Study Abroad! Mar11

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Study Abroad!

We feel strongly that getting a well-rounded college education includes an opportunity to expand one’s worldview. While there are many ways to do this without leaving campus, students who are able to study abroad will experience first-hand what it is like to live in another country – to be immersed in a different culture (and often, language) and develop an understanding and appreciation of varying perspectives. It’s an experience that allows college kids to become more independent, and grow tremendously both intellectually and emotionally.

If you’re thinking that study abroad is out of reach financially, think again: The costs of study abroad programs vary depending on the program and location. Some may equal the tuition/room/board you are already paying, some may be higher, and some may even be cheaper! And if your student is receiving financial aid from their college, it should apply to study abroad programs sponsored by that school. If cost is an issue, have your student do some homework and find out which program makes the most sense financially.

While the majority of students traveling abroad tend to go during their junior year for a semester or full year, most colleges also have one to three weeks, or month-long programs in the fall, winter, spring or summer. Some programs are structured so that students study at a local university and live with a host family, while others put kids up in the university’s dormitories, often with students from all over the world. For language immersion, you can’t beat the experience of living with a host family. Some U.S. colleges even have their own facilities, professors and student housing overseas.

There are study abroad programs for every interest and major, in almost every part of the globe. Students can take advantage of the programs offered by their own school or select from other colleges’ or independent programs (but they will likely need approval from the study abroad office for class credits to transfer from a program not affiliated with their school). While some majors like engineering and pre-med may be so rigorous that study abroad for an entire semester or year may not be practical, more and more colleges are finding creative ways to afford these students the opportunity for study abroad, even if only for a week or two over the summer.

If you can swing it financially, consider going to visit your college kid while they are studying abroad. Having them show you around, seeing them so comfortable and able to communicate and navigate the different culture is amazing.

Here are some study abroad tips:

  • Encourage your kid to go to study abroad info sessions as early as possible in their college career so they can learn about the various programs and options, and factor them into their four-year plan.
  • Students should read the fine print on the programs they are considering and learn about the credit transfer and grading system. Study abroad can affect their GPA (positively or negatively) and they want to make sure they will have enough credits to graduate.
  • There is a big difference in the quality of study abroad programs, so students should do their research and talk to other students who have actually been on the specific programs that interest them.
  • There are some places around the world where Americans may not be safe. Most colleges are very tuned in to global affairs and do not want to put students in harm’s way. But do your homework and discuss any concerns you have with your student and the college study abroad office. Click here to search travel warnings by country.
  • Assist your student with gathering the necessary documents for passports and student visas needed well in advance of the start of their program.  Very often these documents are needed for the college to purchase airline tickets or get permission for students to gain entry into certain countries, and the process of renewing or getting new passports and visas takes time.
  • Look into international cell phones, international mobile plans for existing phones, and calling cards to determine the right communication plan for your student. If Wi-Fi will be available to them, Skype is always a great (free) alternative.
  • Have your student schedule an appointment for a comprehensive physical and any required immunizations before they go, and remember to fill any prescriptions they will need while they are away (and make sure they are not considered controlled substances in the country where they are headed).
  • Find out whether your existing health insurance will cover your student if they get sick or hurt while in another country. Many study abroad programs offer additional insurance options for your student while away.
  • Make three copies of any important documents such as passports, visas, credit cards, and medical records – one for parents, one for the student and one for the program leader.
  • Convert some U.S. dollars into foreign currency so that your student can arrive at their destination with some local currency for taxis, snacks, etc.

Studying abroad during college is a fantastic opportunity for your student to explore the world and get a new perspective on life back at home.  Don’t let this opportunity pass them by!


Want to know more?

Choosing a Study Abroad Program by The Princeton Review

The 7 Most Unique Study Abroad Programs by Sarah Smith

5 Study Abroad Considerations for Parents and Students by Julie Mayfield and Lindsey Mayfield

Consider Study Abroad to Save Money on College by Justin Snider

The 15 Hacks That Will Problem-Proof Your Euro Trip (Huffington Post)



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