What parents should know about study abroad
Here are some reasons why your student should study abroad:
- Experience different cultures, values and perspectives first hand
- Increase self-confidence and maturity
- Improve communication skills by introducing challenges to be overcome
- Study abroad is a highlight on resumes and in interviews for work or graduate school.
- Learn a new language or improve current proficiency
- Gain a new outlook on the United States and its role in the world
- Experience the increasingly globalized business world
- Expand student self-awareness
What Augustana emphasizes
Safety. We select our sites, student housing and means of transportation carefully and conservatively to maximize student safety. We also prepare extensive contingency plans and faculty orientation training to ensure that were a safety issue to arise, our staff in country, supported by experts on our campus, can react appropriately.
Educational value. Our programs are designed to maximize the educational value of the on-site experience. This means that we de-emphasize touristic activities in favor of deeper learning, cultural immersion and academic study. You may hear from students that the balance of free time vs. organized time is not to their liking, but this generally reflects a desire to emphasize the educational experience over the touristic one.
Inter-cultural skills development. Augustana expects students to engage with local environments and peoples as a means of growth, of developing a more informed and more conscious understanding of cultural difference. This is often a challenge to their currently held beliefs and may lead some students to initially question their home culture values and assumptions about the world. This is a natural part of the growth process with interncultural competence and can lead to a much richer understanding of the world and the multiplicity of perspectives on human values.
Student responsibility. Augustana believes that students can only grow when they are treated as adults and asked to take responsibility for their own academic and logistical needs. While all Augustana programs provide students with support and leadership, we expect that students will make responsible choices regarding the academic requirements and conduct expectations for themselves while on a study or internship abroad program. Students who demonstrate an inability to act responsibly may be removed from a program.
How you can help your student prepare
Help students prepare for departure by creating "to do" lists and packing lists. Check out the lists provided and other information given under Resources for Travelers.
Help students who may be unfamiliar with the idea of "packing light" or who may be anxious about flying.
Get to know the country they will be visiting and its culture. Read about current events.
Assist with pre-departure medical preparation by helping students set up a visit with their physician and reviewing relevant travel information from the Center for Disease Control. Augustana cannot provide medical counsel; we can only recommend that they review the CDC guidelines and speak with their physicians.
Attend a parent's meeting when available or express an interest in seeing the materials provided during pre-departure meetings.
Be a presence to remind students of upcoming deadlines, requirements or expectations.
Speak seriously with students about alcohol abuse and its negative impact on their personal safety.
Set expectations for student behavior as ambassadors of the United States while abroad.
Attend all seminar or pre-departure meetings.
Routine program matters - packing, program schedule, syllabi
Turn in application, transcript, required travel forms and deposits on time
Live by the code of conduct agreement signed prior to departure.
Reduce, rather than increase, alcohol consumption while overseas.
Communicate program information to parents or guardians.
Let your student contact program provider or travel agency, if a non-Augustana program.
Program providers will provide packing lists - think birthday and holiday presents.
All Augustana programs have extensive pre-departure orientation programs. Speak with your students about sharing the materials which are given to them during these meetings. Augustana prefers to work directly with students as a means of helping them recognize their responsibility as participants, rather than mailing information to parents, which minimizes student autonomy and responsibility.
Be sure that students have left you with an accurate program itinerary, contact numbers for the program leadership, photocopies of their passport
and all required contact and card information for their credit and debit/ATM cards. In the event of a theft or loss of a card, it will likely be the parents who arrange to cancel a card and arrange for alternatives so that the student has access to additional funds while abroad.
Keep in touch but...
Email: While internet access is readily available in many places, you should not expect daily check-ins from students. Weekly emails are a reasonable expectation.
Mail: May take awhile to arrive. Packages may be subject to customs inspections and fees.
Cell phones: Check with your provider for international rates. In some countries buying a prepaid phone with a limit on minutes may be the best option, while for others a good international plan on their standard phone may be the best option. Each program will include communication strategies as part of their pre-departure orientation.
As difficult as it may be, it is best for the students to immerse themselves as much as possible in the experience. Frequent contact with family and friends back home hinders student growth because it does not allow them to fully engage with their new environment. We recommend that students limit contact to weekly rather than daily. They should feel somewhat disconnected from home in order to truly connect with the new experiences they are having abroad.
Visiting your student
You may want to visit your student while they are overseas. If you do, remember these points:
Be sensitive to your student's academic schedule. It may not be a good idea to visit during the first or last week or during important exams. We generally recommend that families and friends plan to visit after the conclusion of a program. There is often a week or more before students must return to campus (and during the summer often much longer) and this can be a good time for a visit because the students are much more available to spend time with family members when they are not engaged in the work of a study abroad term.
Remember that while this may be a vacation for you, your students are on an academic study program which requires them not only to attend courses and do independent work, but also requires that they attend lectures, museum tours, excursions and other program activities.
Do not expect to be able to stay in student housing, sit in on classes, travel on field trips, or participate on special programs that your student will be attending. These are usually paid for in advance and additional numbers can complicate plans. There are also liability issues whenever an unregistered non-participant (guest) joins a student travel group. For these reasons Augustana cannot permit that family or friends stay in program residences, travel on program buses or participate in tours paid through Augustana. Students are free to visit with family or friends when they are given free time from the program, but are expected to remain engaged in the group program at all other times.
If you travel with your student after the term, be prepared to switch roles with them and allow your student to show you points of interest or act as an interpreter for you.
Encourage students to use in-country resources and on-site directors and faculty when they encounter problems. It is a beneficial part of the experience for them to adjust to using local resources rather than reaching for assistance from home. Remember also that federal law limits how Augustana faculty or program directors can communicate with parents.
Remember that students tend to reach out to family more often during challenging times and not when everything is going well. You may hear from them quite a bit at the beginning of a program, when homesickness is its strongest, and much less as the program continues. This is normal and does not indicate any negative development.
Areas where students may need time to adjust:
- Relationships with family and friends, including boyfriends or girlfriends
- Expectations of family and friends
- Readjustment to school
- Readjustment to lifestyle in the United States
- Incorporating personal growth and changes into life at home and at Augustana
- Learning to communicate the experience to others
- The desire not to let the study abroad experience fade from memory
Readjustment is an individual process. Plan a light schedule for their first few days. Students may be more critical of their surroundings - including home
Some students will want to talk nonstop! Others need time to adjust before sharing stories. Some find it difficult to put the experience into words