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Information for Parents

As the parent of a child studying abroad, we would like to thank you for being supportive of her or his decision. Allowing your child to participate in Study Abroad allows him or her to grow in their cultural awareness, responsibility, and self-sufficiency. Our staff believes that it is the student's role to make the major decisions required to study abroad. While we are more than happy to speak with parents about the process, it is ultimately the student's responsibility to complete all the work required to study abroad. Due to privacy legislation, UMSL Study Abroad cannot release information to any third party (including parents) regarding your student or program without his or her explicit consent. If you have questions about your child's program or plans, the best place to start is by asking him or her. Even though it is the student's responsibility to complete the required steps to study abroad, we know they could not do it without your help and support. Thank you.

The advantages of a study abroad experience for participants are easy to enumerate: increased self-confidence, an awareness of and sensitivity to people and places outside the home society and an introduction to alternative ways of living and learning. The community and the country benefit as well from students going abroad to study. With increasing global interdependence, knowledge and adeptness at dealing with non-Americans is crucial to business, politics and society. The United States is part of the world and must deal with global questions and concerns on a daily basis. Although there are disputes about the direction of these interactions, it is undisputable that successful negotiations between countries depend on knowledge of other cultures, customs, politics and society. Study abroad can be an inaugural step in obtaining this knowledge. In the past decade study abroad programs have enabled increasing numbers of students to experience the challenges and opportunities of meeting and living in another culture. Once the domain of a select few students, the present-day study abroad scene encompasses diversity both in student population and locations visited. Here are just a few key benefits that last a lifetime:

  • Studies show that students who study abroad often graduate earlier and with higher GPA than their on-campus peers.
  • Study abroad can serve as a catalyst for increased maturation and self-confidence.
  • Cross-cultural communication, language skills, adaptability, ability to navigate difficult situations, and independence are only a few skills hiring managers are looking for. Students on study abroad how multiple opportunities to hone these skills on any of our programs. 
  • Students continue to earn credit toward their degree while traveling the world, experience new cultures, and having fun.

For additional information, please see this comprehensive publication: IIE’s A Parent’s Guide to Study Abroad.

  • Encourage your child to begin looking at programs early in their academic career. Most semester programs are open to students in their first semester junior year and beyond, although some programs, particularly short-term programs, may accept second semester freshmen or sophomores.
  • Have your child meet with the Study Abroad office. You are certainly welcome to attend appointments with the students; however, we will always encourage the students to make the appointments, come prepared with questions, and be self-supporting in their research. After all, studying abroad requires a great deal of independence, which we encourage from initial inquiry to program completion.
  • Review the program cost information and make sure you and your child understand the expenses involved with study abroad.
  • Attend our pre-departure orientation. Parents are more than welcome to join their child at their in person orientation to learn more about the study abroad experience. This orientation covers a variety of information including: health and safety, insurance, money, general safety tips, culture shock, academics and expectations. 
  • Depending on the program type, your child may need to obtain a visa. The Study Abroad office does not offer visa guidance and students should research this process by accessing the consulate or embassy webpages for their host country. The visa application process may require an in-person interview at the nearest embassy (for most cases, this is Chicago).
  • While abroad, your child may be experiencing a mix of emotions, or in some cases culture shock. We encourage you to read about culture shock and re-entry culture shock.

The University of Missouri system requires that all study abroad students have adequate insurance including emergency evacuation and repatriation for their physical, emotional, and financial well-being. Each study abroad participant is required to purchase accident and sickness insurance through GeoBlue. The Study Abroad office will provide specific instructions for enrolling in the GeoBlue insurance. No students may register for classes if not enrolled in the insurance. The GeoBlue website provides additional information about the details of the policy, contact information about English speaking doctors and facilities throughout the world and details about specific medications allowable and available in every country. Students should not cancel their US insurance policies for the time that they are abroad.

Additionally, students should enroll themselves (at no cost) in the UHC Global emergency and security insurance. View more information.

Costs vary by program and student should make a financial plan for themselves before going abroad. Costs are listed for each program on our website, but talking to a study abroad coordinator or returnee is the best way to truly understand the costs in their country abroad. Current exchange rates can be found online.

Your student should have his or her own credit card and ATM card. Most credit cards now charge for international transactions. Your student should check with the issuing company so that he/she understands the financial responsibilities of the card. Even if the student does not plan to use a credit card, it is necessary for each student to have one in his or her own name in case of emergency. Prior to departure you should discuss payment of credit card bills, cell phone bills, car payments, rent, etc.  How is this to be accomplished while the student is away?

View more information on costs by program type.

For each UMSL faculty-led or exchange program, students pay for tuition through the UMSL Cashier's Office. These expenses will appear on the student account. Faculty-led programs often have a program fee that covers housing, excursions, etc. What is covered by the program fee is viewable on the program-specific brochure page. The program fee is charged to the student's account after they are accepted into the program. Other expenses such as airline tickets, housing, passports and visas and personal expenses are the responsibility of the student and another party, for example the housing organization of the host university. Housing often involves a contract which, depending on regulations, might be binding. The student should thoroughly investigate all details involving expenditure: are deposits required? Is any money refundable? Is payment accepted by credit card or are checks and cash acceptable? Must students have certain funds available when checking into their housing? You may also wish to consider having a Power of Attorney, a legal document authorizing you to act on behalf of your child. More information on that document and how to obtain it can be found on the below link.

View more information on financial aid, scholarships, and Power of Attorney.

Cultural stress (formerly culture shock) is disorientation when arriving in a new culture. All students will experience some kind of cultural stress while abroad. Your job as a parent is to be supportive, but to encourage students to fully experience their time abroad. For students who cope by not communicating, a call or email reminding him or her of your trust in them and their abilities may help shorten this phase of discomfort. Of course, if you feel something major is wrong, do not hesitate to contact the program leader or international office of the host university.  There is gradual improvement when the student learns to accept and adjust to his or her new environment. All is well as it can be and once again phone calls and emails will decrease in number but increase in reports of new friends, foods and experiences. It is helpful for parents to remember that a student who does not experience some measure of culture shock may not be making the most of the experience of study abroad.

When your son or daughter returns to the US, he or she is stepping off the plane with a new set of problems: reverse cultural stress. Again this will vary from student to student and will be more apparent in those who have spent the longest time away or spent most time in cultures very different from the US. The "curve" and symptoms of reverse culture shock are very similar to the ones experienced when first overseas. But there is a difference because it is so unexpected. How can there be "stress" when the student is returning home? Your child has been places and experienced things that have changed him or her and you were not there to observe. Hopefully students have learned not only about another city and country but also about themselves and their home country. This may make a student very critical of our customs, laws and life styles. They have stories and pictures and refer to people and places you never met or saw. They may use foreign phrases or expressions. Their friends may be "shallow" or boring. Again, listening and looking at the pictures, accepting their irritability and criticism will help them smooth this latest transition. Gradually they will assimilate their new experiences into their lives making them and their family richer for it. And, if he or she really enjoyed their experience, do not be surprised when talk begins about going back or doing another study abroad.