideally, the luggage should weigh less than the limit, as this leaves space for souvenirs. The luggage should also meet the airline’s safety and customs requirements.

It’s only natural to worry when your child expresses the desire to study overseas, but the experience could be lifechanging. Your support and guidance are crucial as your child embarks on this next exciting educational chapter.