While Studying Abroad
What if my student has a problem while they are abroad?
Once your student has departed for his/her long sought after destination, you enter into a new phase of the process. Remember that your student is not on a long vacation for which s/he will receive credit, but is on a longer work assignment overseas. Studying abroad and adjusting to another culture will require a great deal of patience and tenacity from your student, especially in the beginning, when every detail requires adjustment.
It is a common experience for parents to receive communication from a student who is frustrated and upset, and even a bit depressed. This often happens after the initial excitement of arrival wears off and management of daily living begins. It is vital to understand that such negative moments are a natural part of the experience and working through them fosters the growth that is significant your son/daughter's personal development. With the right kind of communication, you can facilitate your student's management of his/her experience by inquiring and encouraging problem solving on site.
Ask your son/daughter if they have been in communication with the office responsible for study abroad on-site and what results were achieved. Only if this does not yield a satisfactory solution, should you then encourage your son/daughter to get in touch with their AU Abroad Advisor. Generally, most problems can be solved in relatively short order with the staff on-site with the result that your son/daughter can feel pride in the accomplishment.
Will my student be able to travel to other places while studying abroad?
The philosophy of AU Abroad is to provide students with cultural immersion in the context of an engaging and rigorous academic program. Maintaining academic rigor on study abroad is essential so that students may receive credit towards their AU degrees for their study abroad. Students are therefore expected to attend all scheduled classes and program activities. On programs that are custom-designed for study abroad students, such attendance is mandatory as this is a requirement for the awarding of academic credit.
There is ample time for students to travel independently during weekends, scheduled holiday breaks, and outside the start and end dates of their program. Family and friends wishing to visit their student abroad should also plan to do so only during those periods.
Absences from scheduled classes and required program activities may only be excused in cases of genuine illness, accidents, or emergencies. Excused absences may only be granted by the program or host university administrative staff. Students may not arrange to travel independently during times when classes and other required program activities are scheduled. If they choose to do so, they should expect negative consequences which may include but not be limited to reduced /failing grades in the effected classes, disciplinary action, probation, or dismissal from the program. In addition, students who take unexcused absences for personal travel may void their coverage through the AU international emergency insurance policy.
Students are required to complete their full term of study abroad, including sitting any scheduled examinations. They may not end their term of study abroad early unless there is an emergency. For safety and security reasons, when travelling independently on weekends or scheduled holiday breaks, students must provide contact information and details regarding their whereabouts to the program/host university administrative staff.
What if my student says s/he wants to come home?
Although we understand it is a normal impulse of parenting to want to alleviate your son/daughter's distress by encouraging him/her to come home, this has several negative implications. Literally it can be quite costly, as study abroad tuition and fees are almost never refundable after a student has been on site. Additionally, students may lose credit or receive withdrawals and/or failures for their courses as a result. This may impact the advancement necessary for most scholarship requirements.
The greatest loss, however, will be the loss of confidence your son/daughter will suffer as a result of not accomplishing his/her goals. Please contact AU Abroad if you are concerned for your student's welfare at the level you think s/he might come home.
What do I do if there is a real emergency?
You will also want to work with your student on how to manage emergency communication. Each student is requested to provide their emergency contact information to AU Abroad. You and your son/daughter need to be mutually aware of what has been presented to us on this form. In the event of an emergency, AU Abroad staff are available 24/7 and you should contact our office at our main number or via AU's Department of Public Safety at 202-885-3636 (available 24 hours a day)
In addition, every study abroad program has a person or office on site that is responsible for your student's welfare. Ask your son or daughter to provide you with this contact information.
Finally, all students are requested to register with the US Department of State, in order that communication can be appropriately established in the event of a cataclysmic event or natural disaster. Please encourage your son/daughter to do so when international travel arrangements are set.
What should I expect when my student returns home?
When your student returns you may find yourself experiencing him/her as a somewhat different person that the one who left a few short months before. Most study abroad students have many stories that they wish to share and to convey what their experiences mean to them. It will help you to reconnect by encouraging your son/daughter to talk about the study abroad experience and help him/her to process it. Some students will experience return as a homecoming, while others will view home as newly strange to them, because they are experiencing the familiar through newly adjusted eyes. Facilitating the reentry process will help your son/daughter integrate the cross-cultural experience into their overall life.