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Information for Families


pointers to prepare for the transformation
Studying abroad will almost certainly be a defining period in your student’s educational experience—a psychological journey that will transform them into a global thinker with international perspectives and put them a step ahead of the competition in the eyes of prospective employers. In spite of this, you—and your student—may have a wide range of feelings about the upcoming experience, from excitement at its potential to stress at the idea of being far apart.

By understanding each other’s feelings and supporting decisions before, during, and after the period of overseas study, you can help maximize this opportunity. Here is some advice on what to expect.

encourage, but don’t push
Before your student leaves, offer your full support. Let them know that you will be there throughout the experience if needed, including that you can still be reached from overseas.

Time abroad often begins with a honeymoon period during which students are excited to finally be in the setting that they have dreamed of. After facing realities such as unfamiliar university procedures, unexpected difficulty with the local language, commuting woes, and the absence of usual support groups, culture shock can set in. At the same time, the student is away from on-campus medical, psychological and advisory services they may have come to rely on. Expect to hear some tales of frustration, though your student will likely be experiencing many wonderful things as well, even if you are not the first to hear about them. In most cases your student won't expect you to solve problems—as much as you may want to—and is just looking for an understanding ear.

If studying abroad was your idea to begin with, be sure not to push too hard. Every year, program directors hear complaints from students who didn’t want to come in the first place—and those students experience more difficulty than others adjusting to the new environment. In fact, some never do.

maintain a level of distance
It is by overcoming any difficulties that your student will quickly rise to a new level of independence, so avoid the temptation to become too involved. Ultimately, this is their learning experience.

Also, it’s important to remember that study abroad students are not on vacation. Attending class with them—or taking your student out of class to sightsee—will interrupt the educational process and immersion experience. If you want to visit, it’s best to do so when the program has finished so you can travel together. And it’s not usually wise to try to obtain permission for your student to return home early; the end of the semester is the most important part of their academic experience.

prepare for the transformation
After living abroad for as long as study abroad students do, they can’t help but be changed by the experience. This can take many forms, from new ways of dressing to cravings for different kinds of food to new political perspectives. Don’t worry too much: negative feelings usually last for a very short time, while a realistic view of America and its place in the world remains with most students for life.

Be prepared for your student to experience some degree of reverse culture shock—most do—and need some time to fully readjust to living at home again. In some cases, they may even experience a period of depression or longing to return abroad. Once again, your support, interest, and understanding will help your student during this life-altering experience. Observing and discussing changes like these is an excellent way to share in your student's international experience, and you will probably want to hear more than most other people, which will be satisfying to your student. Most study abroad participants report years later that the time they spent overseas was the best part of their college years—and that it changed them for life.

practical preparations
It’s a delicate balance: making sure your student is prepared for his or her time abroad, and letting them take the lead at the beginning of this new experience. Here is a list of things that should be resolved before departure, and our suggestions for ways to do so:

program policies
Make sure your student understands what policies apply to them while abroad, whether they are participating in a Hofstra program or a private provider program. They should ask Hofstra's Study Abroad Office about credit, enrollment status, financial aid, study abroad-related fees, and services the school will provide while abroad. Ask program providers for the terms of participation, which covers issues such as course load, changes to academic programs, grade reporting, fees, and refunds.

travel documents
Check that your student's passport and any required visas are in order. You should also have a valid passport in case of emergency.

Before departure, your student should have a general physical and dental exam; and check-ups with any specialists. Make sure your student packs a complete medical record and a typed copy of any vision prescriptions needed. Ask the doctor how best to handle routine prescription medications. The Hofstra University Student Health & Counseling Center (SHACC) can assist students with wellness exams and guidance on immunizations.

Decide with your student how to access money for both everyday financial needs and emergencies. Certain monetary instruments may be preferable in certain destinations, so ask your program provider for more specific recommendations. Generally, it’s important to ask your bank how (or if) its ATM card will function abroad and what extra fees there might be. A personal credit card with cash advances or traveler's checks could also make sense. Then, make arrangements to pay any monthly bills and, if necessary, to file your student's income taxes if they will be abroad during the spring semester.

Continue carrying your student as a dependent on your health insurance policy, even if they will have other coverage while studying abroad. Hofstra University will also cover your student on our international insurance policy. Be aware that in many countries the cost of medical services must be paid in advance by the patient (and then reimbursed by insurance). Insure valuables your student will take on the trip, such as a laptop computer or phone. Also consider tuition, trip, travel, and luggage insurance. Advise them not to bring irreplaceable objects such as family jewelry.

travel planning
Most Hofstra faculty-led trips offer group travel options and we strongly encourage students to travel with the study abroad group. However, if you choose to purchase plane tickets independently, be aware of any restrictions the tickets you purchase may have (such as a change policy). Learn regulations regarding the type and size of luggage that can be carried; then help your student pack lightly. 

contact planning
Make sure you have a telephone number where you can reach your student and know the times of day when they are most likely to be available. Minimize the cost of staying in touch by establishing methods in advance. Contact your phone service provider to learn the most inexpensive way to call or text wirelessly from the destination country. Given the cost of telephoning, it might be better to set up a regular schedule for e-mailing or instant messaging instead. You can also arrange for a calling card or research internet phone options such as Skype or WhatsApp.

Make sure you will be informed if your student runs into difficulty overseas. Since students are almost always adults (over 18 years of age), you will not receive that information unless you are designated as his or her emergency contact. Your studen will automatically be enrolled in TravelAlert.

Discuss how you will handle any family emergencies that may arise. It’s best to have a written emergency communication plan listing the methods of communication to use and the order in which to use them. Give your student a copy of the plan, which should include: all family telephone numbers; access codes for messages on family voicemails; phone numbers for several out-of-state relatives; and several e-mail addresses.

data file
Gather all of the information you and your student might need while he or she is away, including:
  • contact information for your student (if housing has been assigned)
  • on-site Resident Director
  • home office of the program provider (ask if they have a 24-hour emergency number)
  • study abroad office at the home school
  • doctors who have treated your student in the past
  • citizen assistance section of the embassy or consulate nearest your student’s program
  • U.S. State Dept. Office of Overseas Citizen Services
  • insurance policy numbers and how to submit claims
  • your student’s credit card numbers
  • your student’s passport number
  • duplicate lost passport kit (your student should take one abroad as well) containing:
  • two passport photos
  • official copy of his or her birth certificate
  • photocopy of passport’s photo, signature, and visa pages

program calendar pre-departure dos
If you want to help your student prepare, make plans to take care of the following necessities together:
  • understanding program policies
  • travel documents
  • health preparations
  • financial preparations
  • insurance
  • travel planning
  • how to get in touch while abroad
  • what to do in case of emergency
  • collecting a data file keep up-to-date stateside
You may have to help handle some things for your student while they are abroad, such as:
  • renewing a driver’s license
  • registering to vote or requesting an absentee ballot
  • filing income taxes
  • paying monthly credit card bills
  • preparing for the next semester at the home school (open mail from the college and remind your student)
  • registering for classes
  • selecting a housing option
  • preparing forms to continue financial aid