“Mom, I have to tell you something,” your daughter says. “I really want to study abroad in Morocco junior year.”
Immediately you start worrying: Morocco? Is that safe? Why so far? Is this really necessary?
Studying abroad can be one of the most enriching parts of a student’s college experience. But, clearly, it’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly, by you or your student. Here are the four important topics you need to cover before saying “yes” to studying abroad.
1. Why Study Abroad?
Studying abroad isn’t a luxury. For many students, it’s an essential part of their academic success. Whether they’re interested in studying business, urban planning, art, medicine, political science, a foreign language or something else entirely, a study-abroad experience can give them the experience and confidence to succeed. Studying abroad also allows a young person to question assumptions and prove they can navigate a complex world.
Why “most students” want to go isn’t the important thing. The big question is why your child wants to study abroad. Ask him! He should be able to articulate how a semester overseas will benefit him academically and personally. If he just shrugs and says, “It sounds like fun,” or “my friends are going,” that’s not enough. If your student simply wants to travel, she could do a shorter, summer study-abroad trip; a mission trip; or another type of overseas experience.
2. Study Abroad Safety
The number one question on a parent’s mind: “Is study abroad safe?” The best answer we can give: “Is life safe?” College study abroad programs make student safety a top priority, and the vast majority of students come home from their overseas adventure unscathed. Still, as a parent, you can’t help worrying about the risks of theft, violent crime and terrorist attacks overseas.
When talking about study abroad safety with your child, a good place to begin is the country information provided by the U.S. Department of State. This info is kept up to date, so it accurately reflects health, safety and security concerns for every nation in the world. You might discover, for instance, that while kidnappings and violent crime are a danger in some parts of Mexico, the city of Mérida, where your daughter wants to study, is considered safe for travelers.1
Talk with your child about how she plans to stay safe while studying abroad. Set some ground rules, like no solo excursions around the country. Look up the laws in the host country; many students wrongly think they can’t get in trouble for things like smoking pot or being drunk in public overseas. Ask your student to agree to a communication schedule, so you can expect a call or Skype session at a set time each week.
3. Study Abroad Costs
After talking about study abroad safety, the next big question is how to pay for it. Here’s the good news: tuition costs will probably be about the same as they are at your student’s U.S. university. Housing costs may be higher or lower, depending on the country where your student wants to go. GoOverseas has a helpful overview of study abroad costs (after airfare and program fees) in 10 of the most popular countries, which range from $2,200 for a semester in China to as much as $7,000 in England or Japan.
If your child is serious about studying abroad, insist on a budget and a plan. Study abroad scholarships and grants can help, but don’t forget the good old summer job. The last thing anyone wants is for your student to run out of money halfway through the trip.
4. Study Abroad Insurance
The last big topic to discuss with your child is the what-ifs. What if your student becomes ill? Injured? What if he loses his passport? What if he wants to stay longer? One thing that can help manage the what-ifs is having insurance for every aspect of a study-abroad trip.
- Medical insurance that works overseas is crucial for anyone studying abroad. Call your child’s insurer to find out what, if anything, it covers overseas, and what the restrictions are.
- Travel insurance can offer protection in dozens of common travel crises: lost or stolen luggage, delayed flights, covered trip cancellation or interruption, and medical emergencies. One option for students abroad is the Travelers Protection Plan from Allianz Global Assistance, an affordable travel insurance plan ideal for long overseas trips.
- Tuition insurance can protect your tuition investment if your student must withdraw from classes mid-semester for a covered serious illness or injury or mental health condition, or other covered reason. Allianz Tuition Insurance offers three plans that can follow your student overseas.