Supporting Your Student
Your student is about to embark on an exciting adventure studying abroad. They'll meet new people, have new experiences, learn and see more than ever before and chances are they'll be excitedly telling you all about it back home. Supporting your student abroad is a core goal you share with the Office of Study Abroad. It can be a challenge but we're here to help.
Studying abroad for a summer, semester, or year can come with a lot of logistical preparation. Some students may ask for family help and support throughout the preparation process. Assisting your student through the process is a great way to remain involved but make sure to allow them to take ownership as many of the processes will be tasks they may need to navigate on their own while abroad. Some examples of key logistical processes are the visa process (if necessary), program applications, setting up academic, physical, or religious accommodations, preparing medications for abroad, setting up mental health support while abroad, among others. In all of these, asking your student questions about where they are in the process is helpful. We are always happy to speak with both students and their families together so everyone can feel like they are on the same page but also allow your student to take the lead in preparing for their time abroad.
Whether your student comes from outside the United States or from nearby Waltham, chances are your student will be a lot farther from home when they're abroad. Something to keep in mind is that how you communicate with your child may change.
Setting some expectations of the type of communication you want to receive while your student studies in another country is an important step to take before your child leaves and once they arrive in their new country. In some cases students may not have a usable phone at first.
When talking to your student abroad, don't be surprised if you hear waves of excitement and disappointment. It is common for anyone experiencing a new culture to ride these waves. It's an important time to listen and calm your student if needed.
Physical mail may sound like a thing of the past but can be a welcome treat to students who have a mailbox abroad and may find themselves missing home. Packages may need to be mailed to a different address so check with your student's program administration before sending anything. Most countries will also have a customs fee due when the package arrives that you or your student may be responsible for, so be sure to research this and ask your student's program for guidance before sending a package.
Students frequently use social media to document their experiences abroad and keep in touch with loved ones back home as well as friends studying at Brandeis and elsewhere. Talking to your student about being able to follow their experiences through social media can be a useful way to stay connected while they are studying abroad.
Although social media can be an important way to document experiences and stay connected, we also encourage students to live in the moment while abroad and remember that social media can glorify the study abroad experiences and set unrealistic expectations. During Pre-Departure Orientation for all Brandeis study abroad students, we discuss the likelihood that students have seen photos online from past study abroad students who are only choosing to share their best moments abroad. Students are reminded that while studying abroad, some days will be better than others, and it is normal to feel homesick and seek support while studying abroad.
Adjusting to a new culture and environment can be tough for a student. Many will experience highs and lows throughout their time abroad at varying levels. One of the best ways to prepare for this adjustment is for a student to set realistic goals. These goals will help your student work towards cultural understanding and ensure their time abroad is beneficial. We encourage students to think about how study abroad will affect the personal, academic, and professional spheres of their life. By coming up with some goals in this area beforehand a student may have a better sense of why they're studying abroad later.
Occasionally concerns do arise and a student may not feel at home in a different country. Students are always encouraged to reach out to Study Abroad staff but we find they tend to speak with family and friends first and more frequently. Here are some tips you can give your student if they're finding the adjustment difficult:
Tell someone on the program - staff or faculty. These professionals live onsite and can give your student some ideas on how to deal with their cultural adjustments.
Refer to your student's goals for studying abroad. Remind them what benefits they'll be getting out of the experience.
Encourage your student to find a way to connect with the local community. Such ideas include: community service, university clubs/activities/sports, and cultural events.
Be careful not to react too quickly. As communication will be strained and not as frequent as you might be used to, it is possible you may only hear how your student is feeling in the moment. We often find students need to vent in the moment and that allows them to release their frustrations while adjusting to a new location.
For many students, study abroad may be one of their first experiences managing a budget. There are many resources available to students through Student Financial Services and the Office of Study Abroad. A good starter is the Financial Overview page. On this page you can find:
Affording Study Abroad presentation
Budget Planning Worksheet
Budget Planning Worksheet video
Your student's program can be a great resource for students and families on keeping healthy and safe while abroad. Many will send out information in advance of departure and complete on-site orientations upon arrival into the country. Some ways you can best support your student are by:
- Knowing the emergency contact information for your student's program and using it only in times of emergency
- Reminding your student to complete any medical documentation prior to leaving for abroad; helping with the logistics of getting medication in advance
- Asking your student if they have resources, like mental health support or academic accommodations, set up in advance of departure
A semester or summer abroad goes by quickly and attendance in class, for academic programs, or internships is important and often mandatory for the student. If you do plan to visit your student abroad, we suggest that you do so during a schedule academic break or after the academic semester ends.
The worst times to visit are usually the first two weeks and the last two weeks of any program. These periods are full of cultural adjustments, academic intensity, and require the full attention of the student.
Many families and parents do visit their students while abroad or travel to other locations to meet their student. This can be a great experience if properly timed and with input from your student. Consult with your student about whether a visit will work. You could meet them after their program ends.
A student's return from studying abroad can be a bittersweet time of transition. In some cases it can be as hard or harder than the initial shock of living in a new country. You may ask yourself - who is this new person? Why does my child now use local language they picked up or sit in silent reflection more frequently? These could be cultural norms that they picked up while abroad. They may wear off over time, but hopefully you'll see a more developed and independent person who has grown from studying abroad - that shouldn't wear off.
Your student may find that their relationships with others have become strained while they lived abroad. This is normal and should adjust in time. Some coping methods for dealing with this and for the potential adjustment to home include:
- First Steps
- Brandeis-Run Programs
- Approved Affiliated Programs
- Resources for Abroad
- Health, Wellness, and Safety
- Returning to Brandeis
- For Families
- For Faculty
- About Us
Contact Us/After Hours Emergency
Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns. Our staff and contact information can be found on the Contact page.
In case of an emergency after normal office hours that affects the health and safety of a Brandeis student studying abroad, please contact the Brandeis University Office of Public Safety at 781-736-3333 and ask to have a study abroad staff member contacted regarding the emergency.
Usdan 169, MS 073
415 South Street
Waltham, MA 02453