Excitement, Fears, and Apprehensions: Keep communication open so that your student can talk about what excites them and what scares them about their upcoming experience.
Review Travel Documents: Students must have a passport that will be valid at least six months after their program’s end date. Parents/guardians should also have a valid up-to-date passport in the unlikely event that you have to go overseas for an emergency. Allow your student to take control of the visa process, but acknowledge that it can be time-consuming. Some consulates require individuals to visit them in-person. Others have strict processing timelines. Keep this in mind if you intend to make international vacation plans, particularly during summer months, as the student’s passport may not be available during visa application processing.
Finance/Costs: Be sure to review the total costs of the program with your student. You may also want to help your student establish a budget for their everyday spending and independent travel plans.
Health/Safety: A new culture means a new environment and new social norms. It’s important for your student to research culturally appropriate behavior and how to remain happy, healthy, and safe in their new environment. This is also a time to discuss with your student and doctor the continuation of any medications and/or treatment while the student is away.
Communication: Talk to you student about how you will communicate with them once they’re overseas. Will you speak via telephone or Skype? Once a month or once a week? At what point will they check in to tell you they’ve arrived? These are areas of conversation that should be discussed beforehand.
While They’re Abroad
Communication: Start the communication plan you and your student established before they left. If either of you feel you need to adjust the plan, discuss what might work better for both of you.
Cultural Adjustment: Study abroad and off-campus experiences will come with a certain amount of adjustment. Your student may experience highs and lows that are more pronounced than usual. It’s important to find a balance between supporting your student and letting them engage with independent problem-solving.
After They Return
Listen to Their Stories: Your student will have tons of stories, photos, and memories they want to share with you. You can share in your student’s time abroad by listening and being patient.
Expect Change: Spending time away and in a new culture will cause your student to learn and grow. You may be surprised to find your student has taken on new habits and/or cultural norms, is more independent, and may have interests that they didn’t have before. Enjoy getting to know your student again.
Reverse Culture Shock: Just as your student may have gone through an adjustment period while away, they may also go through a readjustment period upon returning. They will be seeing things with a new set of eyes, and sometimes this can be uncomfortable. It’s important to support the student and to remind them of the support they have when on campus.