Before They Go
Preparing for a study abroad experience can be exciting but also a bit stressful. Your student will receive frequent updates from the Study Abroad Office and will be advised of the next steps in the study abroad application process. To support your student, parents, guardians and mentors should stay informed and also take steps to prepare for your student's international experience.
The Study Abroad Process
- Steps to Study Abroad - Before acceptance to a program
- Student How To: How to start a study abroad application
- Steps to Study Abroad - After acceptance to a program
- Withdrawal and Refund Policy
- Financial Aid
- Study Abroad Scholarships
- Health and Safety
TTU Study Abroad also encourages parents and guardians to stay informed about current events in the country and region where their student is studying. Many countries now have a variety of information online, ranging from official government statements and statistics to unofficial web-guides and online newspapers. In addition, many English-language newspapers publish in-depth articles about events in international areas.
There is a great deal of information available online through news sites as well as through digital versions of print media. Consider subscribing to a major newspaper (such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or the Chicago Sun), a news magazine (such as The Economist or U.S. News and World Report), or another source of in-depth information. Keep in mind that U.S.-centric news sources sometimes do not portray international events completely or accurately, so it can be helpful to examine a variety of sources. BBC News offers in-depth news coverage that is categorized by continent and region.
Research the Host Country
Helping your student to research their host country before studying abroad can greatly reduce the severity of your student's culture shock. It is a good idea to become familiar with the culture, history, politics, and everyday life of the host country and city. General information about your student's host country and the surrounding area can be found with the U.S. State Department's Country Background Notes. The Background Notes provide information about people, government, history, political conditions, economy, foreign relations, U.S. relations, travel, and business.
Travel guidebooks can also be a great resource because they contain information about cultural practices. TTU Study Abroad encourages you to talk with your student and read about your student's host country prior to departure. Gaining more knowledge about the destination will help to answer questions and address your concerns.
We recommend working with your student to create a folder (digital or hard-copy) of practical resources and their personal information. Some suggestions to include are:
- Name, address, phone number, and email of the host family or residence where your student will be staying while abroad.
- Information for the TTU Study Abroad Office as well as the study abroad office in the host country, if applicable.
- The phone, fax, and email address for your student's Academic Advisor.
- An emergency contact name, phone number, address, and email.
- A copy of your student's passport, flight information, and travel itinerary.
- The address, directions, and phone number to the nearest U.S. Embassy in the host country.
- Addresses, phone numbers, and emails for the friends and family your student wishes to write from abroad.
- Landmarks and places of interest. Although store-bought travel guides may provide this condensed information, it is all available online, and the research your student will do can be very educational. Tourist-type websites usually list historical information, admissions costs, opening times, directions, and special events for places of interest.
- Historical, political, and current event information about the host country. Understanding the host culture and its past will make your student's study abroad experience more fulfilling. Information on politics and current events provides your student with conversation topics as well as an understanding of the culture.
- Information about the culture of the host country. Search for sites about cultural etiquette, national sports, music, authors, food, and pop culture.
- Special events that will occur at the time your student is abroad such as festivals, concerts, etc.
For more information about culture, we recommend checking out the University of the Pacific's, "What's Up With Culture?" website. It's a tremendous resource!
Develop a Communication Plan
One way to get a more complete picture of your student's experience and help reduce their feelings of homesickness is to keep communication open.
Connecting across continents and time zones can be tricky. You may be used to frequent or even daily contact with your student here in the U.S. Before your student goes abroad, it's a good idea to talk about how you will communicate as well as how often. It's important to stay in touch, but not to the extent that it interferes with the experience abroad. Students may need to separate themselves a bit from their home support networks as they build local ones. Be prepared for less frequent communication. Your student is experiencing, exploring and seeking an opportunity for cultural immersion. Encourage an appropriate balance of communication so that your student can stay in touch with home, but be in touch with the host culture as well.
There are many resources (many of them free) to help you stay connected to your student during the course of their study abroad program. The best method will depend on you and your student and the country where they will be studying.
Communication should be easy if you and your student have access to email. At the same time, understand that access to email overseas is not always as readily available as it is in the U.S.
Your student needs to have a working phone overseas at the very least for emergency purposes. If you think your student will be using the phone to communicate personally, beyond emergencies, then contact your phone provider. Many phone providers offer special services that allow you to identify one country as a frequently called one, and for a small monthly fee, you can cut the cost of your calls and texts considerably. Another option is to purchase a calling card with reduced rates for the country in which your student is studying. Your student may also prefer to have a local phone plan (local to their study abroad destination) and purchase a SIM card in-country. To do this, check with the U.S. phone provider to ensure the phone is unlocked and can use an international SIM card.
Skype is a free, downloadable software application that allows users to make live video and voice calls over the internet. Skype users can also add money to their account and can then use the service to call land lines and cell phones internationally at very low rates. If two users both have web-enabled video cameras for their computers, they will be able to chat face-to-face. For users without a web cam, a microphone is all that's required for calls to another computer. Other similar messenger software to explore is Google Hangouts, GroupMe and WhatsApp.
Even if you are regularly in contact via phone or internet, consider sending mail. Students often appreciate receiving letters or postcards from loved ones while they study abroad because it assures them that they have not been forgotten. Care packages from home are also fantastic; however, international shipping costs can be very steep and all international mail (even postcards) might take several weeks to arrive. This information is important to keep in mind if you are on a budget or if your student is participating in a short-term program.
Sending mail can go both ways, too! Consider asking your student to send a postcard to you! Never underestimate the power of the handwritten note. If your student is able to receive mail at their location, a handwritten note is a small reminder of home that they can read and reread in quiet moments.
Get Your Passport
"My goodness, going abroad opened our daughter up socially and that in itself was worth it! She met a great group of students from all over the world and they went on many trips together. She went out socially and experienced life in Europe. She came back from Ireland with a new look on life and school. Now she is very open to working abroad in the future."
Julie Workman, Mother of Jasmine Workman
Jasmine studied abroad in Ireland.