P A R E N T S & F A M I LY G U I D E TO STUDYING ABROAD
What to know and when for SAI undergraduate study abroad programs
The journey ahead is a very exciting time for your student â€“ and for you, too! We understand the importance of your studentâ€™s safety, health, and academics and the questions that come along with studying abroad. This guide will discuss what to expect as the parent or family member of a study abroad student and answer many of the questions you may have. Our guide is divided into three stages of study abroad, Pre-departure, On-site, and Return Home, as well as some information for those parents whose students are still in the research stage of study abroad. We have included information to guide the conversation between parent and student, with the goal of empowering students to do their own research and use this as a time to grow and learn. We hope this guide helps you in this process. If you still have unanswered questions after reading through this guide, feel free to check the FAQ section of our website or contact us directly.
In the research stage a student has shown interest in studying abroad but has not yet decided on a location or school. With a wide world full of beautiful cities and cultures, choosing a host city and program can be difficult. Parents and guardians can help students to think through their options by asking them the right questions about what they are looking for. Below are some suggested questions to help in this discussion: • What languages are you most interested in learning? • How immersive would you like your program to be? • Have you met with your home school study abroad office and discussed your interest? • How long do you hope to study abroad? • What are your academic and personal goals for studying abroad? • Are there any courses you want or need to take abroad? • What are your main concerns regarding studying abroad?
Once your student has answered some of the above questions, it is time to contact SAI to get started!
P r e - D e pa r t u r e
The Pre-Departure stage is when the reality of study abroad begins to set in. Your student has applied and been accepted; yet, there are still important points to be discussed. Consider talking to your student about the following points.
Logistics Passport and Visa If students do not already have a valid passport, they should begin their application immediately. Please note that passports should generally be valid for at least 6 months after planned departure from the host country. If a student visa is required, SAI sends students detailed instructions regarding how to apply. Since this is a very time-sensitive process, discuss with your student the status of his or her application to ensure it is on the right track. The SAI Student Visa Office is always available to provide assistance and answer questions. Arrival anD Departure Dates SAI Signature Services programs include airport pick-up and transfer to SAI housing during the designated arrival dates and times. Students are asked to take note of the arrival and departure dates and times and book flights accordingly. In order to arrange for the SAI airport pickup, students must fill out the online SAI PreDeparture Form noting their arrival details.
Course Registration and Credit TransfER Course registration steps are specific to each SAI program. Students should meet with their home school academic advisor to approve the transfer of the courses they take abroad back to their home school. Discuss with your student the steps she or he has taken for course registration and approval of credit transfer. Financials Have a conversation with your student about SAI program fee payments, including financial aid processing and payment deadlines. Ask your student if he or she has applied for an SAI scholarship. If you will be providing financial assistance to your student abroad itâ€™s important to discuss budgeting, and make a plan for the funds. Finally, itâ€™s important to discuss the different sources of money your student will use abroad. Students should have various options, including ATM card, credit cards and cash. The first few days abroad can be stressful, and we suggest arriving with a few hundred dollars in local currency to get started. Encourage your student to research any foreign transaction fees or ATM fees that banks and credit card companies will impose.
important Documents Encourage your student to think about all his or her important documents, and what he or she might do in the event of losing an original while abroad. We recommend that students make copies of all important documents, leaving one set at home, and carrying one set with them. This includes passport and visa scans, medical information, scans of ATM and credit cards, etc. Means of Communication Talk to your student about her or his means of communication while abroad. As a safety measure, all SAI students are required to have a working cell phone number on which they can be reached while they are abroad. Phone numbers that are accessible only with wifi (airplane mode) are not sufficient, and do not meet SAI requirements. For ease and simplicity, SAI has partnered with a cell phone company to offer host country phone numbers to students. Students are not required to purchase this cell phone service; there are many options for cell phone use while abroad. The most popular option is to bring an unlocked cell phone and purchasing a host country SIM card. Additionally, itâ€™s helpful to make a plan for staying in touch with your student while he or she is abroad. For example, think about planning weekly Skype or Facetime calls, or communicating via free smartphone apps such as WhatsApp.
Housing SAI housing provides all basic necessities, including linens, towels and kitchen essentials. Students who would like more items are encouraged to purchase them in-country instead of traveling with them. Your student will receive his or her SAI housing assignment (including address and roommates/ housemates) prior to departure. Once they do, discuss where and with whom they will be living. Emergency Contact Handbook SAI emails out a handbook that closely resembles what students receive to all those designated as Emergency Contacts by students. The handbook provides logistical, cultural, safety, and travel information that parents and guardians may find useful.
C u lt u r a l U n d e r s ta n d i n g & Language Encourage your student to research her or his host city or country by reading the news, buying a guidebook, and reading the SAI student handbook. Your student may also enjoy learning some basic host language prior to arrival.
H e a lt h a n d S a f e t y Health Preparation Talk to your student about any health concerns, and make sure that he or she is aware of his or her full medical history, including vaccinations. Students are encouraged to speak with their SAI Admissions Counselor regarding any health concerns. If your student will require any medications while abroad, discuss the options for obtaining the medication or traveling with it. SAI Health Insurance All students are provided with CISI student health insurance during their program. Be sure your student has printed his or her SAI CISI health insurance card prior to departure. As part of the SAI orientation, students learn about how to use their health insurance, and receive a list of recommended doctors. Safety Student safety, security, and well-being are of primary importance to SAI. SAI Safety, Crisis, and Emergency Management Procedures are in place to ensure a safe environment abroad. That said, it is vital to note that all program participants take responsibility for their own safety, security, and well-being while abroad. Talk to your student about common sense safety precautions.
crisis Communication Work with your student to create a crisis communication plan so both you and your student know what to do and expect in the event of an emergency. Upon arrival students are provided with detailed emergency contact information, including a 24 hour emergency phone number. Independence Your student is about to set off on a great adventure of independence that will challenge, excite, and inspire her or him. Talk to your student about the ups and downs that she or he may experience, and stress the pride and accomplishment that comes with learning to overcome challenges and celebrate strengths, while asserting ones independence. Reassure your student that you will be there if he or she needs you, while encouraging him or her to overcome his or her own hurdles.
T r av e l D ay As your student sets off to his or her study abroad program, talk to him or her about what to expect out of the flight and arrival. This can be an understandably disconcerting time for students, and reassurance from parents is meaningful. Prepare your student for common frustrating events such as delayed flights, missed connections, and lost luggage. All SAI students receive a link to access information about arrival and airport transfer as well as a calendar detailing events taking place during the first few days of the program.
Stage 02: Onsite
How can I help my student adjust? Many students experience homesickness and culture shock throughout their study abroad program—this is normal. If your student is having difficulty adjusting, give her or him some ideas for how to overcome the challenge: • Engage and participate in activities (volunteering, student clubs, SAI cultural events, exercise classes, etc.).
The big day has arrived and your student is jetting off to another country. While this is a scary thought to some parents, remember that this is an opportunity unlike any other for your student to become independent. Sit back and enjoy the stories and photos your student shares! What if my student calls with a concern? The first few weeks of a study abroad program can be filled with uncertainty, discomfort, and challenges as students begin to find their place in a new setting. Students often speak with their parents about some of those immediate concerns, leaving parents feeling helpless. If your student contacts you with a concern, encourage him or her to be proactive and speak with SAI onsite staff, their Admissions Counselor, or host school staff. Many concerns can be easily fixed on-site.
• Keep an open mind about your host culture, and try not to form opinions while you are still learning about it. • Write about your experiences through a blog or journal, create a photo journal, or talk about it with friends or family from home; this can help you reflect on positive experiences, and identify growth. • Explore your new city by setting clear goals. For example, plan to stop in a new coffee shop each morning, walk a new neighborhood each week, etc. • Strive for balance in your activities. Balance nights out with friends with an independent yoga class, or long days studying with a good meal cooked with housemates. Be sure to make time for introspection. • Make it a point to interact with locals, even if by using gestures to order food or figure out directions.
Can I send mail to my student? Yes! The mailing address for your studentâ€™s particular program is included in the student handbookâ€”keep in mind it can take a while to arrive. If you are shipping packages, be sure to check that what you are mailing can be shipped across borders. Can I visit my student abroad? It is not uncommon for parents to want to experience the joys of study abroad with their student. If you intend to visit your student in their host city, we recommend doing so after the first few weeks of the program so that students have time to get acclimated with their city. What if my student has a health or safety emergency? Students receive detailed information regarding what to do in the event of an emergency during their on-site orientation, including the SAI 24 hour on-site emergency contact number. If your student is having an emergency and he or she is unable to contact SAI directly, parents and guardians can use the emergency contact numbers listed on our website (www. saiprograms.com/alerts) to contact SAI on-site staff. Parents and guardians should note that these numbers are intended for on-site use, and if the event is not a true emergency, parents and guardians are asked to call the SAI U.S. phone number during regular business hours.
What if an emergency event occurs that may have impacted my student? If parents or guardians become aware of an emergency event that may have impacted their student, they are encouraged to attempt to contact their student directly before contacting SAI. Immediately after an emergency event, SAI places priority on confirming the safety of all affected students, and then on communicating their safety to relevant parties (including parents and home schools).
Returning home The time will fly by and before you know it your student will be home. While life has remained relatively the same for everyone at home, your student has gone through tremendous changes, from cultural integration to new friends, time changes to new foods. The best you can do for your student upon their return is to listen to their stories and support them as they readjust to life at home. Security Deposit Refunds The security deposit paid to SAI, less any applicable charges, is refunded to the student within 60 days of departure, provided the apartment is left reasonably clean and without damages, and that all accounts are settled. The SAI program fee includes normal utility use, and a final cleaning fee, but excessive use of utilities could incur additional charges. If applicable, students receive an email with an explanation of any additional charges. Transcripts All students enrolled in an SAI undergraduate program automatically receive U.S. credit for their courses abroad. Upon return, students receive instructions for requesting their transcript, if necessary. It may take up to 12 weeks after the completion of a term for the transcripts to be sent; students should speak with their Admissions Counselor if they require a rushed transcript.
ReversE Culture Shock Though each student will have his or her own unique experience with reverse culture shock – or not experience it at all – it is helpful to be prepared for how to deal with it. If your student is experiencing any of the following, he or she may be dealing with reverse culture shock: • • • • • • •
Frustration Boredom Feeling unable to share stories/experiences “Homesickness” for their study abroad home Feeling as if people at home have changed Comparing home to abroad life Not knowing how to use the skills learned abroad
What can you do?
1. Let your student know you are here to listen. Often study abroad students fear annoying people back home with their stories from abroad—the classic “we get it, you studied abroad.” It is important to be there for your student and allow her or him to express her or himself through stories. 2. Help your student find re-entry opportunities, such as conferences in your area or events at your student’s home school. These are great ways to connect your student with other recent study abroad students who are going through the same things. 3. Encourage your student to stay involved! Joining SAI alumni groups, working for their home university’s study abroad office, or becoming an SAI Alumni Ambassador are all great ways for your student to stay connected to his or her experience.
SAI Alumni Opportunities The SAI Alumni Network LinkedIn Group is a great tool for students looking to use their skills from study abroad in their future endeavors. Alumni can post helpful articles (tips for adding study abroad to your resume, how to use study abroad in your grad school application, etc.) and job opportunities abroad/related to international education. The SAI Ambassador Program provides SAI alumni the opportunity to share their study abroad experiences with prospective students, while building their knowledge of international education. SAI ambassadors assist in study abroad fairs on their home campus, facilitate group informational sessions about studying abroad, and work with SAI University Relations staff on a wide array of tasks, all while gaining valuable experience to put on their resume. At the end of the program, ambassadors are eligible for a paid internship with SAI or participation in a local NAFSA conference.
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