Students are supported on-site by the program or foreign university's administrators, who are knowledgeable about the local culture and resources. The Center for International Programs continues to have contact with our study abroad students throughout their time away. Registration processes, housing selection and campus updates keep our study abroad students part of our on-campus community.
Parents are often concerned when they do not hear from their student immediately upon arrival. In most cases, not hearing from your student just means they have been caught up in the excitement of being in a new country, and they are following the arrival agenda of their program or university.
After the initial excitement of the first few weeks, most students experience a temporary period of difficult adjustment, often referred to as "culture shock." Parents should not be overly concerned by this stage as almost all students experience some form of culture shock during (and often after) an abroad experience. It is important to be patient, as your student learns to adapt.
Most students adapt quite successfully, become more independent, learn a lot about themselves and another culture, and thrive while being away. However, if your student's unhappiness seems more serious than homesickness, please don't hesitate to contact the Center for International Programs for guidance and support.
Students should have multiple options for communicating while abroad.
Students are reminded to continue to monitor their SJU email, as this is the most common way campus offices will send communications.
Cell phones with prepaid minutes can be purchased in-country, or students can talk to their wireless provider ahead of time about getting an international plan on their U.S. phone. It is strongly recommended that students have a working cell phone with an international plan during their term abroad so they can be in touch with their family and with SJU in the event of an emergency.
Calling cards can be purchased in-country and used to call back to the US. If you purchase calling cards in the U.S., make sure they can be used while abroad. US 1-800 numbers are NOT toll-free abroad.
Voice over IP
VoIP can be used to make telephone calls from a computer to a computer, landline, or cell phone. Past study abroad students have recommended using programs such as Skype.
Should we visit?
For Semester and Year Programs: Seeing your student function in a different culture can be one of the most gratifying experiences of raising a child. Knowing that your son has mastered the transportation system of London or your daughter can read a ferry schedule in Greek is heartwarming proof of your child’s intelligence, maturity, and independence. If you decide to visit your student, however, keep in mind that his or her first priority is unlikely to be you. Study abroad programs require students to be in class or working on projects a large part of their time. Students also need to spend time with their classmates—they’re all working through the same issues, and the support they provide to each other is invaluable. We recommend that you do not visit during the first few weeks of the program. Give your student time to adjust. Also, do not visit the last week of the program. Students need to finish up projects and be with classmates. Even if the program is relatively short, they most likely have made very close friends and will want to spend this time with each other.
If possible, time your arrival for a weekend or a break period so your student won’t have to choose between you and classes. Be prepared for some “role reversal” while your child teaches you to get around and explains the monetary system to you. Do not rely on your student to take care of you throughout your visit. Once you’ve learned a few basics and spent a couple of days with your student, set out on your own. Your student may have suggestions for nearby places to visit while he or she is in class. If possible, take a side trip for a few days to allow your student to get back to coursework and friends.
Keep in mind that you may be on vacation, but your student is not. Spend enough time with your student to appreciate his or her accomplishments, but not so much that you detract from the student’s program. By sharing the experience and living through the challenges of adjusting to a new country and culture, you gain appreciation of what your student has achieved, and it’s something both of you can talk about in the months and years to come.
For Study Tours and Summer Programs: It is not recommended that parents and families visit during the course of the program, as the students' free time is limited. They are expected to attend all program itinerary activities whether it is class or a cultural site visit. If you must visit, you should do so after the program has ended.
Perspective on Parent involvement while abroad from Fall 2015 participant in Copenhagen, Denmark:
"Also, when you talk to your parents during the first week, they're going to make you feel terrible. They're gonna ask really broad questions like: "what's Denmark like?" with this really worried tone, and when you say "gee mom IDK I just landed" they'll get even more nervous and worried for you and start to ask things you have no idea about like: "how do I make my phone plan international for you?" which will stress you out and make you homesick all at once. I suppose there's no avoiding that and once you start getting into the swing of things your parents will be enjoying just as much as you will, and they'll be your favorite people to call up and talk to about whatever happened every week. But in the beginning they'll stress you out."