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The Word Is Your Classroom!
Deciding whether or not to study abroad, there are even more details to consider. There are specific recommendations that UM makes to the Parents & Guardians, as a parent you need to do what works for you and your student. Make a checklist of all the details before you push ‘go’.
Here is what I would recommend:
1. The most important detail, make sure your student’s passport as well as yours has a minimum of six months before expiration. You will not be allowed to leave if your passport expires in three months. If you need to expedite getting a passport or visa, try Fastport Passport. They are registered with the U.S. Department of State.
2. Register and enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). It is free to U.S. citizens and will give them important safety information from our Embassy and help them to contact you in the event of an emergency.
3. If they are traveling to a country that is more metropolitan with access to shops and stores have them purchase their toiletries over there. The exchange rate for the Euro varies so I had her pitch in with her roommates for items such as toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, and cleaning supplies if they are living in an apartment.
4. Consider purchasing an unlocked phone that works on international networks. By purchasing in advance, your student can add their contacts and download their apps ahead of time.
5. Speaking of phones, it is one of the more commonly stolen items in many cities so make sure they are diligent with their phones. That means not putting them in their back pockets or on tables where anyone can walk by and grab them.
6. Some banks recommend having your student become an authorized user on your credit card because it may eliminate any foreign transaction fees. Have them write down the international phone number for the credit card and put it in a safe place (with a copy of their passport). If their credit card is stolen, at least they can report it immediately.
7. While they can pay extra for additional luggage, my daughter limited herself to one large duffle bag and a carry-on bag for the weekends they go traveling to another country. There are plenty of inexpensive retail stores where she was traveling to and she can mix and match, wash her clothes and learn to live with less. If you look at pictures of students backpacking through Europe, they do just fine reusing clothes. For ease of packing, my daughter used packing cubes which were great for organizing her clothes. We went with the ultralight packing cubes from eBags.
8. Consider purchasing student travel insurance for emergencies, which we pray they don’t need. HaveUHeard recommends Allianz Travel Insurance.
9. If they will be traveling around and staying at hotels, which my daughter and her friends did on occasion, HaveUHeard that students can find access to special rates through StudentUniverse? Click here for more information. Or, they can consider staying at a hostel. Hostels are not all so shabby anymore. Check out HostelWorld to see how nice (and inexpensive) some of them are.
10. You may want to consider having your student get Global Entry which runs approximately $100 for five years but makes getting through security so much easier. Or, have them download the Mobile Passport app which is free and helps to speed you through U.S. Customs. (officially authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection). They will still need their passport but it saves them time.
MAJOR Detail – Here is the opposite of what UM recommends:
Do not go overseas with your student to help them settle in. A students’ experience will be vastly different when they are with her friends than with family. (Hotels vs. hostels) It is very important for parents and other family members to be well versed in their students’ itineraries prior to departure and notified if any changes are made.
Try not to call them every day to check in and do not worry if your student has not spoken to you in a few days. Maybe suggest a text once a day- Just a “hi and I’m fine.” Your student may be in a time zone that is six hours later so of course, it is challenging to find a time that you are both available. The students say they text when they are on wifi. (many use What’s App but you can call through Facebook messenger or Facetime when in a wifi area and the reception is just as good). With everything going on in the world today, do not feel that you are being overly involved in asking for a short text. And, if they are going to be traveling to another country, they must let you know in advance their travel plans.
If your student would like to study abroad in a program outside of the UM offerings be sure to thoroughly research those programs. There are hundreds of programs, so make sure to look only at those that offer credit through an accredited university. This often comes up when they want to go with a friend who goes to a different college. Just make certain they get approval beforehand to be sure the credits will transfer. Study Abroad can be very pricey. In addition to the cost of the program which includes room and board, a prepaid metro card (may not last their entire abroad program), health insurance and some excursions, it does not include airfare, meals, additional travel (many use this opportunity to visit other countries). And, of course, any purchases they make for themselves.
Looking for items students heading abroad need or want? Check out our list here.
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