Guardians and Family

USA Students in Russia holding up flag and Southpaw.

 

Congratulations! Your student is studying abroad and will be embarking on one of the most rewarding and transformative journeys during his or her college career!

The Office of International Education (OIE) understands that you may have questions and concerns on how to best support your student during this journey. We invite you to browse our resources below. If you would like additional information, please contact us at (251) 460-7053 or at intledu@southalabama.edu.

▼   Why study abroad?

The Institute of International Education gives 10 great reasons why students should study abroad:

  • Expand their worldview
  • Enhance career opportunities and grow their network
  • Learn another language and improve multi-lingual skills
  • Experience another culture first-hand
  • Make new friends from around the world
  • Discover new things about their own culture
  • Learn more about themselves and gain self awareness
  • Strengthen communication, team-building and adaptability skills
  • Boost confidence and independence
  • Become a savvy traveler

For more information, visit: https://www.iie.org/programs/generation-study-abroad/about/why-study-abroad

▼   How much will it cost?

It all depends. Some cost factors include housing and food, location, program duration, tuition, airfare, excursions, passport and visa fees, independent travel and shopping. While some believe studying abroad can be expensive, some programs can actually be less expensive than tuition and fees for the equivalent amount of time. Students can also apply for scholarships and financial aid which can be applied to their program abroad. The vast majority of costs are going to be predetermined before your student departs. OIE also hosts a number of budgeting and scholarship workshops throughout the year for students to attend.

For additional information on program costs, visit your student’s program page. For a general idea on a country’s cost of living, visit Numbeo or Expatistan.

▼   Is it safe?

Your student’s safety is our top priority!

Before students can leave for their programs, they attend a mandatory pre-departure orientation with OIE that covers topics including:

  • Health (taking care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally prior to and while abroad; maintaining good health habits; prescriptions and/or over the counter medication)
  • Public safety while abroad (obeying local laws; using the buddy system; avoiding large crowds/riots)
  • Emergency Plan (how to determine a real and perceived emergency; what to do in an emergency)
  • Accessing emergency international insurance provided by USA
  • How to Pack
  • Responsible Spending
  • Culture Shock and more

Students are enrolled in a comprehensive emergency medical insurance (Cultural Insurance Services International).

Students register for the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which sends important security and emergency messages, and safety alerts.

Please follow this link to additional Health and Safety Abroad Information.

Common sense and good judgment are the best tips to staying safe anywhere around the world!

▼   Ways to stay in touch

Thanks to technology, communication across the world has never been easier! Students have used video calling platforms such as Skype, FaceTime, and Facebook Messenger to check in with loved ones at home. Free texting apps such as Whatsapp and Viber are popular, as well. Social media and blogs are a good way of following students’ experiences! We advise students to speak with their phone plan providers to know their best options for international travel. 

If students will not be purchasing international phone plans, they can access Wifi to use the previously mentioned apps abroad. Cellular data must be turned off to avoid costly international roaming fees. Students can also purchase a local sim card or a prepaid phone once they arrive in-country.

You may want to hear how things are going, and your student probably wants to share, but keep in mind that if your student is constantly checking in, he/she will not be able to fully immerse in the study abroad experience.

▼   Family Roles

Loved ones play an important role in a student’s study abroad journey!

  • Make sure your student stays on top of his/her study abroad application, passport and visa applications (if needed) and that he/she regularly checks in with a study abroad or program advisor. Students must meet with their academic advisors to ensure that their study abroad courses are in line with their degree requirements.
  • Develop a plan to communicate with your student while he/she is abroad.
  • Research the program and destination.
  • Keep copies of your student’s important documents.
  • Being supportive and confident in your student while he/she is abroad greatly impacts their experience.
  • Your student may return home a changed individual. He/she may be more self-reliant and mature. He/she may have difficulties adjusting back to home life.
  • Listening to their stories and asking ways to support them are helpful.

Culture Shock

As your student’s support system, it is important to understand culture shock, because your student may experience it in some way. “Culture shock is the confusion, disorientation, and emotional upheaval that come from immersion in a new culture. Culture shock typically follows a three-phased cycle starting with a honeymoon period in which everything feels grand. But fabulous turns to frustration, depression, and confusion and is often triggered by an event involving seemingly minor cultural differences or misunderstandings. All usually ends well, however, as the recovery phase restores equilibrium after one has regained confidence and learned to appreciate the new culture as a whole.” (Reference: A Parent Guide to Study Abroad. Institute of International Education and the AIFS Foundation, 2015.)

Stages of Culture Shock

Honeymoon Phase

Your student will be excited about this experience! He/she will be adjusting to a new environment, new food, new culture, and meeting people from different walks of life!

Hostility Phase

The initial euphoria has faded away. Your student may become more irritated and annoyed at why things are done differently abroad. He/she may start questioning things such as, “Why are portion sizes so small?” or “Why aren’t there free refills?” He/she may want to grab a quick cup of coffee to-go, but the cafe only has dine-in service. He/she may feel frustrated and voice these opinions with you. Homesickness may start to sink in. It is important to remember, however, why he/she initially wanted to study abroad: to experience new things, learn about local customs and traditions. Sometimes a chat with the program director, a short nap or a refreshing shower is a good way to recharge!

Humor and Home Phase

Eventually your student will start to find a balance. He/she will adjust and be accustomed to the new culture. He/she may even enjoy being able to sit down with their cup of coffee and observe passers-by!

Reverse Culture Shock

Your student has returned home and he/she may miss how things were done abroad. He/she may miss friends and his/her host family. He/she may feel as if no one cares about his/her adventures and may feel critical about the home culture.

What is the best way to deal with culture shock?

It is important to know that culture shock is not linear and not everyone goes through all the stages. Some people may be in the Honeymoon Phase for the entire duration of a program, some may experience several moments of hostility. Encourage your student to talk about his/her experiences. Listen to their stories. Students are welcome to visit the study abroad office and chat about their adventures with an advisor and learn about opportunities to get involved in other cultural activities.

▼   Other Info/FAQs
▼   How will my student access and manage money while abroad?

Students are advised to speak with their local banks or credit unions about their plans for international travel to ensure that they are able to use their credit/debit cards abroad. When using credit/debit cards or ATM machines abroad, students must be aware of the exchange rate and international fees associated with their transactions. Students can also order foreign currency from their banks or at currency exchange kiosks at airports. 

It is not advised for students to carry large sums of cash abroad. Students are advised to have two forms of payment while traveling (ie. a credit card and debit card, or a debit card and cash). Credit/debit cards with chips are found to be more secure and widely used abroad.

▼   How are flights arranged? Can my student travel with other students or a professor?

Booking flights is an independent process to be facilitated by the student. OIE will reserve and facilitate flights on behalf of all students who would like assistance.

If a student is participating on a Faculty-Led Program and would like to book a flight with another student on the program, it will be his/her responsibility to communicate with other students. Professors are also likely to share their flight itineraries with students so they can book the same flights as them. Students on this type of program may not purchase flights until they receive clearance from OIE.

If a student is participating in programs other than a Faculty-Led, he/she can consult with a study abroad or program advisor for best practices.

Students must provide ALL flight information including flight numbers, carrier name, dates, and times to OIE. USA does not mandate but greatly encourages the purchase of flight, cancellation, and/or interruption insurance. 

Students are not permitted to travel through countries with Department of State Travel Warnings at a Level 3 or 4 on route to their final destination.  This includes personal travel or flight layovers.  Failure to follow these guidelines may put students in jeopardy of forfeiting international insurance.

For a complete list of current Travel Advisories, please visit the following site: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings.html

OIE holds a “How to Book a Flight Workshop” every year to provide advice on how to make flight arrangements.

▼   What happens when my student arrives in-country?

Depending on the type of program, there may be an on-site program coordinator, a faculty director or shuttle service meeting students at the airport to transport them to their accommodations. Not all programs, such as exchange programs, have this service.

Students will navigate from the airport via train, bus, metro, taxi, or shuttle to their accommodations and follow their program’s itinerary.

▼   What should my student do in the event of an emergency?

Steps on what to do in case of an emergency will be discussed with your student prior to their departure and once they arrive in-country. Students must inform their program coordinator or faculty director at once in the event of an emergency. Depending on the circumstances, local authorities or emergency medical services may need to be contacted. Students will need to know how to contact local authorities (the foreign equivalent of 9-1-1). They will also have digital access to their emergency medical insurance should they need it.

▼   Who can I contact with questions or concerns?
 

Please contact us at (251) 460-7053 or at intledu@southalabama.edu to be connected with your student’s primary study abroad advisor.

OIE adheres to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). We recommend that your student complete a FERPA form with OIE allowing release of educational records to you so that we may discuss information about your student if needed. This form can be accessed by students in their USA Study Abroad Application.

 

For more frequently asked questions by students, click here.