Gaining international experience is not only an essential component of educational and professional development, it is also one of the most rewarding personal experiences in a person's life. You can aid greatly in your child's ability to maximize the study abroad experience at each step along the way.
We invite you to review thoroughly all of the information available on this website, in order to understand the selection and preparation experience. To help you assist your son or daughter engage in this important experience, we offer some answers to many of the questions most frequently asked by parents.
The first step is understanding that the most rewarding study abroad experiences start with a self-managed research process. Your son/daughter has a wide variety of program offerings to choose from, and s/he must determine what type of program best suits his/her academic program and personality. Encourage your student to seek the answers to questions on his/her own. If you do too much of the legwork up front, your son/daughter will not be able to take full ownership of the final program choice. If you have questions, ask them first of your student, so that s/he may benefit from seeking out the answers for both of you.
AU Abroad makes every effort to assure that students with disabilities can participate successfully in study abroad programs. Please be aware that we cannot guarantee that facilities and/or support services will be available at each location abroad in the same range and quality as on the AU campus. We cannot alter architecture, transportation, or laws in other countries. We can, however, encourage students with disabilities to meet with staff in the Academic Support Center (ASC) or Disability Support Services (DSS) to discuss accommodation needs and identify appropriate sites overseas. These offices can work with each student in order to identify support system needs and discuss the availability of accommodations abroad.
Students and parents frequently assume that because the official language of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada is English, that there will be little or no adjustment phase to studying abroad in these countries. This is not the case. These are distinctive cultures, each with its own educational tradition, and are different from American culture in ways both subtle and substantial. If students make the faulty assumption that there will be no adjustment period, s/he can end up experiencing it more acutely than those who enter into their study abroad experience with the appropriate expectations.
Once a program has been selected, AU Abroad's electronic application system will point the way in completing the application process. Please note that some programs are wholly owned and operated by AU and the AU Abroad office can make admissions decisions with two weeks of receipt of the completed application. Others are offered in partnership with study abroad organizations and/or foreign institutions of higher education. Admission for these programs is a two-step process, and students are actually admitted by the partnering institution. As a result, the admission can take from three to eight weeks from the time of receipt of the completed application.
It is also important to note that some programs admit students on a rolling basis, while others will consider a pool of applications received after a deadline. AU Abroad does not have the ability to change the application processes for those programs, so it is important to understand the parameters for the program for which your student has applied, and set expectations accordingly.
While the AU Abroad staff is more than willing to speak with you regarding your concerns, we are limited by the same confidentiality restrictions that apply to students while they are on campus. Therefore, there may be some questions, particularly those of an academic nature, that we will not be able to answer for you.>
If students have specific academic needs that cannot be met on any of AU Abroad's many program offerings, they may petition for a Permit to Study on a Non-AU program. Non-AU programs must meet the following requirements in order to be approved: the program's course offerings must meet the student's educational/academic goals in a way that no analogous AU Abroad program can; they must offer a sustained experience directly interacting in a single culture; they must meet AU's quality standards and learning objectives. Students studying away on Permit status are not enrolled in AU courses and therefore cannot receive any AU institutional aid during that time. Students will receive transfer credit for work completed on their program. AU will charge an administrative fee of $2000/semester or $1000/summer to any student who participates on a program abroad via a Permit to Study Abroad when the Permit has been granted and is processed.
Once your student has been admitted to a study abroad program, the real work begins. The pre-departure preparations are many and detailed. They may include the following:
AU Abroad offers each program participant the opportunity to participate in a pre-departure orientation at AU to learn more about these preparations. Additionally, a range of pre-departure materials and forms will be required for each student to complete electronically. Those students who participate in a program offered through a study abroad organization, or a foreign partnering institution will likely receive additional materials and instructions directly from the study abroad program. For these students, pre-departure arrangements will take place largely between the student and the program, with AU Abroad assuming a supporting role.
During this phase, you will want to work with your son/daughter to establish a mutual understanding on how you will communicate while your student is away. You need to know what types of communication are readily available and what expenses are involved. Although cell phones have actually achieved a greater popularity around the world, most people overseas do not have a standard of keeping in touch on a daily basis. In addition, computers and the internet, while widely available in most (but not all) destinations, are not necessarily understood as on-demand items in the way we tend to view them in the US. In some more out-of-the-way locations, such as Nigeria and Cuba, communication can be quite spare and difficult to achieve; there may be times when you will simply not be able to communicate with your son or daughter at your convenience.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.