- Why study abroad?
- How can parents be involved?
- Are education abroad programs affordable?
- What happens after my student has been accepted to a program?
- Does my son/daughter need additional health insurance?
- Is it safe to study abroad?
- How can I help my son/daughter make the transition to living in another country?
An international experience is an integral part of any college education.
Some of the benefits include:
- Firsthand exposure to other cultures
- Exploration of new academic subjects and perspectives
- Greater understanding of one’s own culture from a different perspective
- Deeper appreciation of our global society and marketplace
- Impressive resume asset – an experience highly regarded by prospective employers and graduate schools
- Travel and experience in many other countries while abroad
Students who have studied abroad report:
- More self-reliance and independence
- Improved foreign language skills
- Progress toward career path
- Greater problem-solving skills
- Enhanced abilities in leadership
Parental support is crucial in helping your son or daughter assume the responsibility for his or her time abroad. You should be available and ready to lend your child help, advice and support, but we encourage you to let your student take primary responsibility for planning the experience. We believe this process is important in helping students develop the independence and confidence necessary to have a successful experience abroad. Encourage your student to share information with you about the program in which he/she hopes to participate. If you have specific questions or concerns please feel free to contact our office.
The UNCW education abroad application includes a section titled “Communication with Parents, Guardians or Other Individuals”. This section allows your son or daughter to authorize you to process administrative transactions on their behalf and/or for us to communicate with you about them and their records. Please be aware that if you are not listed here, we must respect the student’s right to privacy and are very limited in the information we can share.
Affordability is often an important factor for both parents and students when considering education abroad. With more than 500 programs to choose from, costs vary by program. However, many options have costs that are comparable to or in some instances even less than attending UNCW for the same period of time. Financial aid can be applied toward education abroad. There are also a number of grants and scholarships available to students, including grants offered through the Office of International Programs. Visit our Financial Aid & Scholarship page for a more detailed list.
There is a $100-300 non-refundable education abroad fee, depending on the program selected. If a student chooses to attend a program through one of our affiliated program providers or consortiums there may also be additional fees due at the time of application. The overall cost of studying abroad can vary depending on duration of the program, what features are included in the program, the destination, and whether it is a study abroad or exchange option.
The Office of International Programs holds a comprehensive pre-departure orientation for all students participating in a Summer, Semester or Academic Year education abroad program. This orientation covers information about health, safety, culture shock, academic expectations and much more, and is mandatory for all semester and full-year participants. At this orientation students will receive our Education Abroad Handbook, meet any other UNCW students who will study at the same location and have access to former study abroad participants as well as exchange students currently studying at UNCW . Parents are welcome to attend this orientation, but will not receive a formal invitation. Students participating in short-term programs will attend orientations led by their program leader(s). As always, our staff is available to students at any time during the process to answer questions that may arise and to make the process as smooth as possible.
All education abroad participants, as well as their parents, should have a valid passport. We recommend that parents have a valid passport so that they are able to visit their son or daughter or in the event of an emergency.
If the host country requires a visa it is important to start the application process early. Allow at least 6 weeks for a visa to be granted. Visa requirements can be found at the host country’s consular web page. Typically students will recieve information on securing a visa from either their study abroad advisor or one of UNCW's affiliated partners. Students typically cannot apply for a visa until they have received their acceptance letters from the host institution abroad, but can often begin securing supporting documentation prior to receipt of the official acceptance.
It is helpful to discuss a realistic budget with your son or daughter before they depart. The cost of living varies from program to program and country to country. However, the cost of living also depends largely on the choices students make day to day while abroad. Buying groceries and cooking meals rather than eating at restaurant, staying at hostels rather than hotels when traveling, etc. You may also want to discuss with your son or daughter how money will be accessed: debit card, credit card, cash, and traveler ’s checks.
Medical and dental check-ups prior to departure are a must for your son or daughter. It is important to review travel plans with a physician who knows the student’s medical history. Frequently a health statement from a doctor is required to obtain a visa to enter the host country. This is also an opportunity to ask the doctor how best to handle routine prescription medications.
Students participating in any of our education abroad programs are automatically enrolled in a comprehensive health insurance policy through HTH Worldwide. This insurance is required. HTH Worldwide covers a wide range of conditions and events and specializes in providing health insurance to both international students studying in the United States and U.S. students studying abroad. HTH Worldwide's website www.hthstudents.com (External Link) provides full information about the insurance program and its benefits. HTH also has a website specifically designed for parents available at www.hthparents.com (External Link).
The cost for students as of fall 2011 is $1.32 per day for the duration of the program. Students may elect to extend coverage or enroll for additional days beyond the length of the program, for instance if they plan to travel before or after. You may also continue carrying your student on your health insurance policy. Some host countries (e.g. Australia, Germany) or universities require visiting students to obtain additional medical insurance through them. In such cases, students will not be exempt from the North Carolina study abroad medical insurance, but will simply carry additional coverage.
Student health and safety abroad are the Office of International Programs’ top priority. The U.S. government provides accurate and timely information for overseas travelers at http://www.state.gov/travel/ (External Link). At these websites you will find information about emergencies, country profiles, visas, passports, living abroad and other topics. UNCW does not operate education abroad programs in any country where there is a Department of State travel warning.
Just as in the United States, much of a student’s safety abroad depends on the student exercising responsible behavior and making good decisions. The following topics and tips listed below are examples of those covered in the UNCW pre-departure orientation and included in the study abroad handbook:
- Traveling with companions rather than alone
- Using caution in interactions with strangers
- Staying away from dangerous areas or activities
- Not drinking to excess
- Avoiding the use of illegal drugs
- Respecting the laws and customs of the country
International travel can pose some unique challenges regarding student safety and our office is committed to the safety and support of students while they are abroad. For additional information visit our Health and Safety Abroad resource page.
How should I keep in touch with my student while abroad?
Make sure you have a telephone number where you can reach your student and know the times of day when he or she is most like to be there. Minimize the cost of staying in touch by establishing methods in advance. Contact your phone service provider to arrange for a calling card, research internet phone options or learn the most inexpensive way to call collect or wirelessly from the destination country. You may be able to select an international plan that has reduced calling rates to that particular country to minimize costs of calling from home. Given the cost of telephoning, it might be better to set up a regular schedule for e-mailing or instant messaging instead. Skype is also becoming an increasingly popular method of communication between students and their parents.
Information to keep on hand:
- Your student's cell phone number, Skype address and email address.
- Phone numbers of the on-site program leader (if appropriate) or program provider.
- Contact information for HTH worldwide insurance and instructions on how to submit claims.
- Citizen assistance section of the embassy or consulate nearest your student.
- Credit card numbers for your student.
- Passport number and photocopy of passport.
- Program calendar/itinerary.
In an emergency:
During business hours, call the Office of International Programs 910-962-3685. After hours, call the UNCW Police Department 910-962-2222. They will contact OIP personnel. If your student is ill or experiencing a travel emergency, call HTH worldwide insurance directly.
Many students will experience some degree of culture shock during their time abroad. Culture shock is completely normal as your son or daughter adjusts to new surroundings, feelings of homesickness, cultural differences, and unfamiliar situations. Students often have intense initial reactions to their programs, either extreme highs or lows. It is important to remember that as students get settled and become more comfortable these emotions will even out. As a parent you will likely hear about what your son or daughter is experiencing. The most important thing you can do is listen and be supportive as they adjust to their new surroundings.
The process of readjustment to life at home can sometimes be more difficult than the adjustment to life in a foreign country. Students are generally prepared for life abroad to be considerably different, but may expect the return home to be effortless. This period of readjustment is referred to as reverse culture shock. Reverse culture shock varies from student to student and can take many forms, but often is a result of the personal, emotional and intellectual growth they have experienced. They may return with new interests and tastes. They may have changed perspectives, ideas and attitudes toward the world. Most students return from being abroad, anxious and excited to share their experiences and stories with friends and family. Again, one of the most helpful things you can do as a parent is listen. Your continued encouragement and support is important as your student makes this return transition.
Students can also be encouraged to find ways to incorporate their new interests and cross-cultural skills into their lives. Visit our Get Involved page for some of the opportunities available to returned students.