Tips for Parents of Students Studying Abroad
Sending your child to study abroad can be both rewarding and terrifying as a parent. On one hand, you know your child is about to have the experience of a lifetime, discovering a new culture while simultaneously gaining important life skills. On the other hand, it can be nerve-wracking to send someone so young off alone to a foreign environment.
When your child is so far away, you may feel a bit powerless to guide them on their journey. But despite the distance, there are many things you can do to prepare for studying abroad that makes the process smooth for both you and your student.
1. Be Prepared for Paperwork
From flight tickets and itineraries to visa applications and insurance forms, going abroad requires an amount of paperwork that can be overwhelming for even the most organized students. A single forgotten form or misplaced document can cause stressful complications, so another set of eyes checking that everything is in order can be a lifesaver for your student.
Together with your child, make a checklist of necessary paperwork and add the due dates to both of your calendars. Make a separate list of documents that need to go in your child’s hand baggage on the day of departure. Staying organized will help provide peace of mind for both of you.
2. Plan Ahead When It Comes to Health
It’s a good idea to have your child see a doctor a month or two before the departure date. A checkup helps ensure that no surprise health problems emerge during the trip, and depending on where your child is traveling, he or she may need special vaccinations. If your child regularly takes any medications, make sure he or she has enough to last her the entire trip and has a copy of the prescription in case of emergencies.
Even small ailments like headaches and stomach upsets can be frightening for your child when he or she is a long way from home. Pack a small first aid kit with over-the-counter medications like painkillers and antacids. This is particularly important when traveling to a country where such medication isn’t easily available, but even in Western Europe finding a pharmacy and navigating unfamiliar brand names can be a hassle. A few simple remedies will be a welcome addition to your child’s suitcase.
3. Think Beyond the Phone
When your child is off at school, it’s likely that you give them a call every now and again to keep in touch. However, international calling can be very expensive, so make sure you have strategies in place that will allow you to communicate without breaking the bank.
Check with your phone company to see what their roaming policy and international calling plans are like. It’s convenient if your child can keep his ordinary phone, but probably not the cheapest option. Luckily, there are plenty of free apps that allow you to communicate with your child online. Skype, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp allow you to message and call your child whenever he has an Internet connection. Get yourself acquainted with these apps and make sure both you and your child have downloaded one or more of them before the trip.
4. Gather Emergency Information Beforehand
Your child is likely so busy dreaming of the adventures to come that she may not be considering what could go wrong. Whether it’s a delayed flight or sudden serious illness, unexpected things can happen. Having plans in place for such circumstances will help put you at ease and keep your student safe.
Make sure both you and your child know who to contact in the event of an emergency. Most study abroad programs have contact people for both students and parents. You should also know what kind of insurance coverage your child has while abroad. Many programs include medical insurance to cover accidents and injuries, and some programs include travel insurance as well. Make sure you know what’s covered and what isn’t before your child leaves.
5. Try Not to Worry
All the preparations have been made and your child is off! Now, all that’s left to do is trust that everything will be all right.
This can be challenging for many parents. Combat the stress by teaching yourself more about the country your child will be studying it. Knowing a little bit about where he’s going will help you envision him there, safe and happy. Try not to go into the experience with too many expectations. Your child may call every day, or he may be so busy that he barely keeps in touch. Both situations are normal.
It’s only natural for parents of students studying abroad to be nervous. But relaxing and letting go will make the experience more pleasant for everyone involved. With a little forethought and preparation, sending your child to study abroad can be a positive experience for both student and parent.