Study abroad is a great opportunity that will provide students an outlet to grow emotionally and intellectually. Previous study abroad students have stated their time abroad helped them become more independent and self confident people who are flexible when changes occur.
The five stages of the study abroad process are; planning, preparing, departing, abroad and return. As a parent, you'll have the ability to support your student in each stage. It is important to encourage your student as they are experiencing each stage, but also remind your student to take responsibility for their participation in the program. Your student should not expect that you will do the work for them.
Students in the planning stage are considering a study abroad program. Elon offers an array of programs with varying requirements, lengths and costs. Encourage your student to research the programs that they are interested in. If they do not have a passport that will be valid six months after they return from their term abroad, encourage them to apply for a new passport now. The GEC website contains information on the individual programs, the application process and each stage of the study abroad process for students. If your student has questions, encourage them to set up an appointment with a Program Advisor. Appointments can be made by calling 336-278-6700.
During the preparing stage, students should apply for one program. Once the application is complete, GEC staff will evaluate the application and assign a status. Several statuses, conditionally accepted or conditionally approved, may require the student to fulfill additional requirements. A checklist with required elements and deadlines will be added to each individual's application homepage. It is important that students take full responsibility for their applications, deadlines and any required elements.
Students participating in Semester or Summer term programs will be provided with the dates of general and program specific orientations. Attendance to all program orientations is mandatory. Winter term students will have a mandatory Spring orientation and Fall STA course. The dates for each Winter term orientation and STA course are listed on the individual program pages.
Use the preparing stage to set expectations for frequency of communication, travel, and spending budget. There are a lot of logistical components to study abroad, make sure you sit down with your student and ask questions. When will you know that they have arrived safely? How often will you hear from them? Who is paying for travel and gifts while abroad? Make sure you are setting realistic expectations with your student.
The departing stage can be stressful for student and parent alike. During this time, students may excited, frazzled or jittery to start their program. You may have to calm your students and reassure them that study abroad, though challenging, is not impossible to do. Remind your student to pack only what they will need for their time abroad. They are responsible for carrying their own luggage from the airport to their accomodations, and they should make sure that they are able to pick up and move their luggage by themselves. Ask your student for a copy of their flight itinerary and their passport.
While your student is abroad, it's imporant that you support your student as they experience culture shock. Culture shock occurs when a student is in an unfamiliar environment and experiences volatile ups and downs. This stage is full of good and bad days/experiences that can be bewildering for both the student and observers. How long and how strongly a student experiences culture shock varies from individual to individual. When a student experiences a bad day during culture shock, encourage your student to go out and explore the local area, or to try something they've never done before. Journaling is a great way for students to track their emotions and feelings. If your student does journal, tell them to write down both the good and the bad while abroad. Remind your student that they are abroad to study, but should take advantages of the opportunites present in another country.
Once your student returns from their term abroad, they will go through a readjustment period. During this period, your student may experience reverse culture shock. Reverse culture shock may cause students to compare everything to the country they stayed in during their term abroad. Students may experience mood swings and be bored at home. The length of the reverse culture shock period depends on the individual, how long they were abroad and how frequently they were in communication with people at home. Your student will gradually adjust to being home and should use their experience and skills gained abroad to get involved at Elon, or explore other international opportunities. Encourage your student to market their experience abroad to gain an internship or job.
As a parent, it is important to realize that the student you send abroad will probably not be the same when they return. No matter the length of the program or the location, study abroad provides students the opportunity to expand their perceptions and knowledge. Celebrate the change in your student and encourage them to continue growing intellectually and emotionally.