How To Support Your Student While They're Abroad

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IES Abroad
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Spending a semester abroad can truly be a life-changing experience for your student. It fosters personal and academic growth that can only be experienced by stepping out of the familiar, and into something new. During this new and exciting time, here are five things to think about as you help your student prepare for their adventure abroad: 

  1. Be informed and prepared for health and safety matters. Traveling is now more complex due to the lingering impact of COVID-19, and your student may require your assistance more than ever to navigate a lengthy passport  and visa process or to coordinate COVID-19 testing to meet airline requirements.
    • Learn what vaccinations (such as COVID-19!) they need to have before they go and what impact having proof of a COVID-19 vaccination can have to increase their access abroad and reduce quarantine concerns.
    • Ensure that their passport is valid, or begin the passport application process well in advance if this is their first trip out of the country. Since passport processing times have been significantly delayed, we encourage you to begin this process even if your student isn't sure if they want to study abroad quite yet. 
    • Review our health, safety, and crisis management information. Understand how your student would be supported if a medical situation arises.
    • Research security advisories in the country where your student is going through the Department of State. Help your student be well informed about their program, and the country they are traveling to, in order to avoid difficult and stressful situations later.
  2. Make a communication plan with your student. A communication plan can help avoid unnecessary worry, but know that having time unplugged from constant technology and social media is an important aspect of studying abroad. Set guidelines with your student so that you are in the loop about weekend travel plans, while still giving your student independence. Set these expectations for communication before they depart, so that everyone is on the same page about staying connected.
  3. Know that there will be a roller coaster of transition and emotions throughout their time abroad and even after they return home. There will be challenges that, while difficult in the moment, are often the basis for amazing personal and intercultural growth. There will be days full of amazing accomplishment and days they will wish they were at home. Try not to be tempted to solve every challenge that arises. The resilience your student develops by navigating these challenges independently in the moment will serve your student well throughout life, and help them become a lifelong competent traveler. Help your student look at challenge as an opportunity to grow and mistakes are ok.
  4. Listen. Whether it is on the challenging days when nothing seems to be going right and homesickness has set in, or the days after your student returns home and is talking nonstop about their adventures abroad, listening is the most valuable resource you can offer to your student. Give them time and your listening ear to process what is on their mind in a safe space.
  5. Embrace diversity. Whether it is the location where your student studies, the roommate or family your student lives with, or opportunities to immerse in the local culture, studying abroad is an experience to learn from the diversity of others. Help your student embrace the diverse perspectives of others.

While international travel may seem daunting due to the lingering impact of COVID-19, with some flexibility, it is also a great opportunity to experience how other cultures responded to this universal challenge during this unique time in history.

For more resources on how IES Abroad is prioritizing student health and safety, see our Health & Safety page

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