November 2018 - Making the Best of a Study Abroad Opportunity
When I was in college, study abroad programs were reserved more or less for foreign language majors. Today opportunities are plentiful and open to all students regardless of their major. The following tips may help your student make the best of their experience and alleviate some of your concerns.
Paperwork – Stay on top of deadlines for all required paperwork. Expired passports, incorrect visas, inadequate insurance can quickly turn an adventure into disaster.
Health – Check if your health insurance will cover your student while abroad or if you need additional coverage. If your student takes medication regularly, get enough supply to cover their stay if possible; send them with copies of all current prescriptions (including for corrective lenses). Knowing the chemical or Latin name of all medications, including over-the-counter medicines, helps avoid confusion as brand names are sure to differ.
Finances – Convert cash into the proper currency before your student leaves. Also, linking your student’s bank account to yours makes transferring funds easier. Look for credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees. Be aware many European countries use PINs rather than signatures for credit cards transactions, so set a PIN for your student’s card if you haven’t already.
Safety – Know the law of the land. Some things taken for granted here can be the source of major problems elsewhere. Know how to reach the local American Embassy or consulate in case of emergency. Sign up with the State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) for alerts about local safety conditions. And if you’re having difficulty reaching your student in an emergency, know that the Overseas Citizens Services in Washington, DC can help.
Communications – International calling plans can be expensive so use them sparingly. Have your student buy a SIM card and basic monthly service for their phone from a local provider. Download free apps that allow you and your student keep in touch – WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Skype are just a few.
Traveling to other countries and experiencing other cultures can only help your student as they prepare for their place in today’s global environment.