Office of Study Abroad and Study Away Programs

Study Abroad Planning

As we've mentioned earlier (and you may well know already), study abroad requires long-term planning. The planning is not just logistical; it can also be an important emotional, psychological and educational process. A lot of parents wonder what they can do to help their student in the best possible way. We've compiled this timeline to help you and your student to prepare for the study abroad process, as well as some helpful tips.

Prior to Departure

  • Talk about goals and expectations for studying abroad, and discuss any fears your student (or you) might have.
  • Learn about the program on which your student is about to embark.
  • Maintain a certain level of distance; help them take responsibility for pre-departure logistics and paperwork. It's a part of the learning process. Having the student take charge of the logistics means that they will feel more confident and able to handle stress abroad.
  • Similarly, "encourage but don't push." Make sure your student knows you are there for him or her. If studying abroad was your idea to begin with, be sure not to push too hard.
  • Make sure that your student has adequate health insurance coverage, and provide any signed financial paperwork, if necessary. Investigate the possibility of securing a power of attorney on your student's behalf so that the processing of documents in their absence will be easier, if necessary.
  • Help your student understand Clark study abroad policies and requirements.

When Your Daughter or Son is Abroad

  • Understand that, in some way or another, all students will experience culture shock and that this may affect how your student communicates his/her feelings or information to you. Time abroad often begins with a honeymoon period, but that can be followed by a period of frustration and disillusionment. These feelings are normal. While staying in tune to possible problems, it is important to allow your student to work through these different stages of culture shock. For more information on culture shock, you can browse our recommended reading list.
  • Allow your student the time and space to develop a support network abroad rather than relying totally on the one back home. At the same time, you can act as a very important link to home, when needed.
  • In addition, your son or daughter may be adjusting to a difference in university support services abroad. Typically, U.S. universities offer a high amount of advisory, academic, counseling and medical services compared to those of other countries. This change is often a cultural one as well. Students in other countries are expected to be more independent than in the U.S.
  • Support your student as they try new activities, classes and travel. A Study Abroad program is often a great opportunity to take some courses that your student never thought of taking before, or to explore the local culture and history.

When Your Son or Daughter Returns Home

  • Be prepared for your student to experience some degree of "reverse culture shock" upon returning home. Some researchers say that this stage of cultural development can be even more intense than the original cultural shock abroad. In some cases, he or she may even experience a period of depression or longing to return abroad. Again, these feelings are not unusual, but they do require monitoring. Your support, interest and understanding will help your student during this re-adjustment stage. The Study Abroad Programs Office provides resources that also help with re-entry.
  • Similarly, let your student share the experience with you as much as he/she wants. Some students may need to talk a lot. Others may seem withdrawn or unwilling to communicate about their experiences. This is also part of the re-entry process.
  • To help plan for reverse culture shock and re-entry, you might read up on some of the latest research and advice.

Sources:

NAFSA: Association of International Educators
CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange
Middlebury College
Colleges of the Fenway Global Education Opportunities Center