Hello Parents! This page answers the most common questions from loved ones of study abroad students. Please explore the rest of our website, especially the Tips & Resources page found under the heading Accepted to Study Abroad, to find more answers or contact our office.
Students make a significant commitment when they apply for study abroad and we are dedicated to making the journey from application to return from abroad a learning experience that is as safe and enriching as possible. There is ONE application period each year. It is in the fall. It covers ALL programs offered in the upcoming cycle. For example, the application period that happens in Fall 2018 is for programs in Summer 2019, Fall 2019, and Spring 2020.
TIMELINE for Applying for study abroad:
- early to mid FALL- students research programs available through WU, attend a general information session, have one-on-one advising with OIE, perhaps start an application
- mid FALL - students begin to make decisions about best fit programs and start an application, get more advising as needed via appointments, set up people to complete specific recommendation items that are part of the application
- late FALL - APPLICATION DUE. Usually this is the very end of November or very beginning of December. There is no alternate application opportunity.
- BEFORE DEADLINE- PASSPORT: Students- no matter where or when they expect to study abroad, need to have a passport that is good for 6 months beyond the end of their target program. DO NOT WAIT.
BEFORE ACCEPTANCE OIE PROVIDES:
- Program advising and application support at Info Sessions, fairs, and in one-on-one meetings.
- Secure online application process. Some examples of materials are available for reference here.
- Significant part of the application process involves learning and resource materials with policies about study abroad plus help sheets for putting together a strong(er) application.
WHAT STUDENTS SHOULD DO BEFORE DETERMINATIONS ARE RELEASED:
- Review the financial commitment of study abroad. AT ACCEPTANCE: A deposit is DUE right away. Cash or Check only are accepted and should be ready to pay by specified deadlines.
- Summer programs: Although payment in full is in late spring, the COMMITMENT to the program encumbers them to pay the full program cost, even if they withdraw.
- Review the programs ONE MORE TIME to make sure the program(s) match academic goals, provides the level of support desired or needed, and still works for them overall.
- Make sure they have a passport that is valid for 6 months beyond their end of their target program. DO NOT WAIT. It will be needed for identification purposes many months before travel.
PLACEMENT: Students are placed in programs based on their request, their academic plan, their individual needs, and as a result of what information they provide in their application. Additionally, WU may have program restrictions or budgetary restrictions based on number of interested students and our experience with programs and what works best for a student's circumstances. There are "Selection Criteria" that not all students meet. It is unusual for the Committee to go back to a student to ask them to add anything to the application so it is important that students are putting in their best effort in their application.
ACCEPT / COMMIT: mid-February to early March, students commit to participate, complete agreements, and pay deposits.
PREDEPARTURE Period - time between commitment and departure. This occurs almost entirely in the semester prior to their program. Exact timing depends on timing of program start, communication of program details by host university/program with OIE, and extent of visa preparation required.
- Initial activity: Fulfil obligations with Willamette University. Complete online forms and attend required group sessions. For site-specific group meetings, students benefit from the group setting to learn from each others' questions and concerns. There are usually only a few groups with more than 4-5 people.
- Next: Individual programs have unique processes that involve some or all of the following: registration/enrollment or application; enrolling in courses; identifying housing; getting a visa; purchasing airfare, making deposits to the program; tracking that all WU requirements and program requirements are met.
- OIE staff is available to individual students who have questions and or concerns during the predeparture process.
Summer, fall, and year programs: The high activity period for WU required steps and program registration is March - April. Students might be completing materials and visa processes for programs THROUGH THE SUMMER. OIE does not close in the summer and students are expected to monitor and respond to OIE, WU, and program hosts in a timely manner.
Spring programs: Activity period for WU required steps and program registration is late August - October, however activity could continue into December or later to accommodate required by their program hosts and visa processes.
FOR ALL STUDENTS in the semester prior to their program - See the checklist of what is expected from study abroad students the semester prior to their departure:
- There are TWO sets of details for students to organize and attend to: WU predeparture steps and program specific steps. ALL deadlines for all steps should be considered "drop dead" deadlines since many dates are not flexible (or not in the control of OIE). Once students get behind, they find it becomes difficult and confusing to catch up.
- OIE contacts every program and university to announce the student's upcoming participation so they know to expect the student's enrollment information. We also get updated instructions for the students' registration processes. Keep in mind: Most dates, details, and processes are determined by our host universities, not WU or the OIE. We strive to disseminate information to all students in the same program at the same time, as soon as it is logistically possible.
- OIE gives students detailed instructions on how to begin and proceed through their registration process for their specific program. Some processes are all online for certain programs (and not accessed through OIE or WU), others are facilitated through the OIE office on paper, or a combination of both. Students have the responsibility of meeting their program's deadlines in order to retain their place at that site.
- Students attend required meetings: the general pre-departure orientation and site-specific orientations. Details relate to arrival, housing, course registration and credit approval, pre-planned excursions, on-site staff details, health and safety information, and immigration/visa matters. Sometimes we do NOT have every detail available to us by the time these meetings happen. As soon as missing information is available, it is distributed in the form of an email or information packet.
- Students attend an intercultural development session to assist them in forming cultural learning skills so that they can start to think about what it means to step into a new culture as a visitor, student, and U.S. American. Students who invest in concepts presented are better able to cope with adjustment to new routines and expectations of a different academic and social culture. They also tend to make choices that result in more positive outcomes. Students in language learning programs attend a language learning tactics session to assist them in getting through the initial period of language immersion.
TO DO: Have regular conversations with your student rather than expect him/her to have an instant answer to all your specific questions.
- Do you want specific planning details? Please TALK to your student about sharing their notes with you. She/he will do this better if they know what things YOU are particularly interested in knowing. Be prepared that all the details you want may not be available yet.
- There are many other details students MUST know and do. These may not be the things in the forefront of your mind and your student needs to pay as much attention to these things as well as to the things that interest you.
- Encourage your student to START all registration/enrollment/application processes for their host site as soon as they get the announcement to do so. The deadline should be considered the date that every question the student has, has been answered and all documents are ready to present. OIE cannot always "fix" late or missed deadlines. Especially for visa processes, the requirements can be changed by a host country at any time and without prior notice. Students often discover that they have not started a step with enough time to complete it before the deadline.
- Students need encouragement to research their destination and host-culture on their own. The office provides the student with research topics and a what-you-need-to-know list.
- These are distributed to all students the semester prior to going abroad and is available online.
- You will find out what is expected and what your student will be encountering along the way.
All semester programs are billed the same tuition rate as a semester on campus. Cost differences most often are in living expenses and transportation. Please see special notes in the Program Fee section and Information on Approved-by-Willamette programs. Use the Our Programs/Explore all Programs links on the left side of this page to view each program's information page.
Willamette Tuition & Using Financial Aid
Because students are still paying for Willamette tuition through their Willamette student account, students may use all Willamette, federal, state, and local financial aid for Willamette Sponsored Study Abroad Programs. The billing and payment schedules remain the SAME: fall tuition is billed in mid-July, spring tuition is billed in mid-December. Remember that Willamette tuition is based on a year so a semester is half that amount.
Housing, Meals and Other Program Costs
The timing of when to pay and who to pay these costs will vary depending on whether the charge is processed via Willamette or through the host university. Please see the information on the Willamette Sponsored Programs Cost Matrix (PDF document) for a detailed explanation of the housing, meal, insurance, and other costs for programs. The matrix includes information on summer programs at the end of the document. When billed through Willamette, housing and meal costs are similar to a WU Room and Board Plan "B" or "C". (Remember to prorate for a semester.) "Approved as WU" program participants, (programs NOT on the Explore All Programs listing), may have additional fees associated with that program's actual cost. Go to the Non-Willamette Programs page and see the section on Approved by WU programs for further details.
TO DO: Remind your student to inquire at their host university when they arrive to find out whether they have a "student account" at the university - like they have on WU's campus. They will need to settle this kind of account prior to their return home. Unpaid fees will result in transcripts being withheld.
Study Abroad Deposit
A deposit is due when student commits to placement on a Willamette Sponsored Program. Students are informed of this deposit when they apply, when they are accepted, and when they commit. See the Deposit Policy.
Additional Costs- What is NOT covered
- airfare/travel to and from study site;
- visa costs and any expenses associated with visa travel;
- passport costs (get a passport as soon as your student applies for study abroad so you don't have to pay extra to expedite it);
- any housing deposits (paid upon arrival and returned before departure if conditions are met);
- local residency registration fee (some programs have this instead of a visa);
- typical class-related costs like books and course materials;
- funds for personal and discretionary items (think hygiene products, souvenirs, entertainment/activities, tours, extra non-program travel)
MOST students bring extra funds to travel locally or regionally but many agree that they COULD get by with little after they have budgeted for basic food, housing, local transportation, and personal/hygiene items. Well-planned extras can enrich an experience but costs need to be carefully managed. Students should budget for "comfort" items. Whether it is an occasional coffee drink or finding a mango at a boutique grocery, the extra cost can be worth it in comfort.
Consider any cost-of-living differences when budgeting. Typically, urban, European, Japanese, and Oceanic countries are more expensive. Students tend to spend more money while abroad than when in Salem. These costs are generally associated with cost of living differences, local transportation, extra travel, eating and drinking out, purchasing gifts and souvenirs, and personal comfort or convenience items.
TO DO: Follow the program links on the Explore All Programs page to get to the host university's website. They often offer information about estimated costs related to daily living expenses and typical amounts students spend while abroad. It can take a little searching...
On Willamette Sponsored programs, students receive instructions on how to ensure proper WU credit can be earned. As a guideline, liberal arts courses with equivalent fields at Willamette will earn Willamette credits. The grades will appear on the WU transcript. The student must decide whether he/she wants the grades to be be counted towards his/her G.P.A. This last step can happen after the transcript arrives at Willamette however there is a deadline to request grades not be calculated in the GPA. Again, the grades always appear on the transcript no matter what choice the student makes.
What kind of credit?
- Students receive general Willamette credit for liberal arts coursework unless credits taken abroad are approved by their academic advisor and/or department chair to count towards a major or minor.
- The Office of the Registrar approves MOI and Writing Centered equivalents.
- Credit arrangements should be make prior to study abroad when possible. Students are given the appropriate form for this during their Site-specific Predeparture meeting.
Help your student prepare to be self-sufficient, resilient, and responsible.
While supporting your student through the process is very important, understand that your student is embarking on a personal experience. Many students are surprised at how much time and EFFORT it takes to get through predeparture. And most of this activity takes place amidst regular academic study. Investment in the predeparture process will help them while they are abroad.
- BEST: Encourage him/her to take responsibility from the beginning in preparing for study abroad. Help him/her examine the timeframes they have for completing various items so they can organize their time while maintaining their regular academic activities (homework, papers, final exams).
- ENCOURAGE your student to be proactive. There will likely be online processes, paper processes, and steps to take for different entities: WU, OIE, host university, program provider, consulates. Students should ask questions EARLY, soon after receiving instructions, so there is time to manage any complicated issues before deadlines.
- Talk about how anxiety from being out of their comfort zone is natural- before they go abroad and while they are abroad. Help them identify self-care activities that can help them cope with this kind of emotional stress. Remind them to be attentive in the predeparture sessions. It is hard for students to grasp why things are important or necessary.
- Warn them: The first few days and weeks abroad can be exhausting and energizing. Students are trying to adjust to an unknown environment, a new living arrangement, without usual activities, while overcoming jet lag. There is no "quick" fix or way to avoid these things- but there are ways to minimize them. Remind them of their first few days at university and how they coped with the changing schedule and changing expectations placed on them.
- Set-backs and disappointments: Help them problem solve rather than finding blame. This can prevent them from becoming overly discouraged or stall their progress. We are available to review with students how to manage their preparation. There are staff at all sites whose job it is to assist international students. They may be employees of the host university, an organization that sponsors their program, or even Willamette employees in some cases. Encourage your student to seek these people out for help. ALL Bishop Wellness Center and other support processes remain available to students while they are abroad.
- Students are given many tools to assist them with the essential matters (checklists, handbook, health resources, meetings, email updates with specific instructions). Encourage him/her to use available materials to answer questions. Often they discover information they didn't know they needed in addition to answering a specific question.
Online pre-departure materials and placement/logistical material.
We welcome questions about your student's program but it is more important that you and your student are sharing information so that it is clear to the student that you care, that you know they have the information they need, and so you can monitor your own student's understanding of their responsibility in the experience. There is very little material that is delivered on paper. Where there is information shared or material delivered it is often via a student-targeted method such as email, in an online portal or form completion process, or, in a few cases, in person. These may be from WU or the host university/program. The distribution of materials happens primarily over the period that starts approximately 3 months prior to the program's commencement.
Some of these materials are easily copied into a form your student can share with you and some are not. Please ask your student about the kinds of information in which you are interested.
TO DO: Your student may need information about the HEALTH insurance coverage she/he may have through you, financial statements from your bank or other agency for a visa application, or, if your student is under 18 years of age, your signature on all agreements. Be prepared to help.
- Does your student have a passport? Students were directed to get a valid passport when they applied for study abroad. GO HERE to find out about passports: http://www.travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html
- Most students will need to have a valid passport five months before they travel. Passports are a critical form of identity for programs and universities abroad. The passport enables them to register students and to issue official letters of enrollment. WU cannot ensure that a place at a host site will be held for a student while they wait to get a passport.
- What is a "valid" passport? 1. Owner has SIGNED their passport in the space provided. 2. Expiration date MUST be a full 6 months beyond the END date of any program. This is a requirement of the countries where students are studying, not a Willamette requirement. If it seems close, (a few months different) renew his/her passport right away. EVERY year a few students find themselves paying extra fees or unable to go abroad because they did not get or update their passport in time.
- DO NOT PLAN INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL within 4 months of your student's departure. Their passport may not be available to them if their host country requires them to get a visa. Most visas cannot be obtained more than 90 days prior to departure and it can take up to 3 months to get a passport back when students apply for a visa. We do not want you to have to cancel vacation plans but we cannot change any visa or other requirements of other countries.
Read the Student Handbook.
The goal of the handbook is to educate students as broadly as possible about their upcoming experience. It gives them specific details about how to go about the business of getting there and having a positive experience. It doesn't answer every question but you'll better understand the responsibilities your student has agreed to undertake. You have a stake in their success. The best bet for making that happen is to encourage and support your student rather than taking on those responsibilities on their behalf. The more informed and involved your student is in the ENTIRE PROCESS, the more s/he will ultimately get out of it. Country specific travel guides such as Lonely Planet, Rough Guide and Let's Go are also helpful.
A visa is a stamp or other indicator placed in a passport, by the government of the destination country, that gives the passport holder permission to enter the country to do a certain kind of activity during a specific time period. MOST visas for students are processed prior to travel. Not all countries require a visa. Some have processes that happen upon entry or a residential registration process.
Your student will get information about what to expect early in the semester prior to travel. Typically, general visa instruction will be given at the Predeparture meeting (semester prior to program). Specific information for specific countries/programs will be given at the Site-Specific predeparture meetings OR at a time that the student needs to start the process. TIMING VARIES WIDELY.
- The OIE will give the student information on how a particular consulate typically handles visas but we do not have any special influence over the process nor do we receive explicit notice of changes to the process. Each country approaches the visa process differently and it can change at any time without our knowledge. Each semester we and student need to investigate the process to be aware of the current process.
Although WU or the host university often provides some of the required elements of a visa application and understands the time contraints involved, it is the responsibility of the student, not W.U. or the host university, to ensure that they have taken steps to acquire their visa in a timely manner. With that in mind, verify that your student has taken steps to understand the basic steps to take to obtain a visa (most often a "student" visa but not always). Begin collecting information for the application process as far in advance as possible. To do this, students should contact the host country consulate. Again, this is about being READY to apply. DO NOT initiate a visa process until your student is sure they have all the materials ready for the correct kind of visa and has assurance from OIE about when to apply.
TO DO: Investigate what is required of a visa so you can be prepared to provide pertinent information when needed (such as bank statements, background checks, medical examinations, etc.) The internet is a good place to start. Again, students will receive guidance about WHEN to start their visa process but they should NOT WAIT as soon as we give them the go ahead.
- What kind of visa? It depends on the country. Many countries have a "student" visa but you should not assume that is the correct one. Research so you can be ready to help your student pull together the materials for the visa.
- Special circumstances of travel? The best source of information is to contact the host country consulate directly about any special circumstances your student has.
Students who want to travel before their program starts (with or without a parent) may discover that it can complicate visa processing considerably (including making it more expensive) or make it impossible to get the appropriate visa. Family trips within four months of your student's departure on the program should be planned with the expectation that his/her passport WILL NOT be available to him/her, UNLESS you have verified with a consulate that the visa process won't interfere with your plans.
Only if your student has received specific instruction from International Education to do so.
- Often this will NOT be more than three or four months before the actual program start. Sometimes it is around two months before the program start.
- Students usually receive the "OK" to purchase during their SITE SPECIFIC predeparture meeting or via email with any needed instructions. For some programs, this comes from the host university/program.
- Arrival and departure dates are set by the host site. WU does not set the dates.
- Study abroad programs often include an orientation period PRIOR to a session's start. This means a website date might not be the same as your student's arrival date.
- Arrival plans set by the host program are designed to reduce travel anxiety and expense for students. They often include: requiring students to send their itinerary prior to arrival; contact names and numbers of program staff in case of delays; specific arrival cities, airports, dates and/or times so staff can find out about delays and, at some sites, arrange pick-up schedules; and specific instructions for travel to the host site.
- The details of each program can vary widely from year to year and semester to semester. Students should be careful when using information from other students or past participants.
We are committed to disseminating appropriate AND ACCURATE information as soon as we have final confirmation of these details. We release these details in a way that all students for a particular program receive the information at the same time.
- BE READY to make flight arrangements as soon as your student receives the OK to do so.
- Purchase airfare and make other travel arrangements AFTER your student receives OFFICIAL travel instructions (including arrival AND departure dates, any information on arrival cities, and, possibly, times) from Willamette University study abroad staff OR their contact at their host university.
- Some countries require proof of a return ticket purchased so pay close attention to program dates AND visa requirements. If a return ticket is not required or it is too far in the future to plan, the student may purchase a ticket for return at a later time HOWEVER they should be careful to pay attention to exam schedules, official program endings, and any visa requirements.
- Please be patient, we do NOT want students to commit before official dates are known. We know many people try to use mileage points and it's hard to wait, but we do not want students arriving at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Frequent travelers know that flight delays or cancellations and/or lost or delayed luggage are two real hiccups in travel. Although stressful, these are manageable events that require patience and flexibility.
- First rule: DO NOT LEAVE THE AIRPORT without talking to the lost baggage airline representative.
- Here is a good link on what to do in the event luggage is lost. (This link and the information on this page are in no way connected with Willamette University). Review this information with your student.
- Courteous behavior will always get better service.
- NEXT, students should contact the program's site staff to explain the delay and what, if any, alternate arrangements have been made.
- Site staff can often help with temporary funding (to be paid back), assistance with staying in contact with the airline when there are language barriers, and give information on where the luggage can be delivered if/when found.
FLIGHT DELAYS, CANCELLATIONS, CHANGES: Understand what kind of ticket on which your student is traveling. Discuss any limitations and extra costs associated with flight changes. If the flight delay, cancellation, or change is due to weather, mechanical issues, etc. (i.e. out of the student's control) students should do the following:
1. Go immediately to the airline counter and find out the options and what costs will and will not be covered. Normally, if the student chooses to do something DIFFERENT than described by the airline in these situations, the cost will not be covered. The change in travel plans may mean being late a few hours or a day or more.
2. As soon as alternative arrangements are made or essential initial communication is made with the airline, IT IS CRITICAL that the student contact their program's site staff to explain the delay and what, if any, alternate arrangements have been made.
3. As soon as reasonable, students should contact WU at our general email address so we know where the student is and what the plan is. This helps in the communication process if there are further issues.
TO KNOW: Willamette will not cover expenses related to airfare change/cancellation costs, lost/delayed luggage, or other expenses travel related situations. Our office wants to know of significant delays in travel plans or significant loss of belongings, however, students will be working primarily with site staff to work through the issues. This simplifies communication (which means better results) and enables site staff to do everything they can in the best interest of the student.
TO PREPARE- "just in case":
- Follow the program's instructions for travel plans as closely as possible. Students are given instructions on how to get to the school, homestay, or residence and will also have contact information to carry along.
- Make sure you understand who your student would contact at the host site and how they would do so. Consider getting an international calling card for use in an airport at a public phone.
- Know whether your homeowner's/renter's insurance covers lost/delayed luggage and inform your student about what to do should this occur.
- Consider purchasing Travel insurance through your insurance carrier or other insurance seller (see Theft/loss of Possessions below).
- Know that it may not be possible for them to contact you right away. It may take them hours, overnight, or (in a few cases) a few days to be able to contact you.
- If you know that your student is being met by staff or other official representatives, be reassured that they will contact us or you immediately if your student does not show up when expected.
TO DO: Before your student departs, get information from him/her about when they will arrive at their destination and any program contact information they have.
AFTER YOUR STUDENT IS SETTLED- TO DO before or after arrival:
- Review all the contact information your student has received.
- Understand that some places will not have the accessibility that is common in the U.S. and you may have to modify your expectations for communication while they are abroad.
- Talk about expectations of HOW OFTEN and HOW you will keep in contact once they are settled. Identify at least TWO WAYS in which you can contact your student directly. Make it a priority to have more than one way to get in touch.
- Many students find they acclimate to their new environment more smoothly and thoroughly if there are lower expectations on the frequency of their contact with family and friends at home. This is a decision each student must make.
- Keep in mind that students may not be inclined (or able) to maintain their typical pattern of contact while abroad. Sometimes this is due to how variability of internet/cell service or equipment, sometimes they are busy exploring their environs.
- Re-visit your communication routine after a few weeks. Let them know you want them to be out exploring but, if you plan contact, they should let you know if they won't make the date.
CELL PHONES: More and more cell phones used here in the U.S. will work abroad but don't assume this is true.
- Get explicit information from your carrier about any SIM cards or changes you need to make to your plan.
- Students can often rent a cell phone upon arrival. They may receive advice about this before they leave the U.S.
- The international services office at the host site can provide information about how to go about renting or buying a phone.
- Frequently, though not always, incoming calls on these phones do not cost anything so this can be a good way to stay in contact. HOWEVER, do NOT neglect to get any phone numbers of your student's dorm room, apartment, on-site program office, etc.
MAIL: Some countries have better mail systems than others. Often the question isn't "if" it will arrive but "when".
- If you think you will need to use a private courier service (UPS, Fed EX, DHL, etc.) to send anything, you will need a phone number of the destination address.
- Items with any value (or perceived value) may be "taxed" or incur a duty of some kind. Keep this in mind when sending items overseas so your student can easily claim it and pay anything that is due.
- ESPECIALLY: Pay careful attention to a country's prohibitions on items that can be received (or sent) by mail. These could be seed, meat, or other food items; medications; money of any currency; other items of high value, among other things.
- There are places where students are explicitly told (by the host program) not to try sending or receiving packages due to the probability of missing packages, high duty, or long delays. They should heed this warning.
- Do not mail medication.
SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES / BLOGS:
- Many students (and parents) find it rewarding to stay in contact using these. Students can communicate about their daily lives with many people at once.
- This should NOT replace having appropriate phone numbers and contact names should you need to contact your student urgently.
- WARNING: Your student will probably experience many ups and downs and post these. Have a conversation early about how important it is to you to know when a "down" has been resolved. You don't want to worry unnecessarily.
In general, whether your student experiences a minor setback, such as a minor illness or an unwise purchase, or a more stressful event, such as a large loss/theft or more serious illness, etc., remind your student that the on-site staff and/or program director are the best resources for dealing with the situation there.
- The first priority of on-site staff is to approach the situation with the student's best interest in mind.
- Second, they will contact OIE for further instructions should they be needed or if the situation adversely affects a student's regular study or living situation.
- On-site staff are best equipped to know the best course of action and what is reasonable to expect from local healthcare providers, governmental entities, and legal systems.
- If you have purchased Travel Insurance, review the policy for activating any benefits of that policy, including emergency travel.
As a parent, you may hear, before we do, of a distressing event that your student has experienced. If your student shares news with you that is unsettling:
- Encourage him/her to contact on-site staff. This will result in the quickest and most appropriate action.
- Have your student also email the Office of International Education so we know what is going on. We will assess the situation and determine who is best equipped to handle the situation. If we get in contact with the student, we always remind students that the usual on-campus services (counseling, harassment reporting, etc.) are available to them.
- Parents are often a student's most important emotional contact. If you have concerns, please let us know so we can make contact with on-site staff or the student as needed.
- Keep checking back with your student to find out if they are continuing to be anxious or if it was just a day where everything was overwhelming.
- If on-site staff or the Office of International Education determine some action is needed, be aware that the resolution may be different than what you could expect in the U.S or at Willamette and that your student may have lingering feelings of anxiety. This is natural. Reassure them and encourage them to talk to the onsite staff or contact us as a way to get a new perspective.
Theft/loss of possessions is always a possibility just as it is on Willamette's campus. With careful attention students can drastically reduce the chances of such incidents.
Lost/theft of PASSPORT: Consult with the U.S. Department of State website for directions: http://travel.state.gov/
- Review with your student which items of value are necessary and what can be left at home.
- Keep a photocopy of your student's passport at home where you can easily find it. MAKE SURE your student ALSO keeps a photocopy of his/her passport. It should be kept separately from the actual passport. Having a photocopy expedites getting a replacement passport and offers a good way to identify your student if needed.
- Review the safety tips found in the Student Handbook.
- Review your homeowner or renter's insurance policy for info about how your student's belongings will or will not be covered while abroad.
- Talk about personal safety and emphasize that risk factors in the U.S. are JUST AS RELEVANT as they are in the country in which they will be. These include such things as public and private behavior, style of dress, time of day, alcohol use personally and by others, neighborhood, etc. While getting used to the local cultural norms, it is critical that students actively learn what is appropriate where they are. On-site staff offer safety information during on-site arrival orientations.
- Consider purchasing Travel Insurance. This often includes: coverage for lost/stolen belongings; travel cancellation and interruption coverage; and 24/7 travel assistance. These policies should include Medical Evacuation and Repatriation of Remains coverage. WU will automatically cover your student for medical evacuation and repatriation of remains but NONE of the other items are covered by Willamette.
- HEALTH INSURANCE is required of all students participating on a Willamette University sponsored program so consider what is available and what your student already has when reviewing travel policies. SEE the section called Medical Emergency abroad.
- We strongly urge at least one parent/guardian to be in possession of a current passport. In the unlikely event that a student becomes a candidate for medical evacuation or is experiencing other serious health concerns, having a family member who can travel to the host country can be invaluable. Most countries require that passports be valid for six months AFTER intended date of departure. Know where your passport is and renew it as needed so it is valid for six months beyond your student's program end date.
Emergency at home
- Have your student give you and/or other family members the local contact information for his/her residence as soon as it is received. This includes phone numbers, physical address and a mailing address. This may happen BEFORE departure OR upon arrival.
- Your student should also provide you with the contact information for the on-site program director, host university international office, or other on-site contact numbers they've been given.
- In emergency situations, the WU Office of International Education can also assist with contact.
Non-medical emergency abroad (civil unrest, natural disaster)
OUR PRIMARY CONCERN is always the immediate safety of students.
- OIE, our program providers, local embassies, the U.S. Department of State, and host universities monitor current conditions (political, natural, social) in areas where our students study.
- We work with on-site staff and monitor announcements from local information sources (like embassies).
- We communicate regularly with program staff of other universities and programs whether or not we have students with them to maintain a broader view of a situation abroad.
- We implement our own Crisis Management procedures.
- In a local crisis, our first priority is communication with the local staff. This means there may be a delay in knowing all details of an individual student's status. Should it be necessary, the Office of International Education and/or the program provider will inform each student's emergency contact of the student's status as soon as possible.
- We collect emergency contact information from each student prior to departure.
- The U.S. State Department international travel website contains valuable information about safety and health abroad.
- Here is a site designed just for study abroad: http://studentsabroad.state.gov/
TO DO: Please strongly urge your student to register via the U.S. Travel Registration website. By registering travel plans in this manner, the local embassy or consulate can locate U.S. citizens (i.e. your student) in the event of extreme natural or civil unrest or other emergency. Registration is voluntary and costs nothing, but it should be a big part of travel planning and security. This should be done before leaving the U.S. and is easily done online: https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/ The local embassy/consulate will have the most up-to-date information on travel warnings/issues, etc.
Medical insurance is required for all students who are participating in Willamette Sponsored Programs. Coverage must include outpatient care and diagnostic services in addition to hospital/emergency care. Some programs include insurance, some require the purchase of specific insurance, while others have no preference.
Refer to our Health Insurance Requirements page for more information. Your student will complete a Health Insurance Information form that tells us how the student will meet the insurance requirement.
TO DO: Investigate paying for healthcare abroad.
- Do you use the WU Student Health Plan? This plan works internationally. Find the policy on the Bishop Wellness Center site.
- Do you usually waive OUT of the WU Student Health Plan for the year? You will follow the same process as when the student is On Campus. Consult with Bishop Wellness Center if you have questions.
- Most U.S. plans require payment for health services up front and then be reimbursed. Keep in mind that in the event of serious illness or injury that requires immediate and extensive healthcare, your student may need access to a large amount of money to pay for the bills, anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars.
- Most plans have a very specific process to follow to activate emergency services and coverage. Review your insurance's policies.
- Travel insurance plans often help make it easier to get medical funds temporarily.
- INVESTIGATE: Make sure you fully understand all the policies and procedures for reimbursement for EACH insurance plan that your student may use while abroad.
- Talk with your student about using your health plans' help website, phone lines, email, or chat functions in case they need advice. Don't put your student in the position of not knowing anything about how to get medical help that your health plan(s) will recognize and cover.
Study abroad is an important opportunity for your student to gain new educational and life experience. Visiting your student while they are abroad can be an exciting and interesting role reversal, as your student becomes your guide and teacher.
- Because it is important that students settle into their new environment on their own we do discourage parents from taking the initial trip abroad with students. They will discover inner resources and develop resiliency they may need later.
- We encourage visiting students during academic breaks or after the end of the semester. Please note programs often will not allow guests on program excursions but some programs have prescribed "parent and family weekends". Your student will have more information on any restrictions or opportunities.
- The OIE cannot offer advice about lodging, food, transportation, or other travel matters when you visit your student's program site. Please consult with a reputable travel agent or have your student scout out the possibilities for you. Your student will have better access to such information in addition to having excellent local resources (local families, host university staff, etc).
The first step in helping your student is by understanding culture learning yourself and encouraging him/her to research it as well. In Maximizing Your Experience Abroad we reference What's Up with Culture?, a website designed to help students navigate cultural learning. We use some elements of the preparatory materials, What's Up with Culture?, used by the University of the Pacific. Visit this website to examine a module of information and exercises related to how to prepare oneself and how to approach new experiences. They also have a page for parents. This is a sample of the kinds of preparation your student is receiving for the transition and experience of study abroad. Their section for parents may be helpful to you.
Find ways to help your students cultivate resilience. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. This is a skill that can be developed in simple ways. Study abroad offers both the opportunity to build up resiliency but should also motivate students to build up resiliency BEFORE going abroad.
An event does not have to be overwhelming or life changing to call upon our resources for problem solving and moving ahead. Even small events that make us question what we are doing or what went wrong will have better outcomes if we have worked on developing our resiliency. We always rescommend that students take extra care with their physical health when going abroad, especially in the initial period. This means, getting sleep as you can, eating regularly (even if it's different food), bringing a few "comfort" things for those moments you really need familiarity, and getting exercise. The most straightforward way to actively build resilience before going abroad is look for ways to be challenged every day whenever possible. It could be
- taking a different kind of transportation for one day,
- eating in a restaurant (maybe a few times) that serves a different kind of cuisine than is part of one's own culture,
- or doing something as simple as using cash only for a week!
A good overview and resource is the APA site article, The Road to Resilience.
My student is returning from study abroad. What should I expect? What can I do to ease the transition back home?
Your student may be excited, a little depressed, dress differently, have different habits, have changed expectations of home life, demand more or less independence, smell different (!), be talkative, be silent, or may seem very similar. These things may change over a period of several months after she/he returns. Be available and acknowledge that things will not be the same. Reading Home from Abroad will help you understand what the OIE and Willamette University suggest and provide for your returning student. Please help us by encouraging your student to take advantage of these resources.
The re-entry process is often the most overlooked portion of the study abroad experiences by students, their families, and study abroad professionals. The steps that a student, his/her family and educators take when students return from abroad can have a major impact on the student's and the community's education.