Congratulations, parents and loved ones, and welcome to the world of opportunities at Murray State University! Education abroad can raise many questions for parents and family members of interested students, so the following information is designed to assist you as you try to navigate this exciting opportunity for your student. Please feel free to contact the Education Abroad Office of the Institute for International Studies if you would like to speak to a study abroad professional.
We understand you want to help your student have a successful study abroad experience. However, allowing your student to help himself will be more beneficial for both of you. See this article before taking on too much of the responsibility yourself.
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Why study abroad?
Helping your student choose a program
If you are involved in assisting your student with choosing a program, please keep the following factors in mind. Usually a student knows the answer to at least one of these questions, which then guides the selection process.
- Academics. Does your student plan to take courses in his major while abroad? Which programs offer such courses? Encourage your student to talk with his Academic Advisor regarding which courses will best fit with his degree plan. Remember that courses outside of his major can still be counted toward graduation in other areas – minor, electives, general studies. It is perfectly acceptable not to take courses in his major while on a short program abroad. Though we highly encourage longer term students to seek out a program offering his major, if your student is ahead in his academic plan or is in an academically flexible major, he could attend a semester program without taking major courses as well.
- Language Study. Does your student want to study language? Programs vary from beginning level language learners up to full intensive language-only programs. Programs are also available in English.
- Length of Program. How long does your student want to study abroad? What programs will work academically for the length of time he wants to go? MSU programs are as short as a spring break and as long as a full academic year with everything in-between, even winter break programs. Encourage your student to examine all the options.
- Location. We offer more than 170 programs in more than 40 countries worldwide. Chances are your student has an idea of where he wants to go, but if he doesn’t this can be a fun part of your program exploration. Keep in mind that not all locations have programs throughout the year, but instead may offer a short-term option only or a semester option only.
- Costs. Keep in mind that the price you see for a program may or may not include all costs associated with the program. Perk comparison in relation to price is an absolute necessity. When comparing programs, look for the following major costs associated with study abroad: airfare, tuition, housing, meals, on-site transportation, required group activities and excursions, travel insurance, visa fees. Other costs to consider: passport, personal spending, application fees.
- Talk with your student about the program they have chosen. You can find many program details online, including in many cases, available courses, fees, and dates.
- Attend orientation. All parents are invited to attend the program orientation for your student’s study abroad program. Orientation dates can be found on the program checklist for your student’s program, found in the Deadlines & How to Apply section of this website.
Communication while abroad
- Be sure to investigate options for your cell and home phones.
- Students on longer programs consistently recommend Skype as an easy communication tool.
- Daily communication is unrealistic. Remember this is your student’s chance to gain some independence. They can’t do that if they’re checking in with you every day.
Unhappy students abroad
- Your student may call at some point during the program and be very unhappy or even depressed. This is usually associated with Culture Shock. It is difficult to enter another culture and grow accustomed to everything that is so new and different. Even if your student initially called with extreme excitement, this call could come a week later.
- Do not encourage your student to come home or ‘feed’ their depression. Encourage them to continue to remain involved, seek out American food and other comforts that may remind them of home.
- In many cases the problem they call you about solves itself within 24 hours. Resist your initial urge to fly over and save the day.
- Encourage your student to seek out the people necessary to help resolve the problem and let your student take the lead in doing so. Remind your student who can help with issues that have popped up so they can solve them on their own.
- Ask them to call you back within the next 24 hours. Usually by that time they are feeling better and problems are solved – but they often forget to call and tell you that part.
Visiting your student
- Do not tag along for orientation at the beginning of the program. Students have much to do to get acclimated and must attend orientation. If you are tagging along they are drawn away from the other students and find it more difficult later to make the friends they could have made during that orientation period.
- Do not visit at the end of the program. Though this often sounds like a great idea to both you and your student, by the time the end of the program rolls around students realize how difficult this could be for them. At that point they are wrapping up a life they have made for themselves and figuring out how to leave relationships behind. They need time and space to do this on their own without being torn away to entertain you.
- When visiting, remember your student is a student. It may be your vacation, but it’s not a vacation for your student. She still has to study and attend class. Don’t encourage her to miss group excursions and other program requirements while there.
Emergencies and safety while abroad
- Encourage your student to ask about the emergency plans for the program she is attending.
- All students studying abroad receive an emergency contact card. Ask your student for the emergency numbers for her program and keep them handy in case of emergency back home.
- At least one parent/guardian should have a valid passport in case an emergency occurs and you need to get to your student abroad.
- Encourage your student to leave a copy of the following at home:
- All ATM, debit, and credit cards, front and back
- Insurance cards (both primary and travel-specific), front and back, with plan information including contact details for the provider
- It is normal for parents to be concerned for the safety of their students, particularly in light of recent world events. Here is an article by Go Overseas.com with some recent conversations with parents. http://www.gooverseas.com/blog/parents-speak-up-on-rising-concerns-of-terrorism-and-study-abroad
Costs and Scholarships
If program cost is a concern for your family, you are not alone. The majority of study abroad participants seek out some type of aid to make their dream a reality. See this page for information about funding.
- All students interested in studying abroad should make the Student Financial Aid Office one of their first stops. Even if your student has not been eligible for federal aid (grants and loans) before, study abroad is an additional educational expense that in some cases may make them eligible for aid.
- KEES. Students receiving funding through the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship can use this money on any semester or year-long study abroad program they choose.
- Encourage your student to apply for the Study Abroad Scholarships she is eligible for, which can be found at the Scholarship section of this website.
- Remember to compare what each program is providing for the cost. One program may appear much cheaper than another because it is not providing roundtrip airfare and the other is.