Support Your Student
- The role of the parent is to support the student with a hands-off approach throughout the study abroad journey.
- Let the student take the initiative to complete the study abroad application process.
- Be a sounding board for the student, but have the student make the final decision.
Staying In Touch
When your student is abroad, the most effective way to put your mind at ease is deciding on a reliable form of communication.
- Skype/Instant messaging: This allows chatting and/ or video calls, it is free to download, and typically free to use. However, web cameras will be needed for video calls.
- Phone cards or International cell phones: These can be more expensive, but allow for communication in places lacking internet connection.
- Set a date: Choose a day and time during the week where you and your student can talk without being rushed.
- Visiting your student while abroad: This is not highly recommended during the beginning of their journey, but once they have adapted to their new environment, visiting is welcomed.
Culture Shock and Homesickness
- Almost anyone who travels, works, or studies abroad will experience culture shock to some degree. This is not only a normal part of the experience, but may actually present your student with some of the best opportunities for intercultural learning and personal growth. Culture shock is rarely identified as such by the person experiencing it. Rather, your student may feel that there is a problem with the host country, the program, or the local population. This may be true even if they have been versed in the “symptoms.”
- Remember, you are much more likely to hear the negatives than the positives, as students are more likely to contact in times of frustration. When this happens, it is important to remind your student that while differences can be uncomfortable, they can also contribute to a great experience. Avoid getting overly involved. Encourage them to stay positive and to work things out on their own, while still letting them know that you are there to listen to and support them.
- If your student calls home, telling you that he or she wishes to come home and that they made a mistake by going abroad, the best way to handle this is to be patient. Often, the student is just experiencing the discomfort that comes with living in a new place that has different values, expectations, standards, and practices than those at home. Dealing with this adjustment without his or her usual support network makes this more difficult, but certainly not impossible. Encourage them to hang in there and make the most of everyday until they come home. In serious cases, your student should contact the on-site staff or their study abroad adviser.