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The world is your classroom. I am a big believer in this adage. Apparently, many students agree as Study Abroad programs have become increasingly popular. When researching this topic, I was amused to read not only a plethora of information about the various things to look for in a program but also some amusing blogs written by students about how to convince one’s parents to allow them to study abroad. Well, this parent is sold.
I never studied abroad but had friends that did, or who did a semester at sea program. Their stories and pictures always fascinated me. My daughter has yet to study abroad but is in the process of researching trips that work with her major. It is a daunting thought of having your child halfway across the world, but the programs offered today are hard to pass up.
USF makes it pretty easy to find just the right program for your student. By inputting some of the following criteria, city, country, region and/or term, an index of possible programs will come up. Your student should also decide on what sort of things they are looking for in a program:
– Language immersion?
– Exploring the world; gaining a new perspective?
– Teaching opportunities?
– Country or city of interest?
– Coursework needed/accepted? (Remember to stay on the path towards graduation.)
– How long to be away? (Some students would never consider doing a semester abroad during football season, so spring or summer sessions are better options.)
The Study Abroad office also offers mini-sessions of one week or a couple of weeks. As students begin to look at the various programs offered, they will notice that some include internships. Internships are an excellent way to accrue credits and gain experience. It is possible to participate in international programs as a transient student, outside those affiliated with USF, but it is important to get approval beforehand to be sure credits will transfer.
Financing can get complicated based on Florida Prepaid, Bright Futures and any other scholarships one might have, but it is possible to apply some of these monies toward studying abroad. There are many scholarships and fellowships available for studying abroad too. I am sorry to say that some require the dreaded FAFSA form first, but you should be an old pro at that by the time your student begins to consider an international program. Have your student make an appointment with Student Financial Assistance and they can walk them through the process.
In addition, while considering financing it is important to take note of things like housing, airfare, and tuition, but don’t forget other things, like food (some meals may be provided, but others may require students preparing their own or eating out) and additional travel. The internet keeps track of all of your searches so you may want to open an incognito window so you can avoid increasing prices (the travel site is then unaware that you already searched for a low price on their website). The best time to book an international flight is typically 2-4 months before your travel date. Another tip is to check one-way tickets each way as sometimes you may actually get a better fare than the round trip price.
For housing, while USF does offer housing through their international program, other options include Airbnb’s and hostels. If someone wants to immerse themselves even more so in the local culture, consider staying with a host family.
Make certain their passport (and yours) are current. They cannot travel internationally if a passport will expire within 3 months. Applying for a passport takes up to 8 weeks if you do not have one. Visit the link at travel.state.gov for information on how to apply for a passport. In the event that you need to expedite a passport or visa renewal, try Fastport Passport. They are registered with the U.S. Department of State.
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.
Consider purchasing student travel insurance for emergencies, which we pray they don’t need. HaveUHeard recommends Allianz Travel Insurance.
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.
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.
Finally, when prepping and packing be sure to find out if they will need an adapter and/or converter. There can be varying prong set-ups from one country to the next and if they intend to travel (which they will) they should be prepared. Encourage them to keep a journal as well. It will be priceless in years to come.
Looking for items students heading abroad need or want? Check out our list here.