Parents & Guardians: How to help

Studying abroad is an exciting and wonderful experience for students that helps develop their critical thinking skills and their overall independence. However, studying abroad can bring a certain amount of anxiety and stress to students.  While these emotions are completely natural and will subside with time, the International Center understands the important role that parents, guardians and other loved ones can play in supporting students while they are going through this process.

The International Center urges you, as loved ones, to review our website for all of the information pertaining to study abroad so that you can familiarize yourself with the study abroad process and what your student will be experiencing.  Additionally, below is some general advice for loved ones of students studying abroad.

Things to do

  • Be supportive of your student’s decision to study abroad.  This is an immense decision and will have largely positive outcomes on your student’s personal and academic development.  Your support will help your student quell the anxiety that comes with facing the unknown.
  • Encourage your student to create solutions for issues that arise.  These issues often mimic real-life scenarios that student’s may face after graduation.Facing them as a student in a more controlled environment will help them know what to expect later in life.
  • Communicate with your student while he/she is abroad. There are many free and inexpensive ways to communicate internationally, and it may help your student to have a reminder of home while in a foreign environment.  Additionally, if you are able to do so, plan a vacation to visit them during the second half of the student’s overseas program.  This will allow your student to show off the new environment he/she now calls home while welcoming you to it.
  •  Understand that this experience may affect your student’s idea of self.  Studying abroad exposes students to new cultures and ideas that may influence your student’s overall perception.  Understand that this is a normal process and that your student has developed as an individual.  Additionally, when your student returns home, he/she will most likely face some challenges in readjusting to American life.  Please know that this is normal for study abroad students.  and encourage your student to share experiences with you to help them through this period.
  • Consider ensuring that you or your spouse possess a passport valid throughout the duration of your student’s time abroad that can be used for emergency situations that may arise.

Things to avoid

  • Avoid trying to plan the study abroad experience for your student.  Allow your student to plan as much of the program as possible.  You may be surprised by the amount of responsibility and maturity that develops from this process.
  • Avoid trying to solve all the problems that arise in their study abroad process.  Many of these decisions can be handled more quickly by allowing and encouraging your student to come up with solutions on their own.
  • Try not to call them every day to check in, and do not worry if your student has not spoken with you in a few days.  Students often live on schedules that are far different from the standard schedule here in the United States and living in a different time zone further exacerbates these challenges.  Try setting a scheduled time to communicate with each other and be understanding if your student needs to reschedule.
  • Do not go with your student overseas to help them “settle in” to their new homes.  While this may seem helpful, it will have negative effects on your student’s ability to adjust to life overseas and may further the effects of culture shock.  Additionally, if you visit your student overseas, please do not take them out of class to travel.  Foreign universities may be less understanding of absences than UF and it may inadvertently have negative ramifications on your student’s grades.
  • Try not to be angry if your student acts differently upon return to the United States.  Your student has spent a long period of time in a culture that may be very different from life at home, and it may take time to readjust.  Please be patient with your student and know that your student will soon readjust to life in the United States.

While we hope that the information presented on our website is enough to help you understand the study abroad process, we understand that you may have additional questions that we have not answered.  Please feel free to contact the Study Abroad Advisor for your student’s program.