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Before They Go

Saint Joseph's University - and specifically the Center for International Programs - views studying abroad as a vital part of our students' undergraduate experience.  CIP staff are available to help students choose a program that meets their academic goals and personal needs, but we also suggest that students discuss their plans with their Academic Advisor.  In addition, for semester or year abroad programs, credit transfer is handled prior to departure through a course approval process. An on-campus orientation program complements the more in-depth orientations in which our students participate upon arrival. Health, safety, cultural differences, and logistical information are covered at both orientations. This information is provided to parents by categories:
Letting Go  
Medical Insurance
Passports and Visas
Student Responsibility
Travel Resources


Chances are you will feel more secure about your child studying abroad if you do the right research.
  • Read the SJU Study Abroad Policy to understand your student's responsibilities and the SJU policy for Study abroad: SJU Semester Abroad Policy  | SJU Summer Program Policy | Study Tour Policy 
  • Review the appropriate Program Brochure for program-specific information (including estimated expenses!). 
  • Review the program's external website for information.
  • Ask your student for access to their secure, CIP on-line account, which includes additional information about their program and the pre-departure process. 
  • Hear what SJU faculty have to say about study abroad!
  • Research the destination country, including its history, culture, customs, laws, social/moral codes, dress and language.
  • Along with your student, learn a few of the local words and phrases.
  • Never hesitate to ask questions of your student, the advisor or even a program administrator.

Letting Go

Sending your child to study abroad involves a certain amount of letting go on your part. It can be difficult to do, but to ease it, you should begin the process well before departure.
  • Allow your student to make the most of their study abroad decisions - be a guide, not a supervisor.
  • Give your student the information and resources they need to make informed decisions.
  • Don't expect to hear from your student every day while they are abroad - and don't make them student feel bad for that.
  • Talk with parents whose children have previously studied abroad and try to prepare for the emotions they say they experienced.


Help your student with what to bring overseas. Pack light, but also wisely.  Here are some great tips:
  • Have your student walk around with packed bags to make sure they will be able to handle it once they leave the house. Your student may be lugging that suitcase around for quite a while during their travels!
  • If your student wears glasses, get them an extra pair or two to take with, particularly if they are prescription lenses.
  • If your student is taking any prescription medications, be sure to send them overseas with an extra supply and a copy of the prescription. Medications should packed in carry on luggage (in case the checked bag is lost) with a detailed note from the prescribing physician indicating your student's need for the medication, the dosage, etc.


Keeping in touch with your student while they are overseas is important for both of you.  We recommend the following...
  • Establish a plan of communication with your student prior to departure. It is important to realize that this plan may need to be altered once they have settled into a new routine.
  • Blogs are an inexpensive way in which to keep in touch. Encourage your student to start a blog while away so that you (and any other family members or friends) can follow along with the adventures. You may consider starting your own blog to keep your student current on what is going on back home.
  • Make sure your student travels with a cell phone that will work no matter when they are.  It should be equipped with both a data plan and a calling plan, in case of an emergency.   Also, make sure they know how to use the phone and how to make calls! 
  • Devise another way of keeping in touch (prepaid international calling cards, Skype, mobile calling/texting apps, etc.)
  • Ask them to let you know when they are traveling out of the country and how to reach them during that time.
  • Students and parents should both have a set of emergency contacts with them at all times, including contacts from the school and program.


Teaching your student responsible ways with which to handle their finances is crucial and can begin even before departure.
  • Have your child manage some money on their own before departing.
  • Devise a financial plan. Write down the expenses you expect your student to have and make a column for "needs" and a column for "wants."
  • Consult the Budget Sheets on our program pages for estimated cost information. 
  • Consider the exchange rate of the host country as well as the cost of living in the city where your student will be living. 
  • Please review our Financing Study Abroad page for additional information on outside sources of funding. 
  • Review the "Financial Aid" section of our Financing Study Abroad page additional information on how Financial Aid can or cannot be applied to study abroad. 
  • To limit spending and avoid lost money, teach your student to take money out of the ATM a little at a time. 

Food and Diets

One of the most interesting differences between countries is the cuisine, and you will want to make sure that your student eats well while overseas.
  • Tell your student to stick to the busy restaurants, as eating at these is likely safer than at less popular restaurants.
  • Students should know to check for pasteurization when eating dairy products, as not all countries practice this process in the way they do in the United States.
  • Freshly cooked foods are the best bet because they are less likely to contain contaminants.
  • Although they may be legally permitted to drink abroad (though it is still a violation of SJU Community Standards if the student is under 21), students should be advised to drink with great care while studying abroad. Alcohol can mix with trouble overseas the same way it can at home.
  • Review the Special Diets Abroad resource.

Medical Insurance

Medical Insurance requirements and provisions vary greatly by study abroad program. For more detailed information, please review the Insurance page of our website.


This is the greatest concern for most parents of students studying abroad. Study abroad tragedies are few and far between, but educate your student on ways to stay safe in another country.  (We will discuss this in detail during the Health and Safety Pre-departure Training, as well.)
  • Students must be encouraged to cultivate and utilize their "street smarts" while studying abroad. Advise them to take the precautions they take at home, as well as new ones. Tell them to avoid political demonstrations, to only take official taxis and to protect their passport at all times.
  • Establish emergency procedures with your student prior to departure. Be sure to create a list of emergency contacts.
  • Use the State Department's website to stay current on safety issues in specific countries.
  • Review the Student Safety Abroad page of our website for more information and advice.


Below you will find the information that students should leave with their parents or a family member before departure:
  • The name, address and phone number of the Center for International Programs at Saint Joseph’s University (see our contact page for details)
  • The name and address of the program or campus abroad (if applicable)
  • Copies of:
    • bank account and credit card information, if they wish for you to access their accounts
    • social security number
    • travel documents: passport, visa, traveler’s insurance card 
    • return flight information
    • passport and visa (if applicable)

Passports and Visas

We recommend that at least one parent have a valid passport.  In the case of an emergency abroad, you will most likely want to be at your student’s side at a moments notice.  Applying for or renewing a passport takes time.  Rather than having to worry about paperwork during an emergency, it will probably be worth the peace of mind knowing you would be able to travel internationally immediately, if necessary. For passport information, please visit:
Additionally, some countries will require a student visa for entry and stay in their country. If your student requires a visa, they will be provided with detailed information on how to obtain the visa after acceptance in to their program. This information will come directly from the Center for International Programs or directly from their study abroad program provider. 

Student Responsibility
  • Discuss financial, social and academic responsibility with your student. Let them know that much of what is expected of them at home will be expected of them while abroad.
  • Encourage your student to resolve their own issues while abroad, and step in only when necessary.
  • Have your student do the bulk of the study abroad research. This will not only empower your student, but will also teach them the benefit of thinking ahead and analyzing what is best for them as an individual.
  • Let your student know that you trust them to make the right decisions while studying abroad.

Additional Information

For more information about travel planning and tips, see our Resources page.  

Adapted from