Role of Parents and Families in Study Abroad

Family members might experience anxiety about being far away from their students for the duration of the program. As with most situations, the more information you have, the better you’ll feel. If your child, sibling, spouse or someone close to you is considering a study abroad program, here are some tips to help you take an active role in the process. By following this advice, you will most likely feel more involved in the student’s decisions and be able to share their excitement of the opportunity to see the world!

We’ve also provided you with these tips because parents, guardians, and families can pay an important role in the health and safety of participants by helping them make decisions and influencing their behavior overseas.

Study Abroad Tips for Families

  1. Know your student's program
    Be informed and involved in your student's decision to enroll in a particular program. Obtain and carefully evaluate MSU program materials, as well as related health, safety, and security measures. Much of this information can be accessed on this website.
  2. Communicate with your student about health and safety
    Discuss the program itinerary with your student, including any travel plans and activities that may be independent of the study abroad program. Engage your student in a thorough discussion of safety and behavior issues, insurance needs, and emergency procedures related to living abroad. Review the Safety Section of this website for more information about Study Abroad Health and Safety Issues
  3. Contact information is important
    On departure, make sure your student has provided you with several different contact methods, including the phone number for the MSU International Programs Office in the U.S., your student's home and cell phone numbers, and an email address. In addition, provide your student with all of your contact information including: office and home phone numbers; email; along with the contact information for a neighbor, close relative, and/or good friend that will be able to reach you in case of emergency. Encourage your student to provide MSU with your contact information as well.
  4. Keep in touch with your student
    Stay in touch with your student throughout the duration of the program in order to stay engaged in their experiences. Contact us about any questions you have regarding MSU's insurance, safety measures, and other issues. However, be aware that because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) your student, rather than someone from MSU, may be the most appropriate person to provide you with certain information.
  5. Establish boundaries
    Although keeping in touch during the program is important, constant contact with the student can be extremely detrimental to the adjustment process and language learning, no matter how well intentioned it might be. What’s more, today’s technology makes it easy to frequently be in contact via e-mail. While this makes the distance seem shorter, spending too much time on the Internet will prevent the student from integrating into the new community and from making new friends.

    For semester and academic year programs, students and their families are encouraged to set up a calling schedule, preferably at the same time and day every two weeks. This regular call-schedule will prevent frustrations of either party calling when the other isn’t home. Instead of emailing every day, it is recommended that the student start an online blog that is updated weekly, or send individual emails no more than 2 times each week.

    For short term study programs of a month or less, students are encouraged to check in with their families and loved ones upon arrival in the host country, and then once per week. Students will see that the program length will fly by in a flash, and they should take advantage of the little time they have to fully explore their new surroundings while they can.
  6. Become familiar with the Culture Shock cycle
    "Culture Shock" is the term used to describe the process of adjustment for a person moving to a new culture and facing a sudden change of environment, language, academic/social setting, food, and climate. Culture shock is a normal process that almost everyone who travels experiences. It is part of the process of learning a new culture that is called "cultural adaptation."

    Family members can play an important role in helping their student move through the different phases of culture shock if they know what symptom to look for. The University of the Pacific provides a website called, "What’s Up With Culture?" which is an excellent resource that will help you better understand culture shock:
  7. Be informed about the host country
    Keep informed about what is happening in your student's country. Check out the State Department website for specific information pertaining to an individual country and general information about travel and safety. Read the foreign press. Many foreign press websites now host an English language version.
  8. Be prepared
    Have a valid passport.
    Make sure you have a copy of your student's passport.
    Purchase flexible tickets for your student.
    Have your student leave a flight itinerary with you.