By Diane Griffith, Staff Writer, myOptumHealth
Has your college-aged child asked to study abroad? You may believe it’s too dangerous and something only the wealthy can afford. But it may actually be safer and more reasonably priced than you think.
Reaping the benefits of foreign studies
The rewards of studying abroad can be invaluable. Consider these benefits:
- Mastering a new language.
- Having an increased sense of independence and self-reliance.
- Developing a sense of respect for other cultures.
- Having an advantage in the job market. (In today’s global economy, employers want to hire people who are familiar with foreign cultures and can speak other languages).
Tuition for a foreign university is sometimes less expensive than it is for a U.S. college. It is likely that your child’s current financial aid can transfer to an overseas university. Also, loans, grants and scholarships are available from various sources. These include state, public and private organizations. Make sure to also factor in all travel costs.
Many countries have less street crime than the U.S. Students still need to be cautious, though. They should also know how to contact the closest U.S. embassy should any problems arise – from losing a passport to needing hospital care.
Tell your child to follow these important safety tips:
- Register with the U.S. Department of State, the nearest U.S. embassy and the Consular Affairs Department.
- Keep passports, cash, credit cards and travelers’ checks locked away when not in use.
- Make a photocopy of her passport in case it gets lost or stolen.
- Avoid risky behaviors (such as those related to alcohol and drugs).
- Use marked taxis only.
- Don’t travel alone or take shortcuts.
- Avoid being on the streets at night.
- Don’t give her address and phone number or discuss travel plans with strangers.
- Don’t carry large amounts of money around. Pickpocketing is common in many countries.
- Always let someone from her group know where she is.
- Keep away from political demonstrations.
- Dress conservatively. Don’t wear provocative clothing or flashy jewelry.
- Speak the local language whenever possible.
Your current health insurance plan probably won’t cover your child abroad. Instead, you’ll need to buy an overseas plan. Other types of insurance that are available include:
- Emergency evacuation insurance, which provides transportation to a medical facility, if needed
- Legal insurance that pays for an attorney, if needed
- Lost baggage and property coverage
- Kidnapping and terrorism coverage
In addition to a passport, your child will need an International Student Identity Card. She may also need a visa and a certificate of vaccination. Check with the administrator of your child’s program to learn more.
Keeping in touch
Don’t be upset if your child doesn’t call as often as you’d like. With time differences, classes and the general excitement of being in a foreign country, phone calls may not always be possible.
Some cell phone providers have plans that work overseas, but the roaming charges are extremely expensive. Instead, give your child prepaid international calling cards. Some other suggestions:
- Ask him to start an Internet blog and start one of your own. You’ll be able to read about his adventures and he can see what’s happening at home.
- Use social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook to keep up on each other’s day-to-day lives.
- Communicate through instant messaging and e-mail.
- Use a program like Skype for “face-to-face” Internet conversations.
Studying abroad can offer your child once-in-a-lifetime opportunities she won’t find elsewhere. If she plans carefully and follows the proper safety precautions, her overseas experience can enrich her life in countless ways.
- University of Minnesota Learning Abroad Center. Emergencies & safety precautions.
- Institute of International Education, Parents’ Resource Center. Top ten study abroad tips for parents.
- Purdue University. Study abroad.
- U.S. Department of State. Students Abroad encourages college students to travel smartly.
- Council on International Educational Exchange. Study abroad.