How Parents Can Help Before Departure
- Since your son or daughter's passport may be at home with you, you can help by checking the expiration date, as some countries require that visitors have a passport that expires at least 6 months after they leave the country.
- If your son or daughter will be applying for a passport for the first time, his or her birth certificate or official abstract of the birth certificate will be required.
- Permanent residents will need their US Resident Alien Card up to date and will need a valid passport from their country of citizenship.
- You should also have a valid passport in case of an emergency.
- A student visa is required for a stay of over 90 days in most countries. While USC staff, program sponsor staff, or host university staff may provide tips or advice, the student is ultimately responsible for obtaining his/her own visa. Student visas are issued by the host country government through its embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. The student will need to know where to apply, what applications materials are required, and when to apply.
- It is very important to consider the timeline for applying for a visa. For some countries, students must submit their visa application months before going abroad. In the meantime, the student's passport may be held at the consulate until soon before studying abroad. Keep in mind that this could interfere with your student's or your family's vacation travel plans
- Keep in mind that non-US Citizens may have to follow different procedures in order to obtain a visa. Research the necessary steps as early as possible.
Health: Before departure your son or daughter should have a general physical and any immunizations that are necessary. Any pending dental work should be done before going abroad. Make sure he/she packs a complete medical record and any needed prescription medications. Continue carrying your child as a dependent on your health insurance policy, even if he/she will have other coverage while studying abroad. Be aware that in many countries the cost of medical services must be paid in advance by the patient (and then reimbursed by insurance). Click here for more information about Health and Safety in Study Abroad.
Access to funds
- Decide with your son or daughter how to access money for both everyday financial needs and also in case of an emergency. Your student should ask the 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. The student should contact the credit card provider to inform them of the dates and location of his/her overseas study program in order to avoid fraud alerts and holds being placed on the credit card account.
- For students receiving financial aid and/or scholarships, keep in mind that they are usually disbursed shortly before the USC semester begins. If your student's study abroad program begins prior to the USC semester, your student may need some money in advance,
- If your student does not have much experience making and sticking to a budget, the pre-departure period is a good time to discuss wise consumer behavior and set some guidelines as to how much extra spending money will be available.
Offer Support: Let your child take responsibility before and during the semester or year abroad, but make sure he/she knows you are also there if he/she needs someone to talk to or needs any kind of support. Discuss any travel plans independent of the program so you have a clear idea of the duration and cost of your child's experience.
While Your Student Is Abroad
Don't Get Too Involved
Adjusting to a new environment isn't easy for anyone. Your son or daughter may likely share with you tales of frustration and homesickness, and you will be tempted to solve his/her problem, even it means flying to another country. Give your child support and understanding during his/her time of difficulty but avoid getting too involved. Encourage your student to first make use of the student support services that are available at the program site. Programs will have either a resident director or an international students' office. Part of the study abroad experience is learning how to overcome difficulties and moving past them. Your child will be much happier and confident knowing he/she was able to overcome difficulties independently.
Be prepared to have less frequent communication with your child, and remember that every moment he or she is connected to you (or friends in the U.S.) via e-mail, text message, phone, etc. is time that he or she is not making and interacting with new friends in the host country. Less frequent communication does not mean less quality communication.
Visiting: Remember that study abroad students are not on vacation. Attending class with your child, or taking him/her 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 or during a semester break so you can travel together. Remember to be sensitive to local customs and cultural norms in the host country and the home-stay or dorm.
When Your Child Returns
- Be Prepared For Transformation: After living abroad for an extended period of time it is hard not to feel changed by the experience. This can take on many forms, from new ways of dressing to cravings for different kinds of foods to a new found sense of independence, and even the desire to return abroad. It is important to be supportive of your child and be open to his/her transformation.
- Don't Take It Personally: Some students may experience some degree of reverse culture shock, and need some time to fully readjust to living at home again. He/She may even experience a period of depression and longing to return abroad. Don't take this personally, it is a natural part of the experience, and once again your support and understanding during this time will be very helpful. 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.
Student Privacy Policies and Study Abroad
Federal Education Rights of Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) rules that apply on campus also apply when your child is abroad, since he/she will be an enrolled USC student. There is a broad range of student information that the university cannot share with parents. If you contact the university about certain matters, we may be unable to respond to you directly.