FAQs for Parents
TAKING THE FIRST STEP: DECIDING TO STUDY ABROAD
Why should my child study abroad?
In this increasingly competitive economy, studying abroad can give students an advantage over their peers in many ways. First, it can enhance a resume. Not only does it show instantly that someone has international experience, but it also implies students are independent, mature, confident and can communicate across cultures. Students can use their experiences to give employers concrete examples of how they use these skills. These skills are extremely valuable in any profession, not just careers directly related to international business. In addition to making students more marketable, studying abroad also has a significant impact on the individual. Students experience different perspectives of looking at global issues. The personal growth this generates is immeasurable. Students typically return home with more clarity in their academic and career goals. Studies also show that students who study abroad tend to be more motivated to complete their academic degree.
Students at the University of Memphis tend not to study abroad as much as their counterparts at other universities. Many parents and students may fear the unknown, or they may not understand its value because no one in their family has had a similar experience. These are common thoughts and fears; however, the world is changing, and students must keep up with their peers to be competitive as they venture off to obtain their first job.
Will my child be taking actual courses and receiving credit or will they be traveling
Our study abroad programs are academically rigorous programs designed to provide students with an international experience while earning credits. Students should not look at studying abroad as a trip or vacation. Students are expected to attend all classes and dedicate time to studying just as if they were taking a course at home. Semester students typically have more time to travel independently during school holidays, long weekends, etc., but summer programs are intensive and typically require students to stay close to school. If possible, summer program participants might elect to arrive early or stay for a time after their program to complete their desired independent travels.
Students are responsible prior to leaving the USA to complete the Transfer Credit Request form, which is a form that explains how the courses they plan to take will transfer back to Memphis. All students are strongly encouraged to speak with their academic advisors regarding required courses for their degree. Most students who study abroad take courses that count towards their degree requirements, but some students choose to go simply for the experience or will take an extra course on language or local culture.
My child has never left the USA before. Are they a good candidate to study abroad?
While studying abroad is an excellent opportunity for all students, and especially important for students who have never left the USA before, it is not recommended for all students. Please schedule a meeting with an advisor at the Study Abroad office to discuss any concerns you have about your child studying abroad. We will be happy to help you determine if your child is a good candidate for studying abroad.
I never studied abroad, and my career path turned out fine. Why is it important for
today's students to study abroad?
Today's world and economy are very different than in previous generations. Required job skills today include intercultural communication skills, independent‐thinking and maturity to take initiative, and adaptability, as job descriptions can change. The world has never been more connected than it has before, and the career aspect to this is that employers now expect students to have these skills before they apply for a job and not learn them on the job.
Is studying abroad safe?
Studying abroad is usually equally as safe as living at home. Granted, you must take into consideration cultural differences. For example, in Europe, pick‐pocketing is a typical crime, but shootings and terror threats typically are much less common than in the USA. Remember, the news always depicts the bad, and this can skew many Americans' thinking of what life is like in different countries. Students need to be smart: keep an eye on surroundings, keep money and valuables on their person and not flaunt expensive pieces of technology or leave it unattended, etc. Students should also observe the people of their host country carefully to see how they act, carry themselves, etc., and blend in to their new host culture as much as possible. Not only does this enhance their cultural experience, but it also can help them be less of a target for petty theft.
The Study Abroad Office will provide orientation for all students studying abroad and will discuss issues of health and safety while abroad with students. In addition, you as the parent must talk to your student about any concerns you have for their safety. You may schedule an appointment with your student to meet with a study abroad advisor to discuss any concerns you have. Although we are unable to guarantee your student's safety, we will be able to provide good advice as well as resources about safety in the host country to minimize any risks.
When is the best time within a degree program to study abroad?
It depends on each student's academic plan. Typically, sophomore year or early junior year are the best times to spend a semester abroad. For a summer program, there is much more flexibility.
Can I meet the study abroad advisor?
We love to meet with parents. Ask your child to schedule an advising appointment, and then come along to your child's appointment.
FINANCING STUDY ABROAD
How much does it cost to study abroad?
The answer to this question varies greatly by program. It is most cost‐efficient to do a semester abroad, as students have the most access to financial aid. However, there are some very cost‐efficient programs in the summer and some financial aid does exist for summer programs. Summer programs typically range from $2000 ‐ $5000 depending on the location, the number of credits, the type of program and services offered. Semester programs can range from the cost of UofM tuition (plus room and board fees) to about $19,000 on the very high end. Many semester programs are about the cost of paying 15 credit hours of Memphis tuition, a semester living on campus in the Carpenter Complex apartments and the cost of a full meal plan. Remember that different programs include different benefits. Be sure to ask your student if they know what is included in the program price and what is not.
Is financial aid is available?
Students are (typically) able to use the financial aid they receive during the semester at UofM towards their semester overseas. Students must be sure they have completed their FAFSA forms by the annual deadline. Remember, studying abroad is an investment, just as a college education is, and it would be very rare to have a study abroad program fully funded on scholarships alone. Students do need to contribute either through loans or personal funds. Below is a list of useable financial aid/scholarships our students take advantage of. Some options below apply to summer programs as well as semester programs.
Merit Scholarship and its study abroad stipend (Stipend may be used towards semester
or summer program)
Presidential Scholarship and its study abroad stipend (Stipend may be used towards semester or summer program)
Emerging Leaders Scholarship
First Scholars Scholarship
Community College Transfer Scholarship
Hope Scholarship – (May be used for summer programs but there are specific requirements to qualify)
Student Loans (subsidized and unsubsidized – Possible to use for summer programs depending on eligibility)
Memphis Study Abroad Scholarship (semester and summer awards)
Scholarships through various academic departments
Gilman Scholarship (Competitive Department of State Scholarship for Pell Grant recipients)
Boren Scholarship (Competitive National Scholarship for students interested in National Security Issues)
Scholarships for students participating on Provider Programs
Additional National scholarships depending on field of study, location, GPA, etc.
Please visit our website at memphis.edu/abroad/funding/ for more information on available scholarships or schedule an appointment with a study abroad advisor.
Does it cost more if my child is an out of state student?
All students are charged in‐state tuition, or pay the same program cost as in‐state students when studying abroad.
Is it worth it for my child to take out an extra loan for this experience?
Students will have to look at their personal circumstances to decide what is best for them. If you ask those who have completed a study abroad experience, especially a semester program, the resounding answer is, 'Yes! Take out a small student loan if you need it.' It is very difficult to put a price on the value of studying abroad.
How do we submit payment for study abroad programs?
Students and parents make their payments through their MyMemphis TigerXpress account, just as they would normally pay their tuition and fees and follow the payment deadlines set up by the Bursar's office. Some programs will have extra fees for things such as lab fees, optional field trips, housing deposits, etc., that will be paid directly to the school/landlord upon arrival.
APPLICATION PROCESS AND PREPARING TO STUDY ABROAD
How do students apply?
Students should meet with a study abroad advisor to discuss their program choice. At this meeting, the study abroad advisor will go over the Memphis online application, discuss scholarship applications, and any additional applications needed for the specific program the student is applying to. Parents are welcome to come to this and any advising appointment.
How involved should I be in the study abroad application process?
Parents are an important part of their child's life. All students will do much better on their program if they have the support of their parents and family members. We encourage parents to ask their student questions about the program or come along to the advising appointment. We also understand all parents want to know that their child is safe and on a reputable program.
When it comes to the application process, encouragement and a little help can serve as an introduction to the study abroad experience, where students will be expected to be more independent. Typically, students who have only a little help in the application/visa process will be more successful at adapting to their program once abroad. This is because students who complete most items on their own and are responsible for meeting the deadlines in the application process already have developed some responsibility, independence, and understanding that deadlines and knowing your program are important. These skills carry over into their study abroad experience, as students will not be able to rely on their parents for every question that will come up. Parents do need to take a step back and "let go" of their children to an extent when they study abroad and trust that their children will begin their adjustment into adulthood. Studying abroad could be a great way to start this process.
What items are needed to apply to study abroad?
A study abroad application typically varies by program, but some items are present in all applications. For example, all students will need to digitally sign items that talk about the non‐refundable application fee, Memphis study abroad policies, including drug and refund policies, etc. All programs will require 2 letters of recommendation from Memphis faculty or staff. Students also mark off that they have read information on scholarships, such as the Memphis study abroad scholarship and Hope scholarship. Students will complete a budget form, upload transcripts, emergency treatment forms, emergency contact information, etc. The online application is set up as a check list so students can quickly see what has been completed and what is missing.
What about passports?
Passports serve as an official identification while traveling to show proof of U.S. citizenship. Passports are also needed before leaving and entering almost every country. Your student will need to have a passport to leave and return to the United States. The study abroad office provides students with information on applying for a first passport on their website at: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/first-time.html. The application process takes about 6 weeks on average after the application has been submitted; however, we have seen it take just over 2 months, so students should apply for their passport when they apply for the program, if not earlier.
What about visas?
A visa is a legal document granted by a foreign consulate that gives permission for the student to study and live in the foreign country. Most summer program participants do not need a visa, but there are a few exceptions. As a general rule, semester students require a visa. The study abroad office can help students find out if they need a visa and direct them to resources, such as the consulate of their host country abroad. The study abroad office will offer some assistance; however, it is the student's responsibility to obtain their visa. Students should contact the consulate directly to confirm they are aware of all requirements. Students typically work on their visa after they are accepted to the program, as they will need to provide documents from the host institution to obtain the visa. Some countries require students to have a visa in‐person interview at the consulate, which may mean a trip to Washington, D.C., Houston, Chicago, Miami, New Orleans, etc. For countries that require this, you will want to budget the cost of this domestic trip in your total program price. While visa applications can be a lot of work depending on the country, the sense of excitement and accomplishment felt by students after receiving their visas further prepares students for their study abroad experience.
What should my child do health wise to prepare for overseas travel?
All students will complete a health questionnaire as part of their application. This is important so that any potential concerns can be addressed before departure. This also helps students be prepared and allows them to discuss any concerns they may have. If a student has a medical condition or has had significant medical issues within the past three years, students may be asked to obtain a letter from their doctor clearing them to study abroad.
Some items we recommend doing before departure:
Check the CDC webpage (www.cdc.gov) to be sure your student is up to date on all current recommended vaccinations and
to see if there are any additional recommendations of immunizations for travel to
their specific destination.
Have a complete physical before departure – it is better to learn of any potential concerns before than after you have left the USA.
Have a complete dental check‐up and be sure any cavities are filled/taken care of before departure. Most international health insurances have very limited dental coverage. While dental care may be cheaper abroad in some locations, students are much more comfortable seeing their own dentist in their home country. What a student may consider a minor toothache can quickly escalate to excruciating pain within a few weeks or days, so seeing a dentist is very important.
Understand that mental health care is not as popular and not as wide‐spread as it is in the USA. If your child has a mental health or psychological concern, it is best to discuss how your student will handle the increased level of stress, new environments, etc., as culture shock can cause previously dormant symptoms to reappear overnight. While this may cause you to worry, students who have a realistic plan before they leave on how to deal with any potential issues that may surface tend to have very successful programs.
Obtain enough prescription medication for your entire program. Keep in mind that some prescription drugs that are legal in the USA are illegal in other countries. If this is the case, discuss with your doctor other medication options or check with the consulate to see if they have a process to allow patients with these types of drugs to take them into the country. Remember, students are responsible to follow the laws of the host country while they are there.
All that information is great, but what if there is a medical emergency while abroad?
Most programs have onsite staff that are available to assist students with any concern. Usually, students receive information at their arrival orientation for local hospitals, medical facilities, and emergency contacts. Some programs also have 24/7 phone numbers for students/parents to call if there is a true emergency.
Are students required to have international health insurance?
All students are required to purchase international health insurance and must provide proof of coverage to the Study Abroad Office before starting their program. If a student's current insurance covers them abroad, they may use their current insurance. You should call your provider and ask what the coverage is in the student's intended country along with any country the student plans to travel to. If their insurance does not cover them abroad, or if the coverage offered abroad is insufficient, you will need to purchase international health insurance. International health insurance is very reasonably priced and a lot cheaper than American insurance. Typically students pay between $40‐$45 per month for coverage. Students can find resources on international health insurance by inquiring at the study abroad office or in the student handbook for study abroad.
Are there any government websites that can provide information on the country and
culture my child is going to?
We recommend all students read the country information page found on the Department of State Website: http://travel.state.gov/ and register their travel with the Department of State STEP program (found on the same website) which will ensure students will receive alerts if an emergency should arise in their host country. This site is also a good source of information for US citizens in an international emergency.
What if my child has never been on a plane before? Will they be able to get around
okay in airports? Is there anyone who can help make sure the plane ticket purchased
is correct for the selected program?
Many of our students have never flown before let alone purchased airline tickets. Your child's study abroad advisor can assist them in this process. We know what things to look for to be sure students will have enough connection time, no overnight layovers, no airport changes in the same city, arriving on the correct date, etc. Students are welcome to set up an appointment for assistance in purchasing their flights. Once at the airport, students may be able to obtain assistance from airport and airline staff members to help direct students to where they need to go. Even in foreign countries, it is the norm for airline workers to have a working knowledge of English. Once tickets have been booked, students will need to check with each airline's website to learn about baggage weight allowances, extra fees for extra bags, or any other miscellaneous items. Students should also look on the TSA website to be sure they understand policies such as the amount of liquids and gels that can be carried on an airplane. Ask your student to inquire at the Study Abroad Office if there are other students traveling to the same location. We will be happy to introduce students going to the same destination so they can travel together.
How do students use money abroad?
This will vary by student, program, and location. First of all, it is a good idea to convert some money to the local currency before you leave. You can do this at banks (some require an early notice) or at the airport. You never know if you will need cash upon arrival for an unexpected situation. We also strongly recommend that students have a credit card they can use abroad. Students can apply before they go abroad or use one they already have, and in either case they should speak with the credit card company to learn if there are any fees to use it abroad and obtain a pin that they can use to withdraw money from ATMs. Remember, that while withdrawing money from ATMs is often the most convenient way to obtain local currency, your credit card company or bank may charge a fee for this as well as the ATM abroad. Other options include traveler's checks or cash, but please remember that if lost or stolen, cash is typically never recovered. Also, if students display large amounts of cash in any currency, they may make themselves a target for pick pocketing or theft. It also would be a good idea to discuss how the credit card bills will be paid. One option might be to have the parent receive the bills and send the payment. Another option could be students receive online statements and make payments online. Whatever you decide, always make sure your child has a plan B for money in case their wallet is lost or stolen. Students are advised not to keep all money and credit cards in one place. All forms of money should be in their carry‐on purse or suitcase when flying. On arrival at the host country students may open a bank account to deposit their money in or keep it in a locked suitcase at their residence. Ultimately, your child is responsible for their own money while abroad. If you are not confident in your child's ability to keep their funds safe, then travelers' checks may be an option to consider for travel.
What should students pack in their suitcases?
Students should travel as lightly as possible and only take what they need. Clothing should be able to be washed and line dried, as most cultures abroad do not use dryers. It is also smart to pack clothing that can be layered, especially for students going to a location with changing seasons or a significantly different climate, as students will eventually adapt to the new temperatures. A detailed list can be found in the Pre‐departure Student Handbook that all students receive at the pre‐departure orientation. As a general rule, if you will be gone for a semester or longer, pack as if you'll be gone up to 2 weeks.
What should my child pack in their carry‐on?
A student's carry‐on is essentially a mini‐necessity pack. Students will need to bring their passports, IDs, visas, and any important health documentation/prescriptions in their carry‐ons. It's also recommended to have copies of these important documents both with the student and at home with the parents. Students should have phone numbers for their program and their airline. Bring one full change of clothes along with a sweatshirt or coat – airplanes can be a bit cold. It's a good idea for student to bring some snacks in their carry‐on, as international flights are long and may only serve one meal. Finally, pack some things to do while flying or during layovers, such as music players, books, magazines, program materials to read, etc.
How do I make sure my child is okay when they are overseas?
Here is where sound planning and knowing as much about the program before going abroad kick into action. The more students have read about the program, host country, and culture, the better prepared students are to handle the new experiences that come to them. This can be the most difficult part for parents, as for many parents, this will be the first time their children are really independent. Parents need to trust their children to make their own decisions when it comes to their studies, communication, making friends, and handling any unexpected situation. When students arrive, most programs provide an orientation where students are given the on‐site emergency contact information and basic cultural differences are discussed. This orientation is very important in making sure students have the tools needed to succeed abroad. Some summer programs have a University of Memphis faculty member meeting the students for the program, in which case the professor would be the main contact for student questions. We encourage all students to get in touch with their family after they arrive (keep in mind that depending on the location, program, and student, this might be within 24 hours of arrival or a few days after arrival) to let them know they are on site and all is well. Parents may contact the study abroad office if they have difficulty contacting their student and we will assist in making contact.
What is culture shock?
It is very important that parents are aware of and understand the process of culture shock. When a person leaves everything they know behind, including people, food, city, and cultural norms, and goes to a completely new environment, there is always going to be a sense of shock. Students will be confronted with new norms, people, experiences, and assumptions non‐stop, and this can be overwhelming at first. Culture shock is a process that every student will experience when studying abroad; however, culture shock is not experienced the same way for every student. Each participant's adaptation will be different, and that is okay.
Think of culture shock as a roller‐coaster. There are highs and lows. You know they are coming, but until you are at each point, you don't know exactly what it will feel like. When students first arrive, students are very excited and taking everything in. They just landed in Rome! Shanghai! London! San Jose! This had been a dream for many students for so long and now they are actually there. After a while, the newness wears off, and students start to miss home. More correctly stated, students start to miss being in a familiar environment. It's nice to know what types of food you'll eat for dinner, or see your family members in the morning, or go to your favorite café on your way to school. This stage is called withdrawal and typically is a combination of homesickness and frustration at not understanding the host culture and/or language. It can be frustrating to always have to convert your money in your head or not understand why people mob around a ticket booth instead of in a single file line. Students might even call home in tears because it feels overwhelming, or they might say, "I don't like it here; I want to come home." Parents can help by listening to their child's observations and encouraging them. It also is a big help to focus on the student and not on what is going on back at home. Students will get through this stage, whether it happens after 3 weeks of being abroad or 2 months after being abroad – the timing will be different for everyone. If students say they want to come home, remind them why they wanted to study abroad in the first place, and that it is normal to have low days while they are adjusting. Acknowledging what your child is going through and encouraging them to get involved in the community, make new friends, and experience as many things as possible can be a huge help! The next stage is adaptation. At this point, students are becoming more familiar with their new environment. While students might prefer their home culture's way of doing certain things, students will understand that their host‐culture's way of doing things is not bad, just different and may even make more sense. At this stage, students see the value in making connections with new people and experiencing as much as possible as they know the end of their time abroad will come more quickly than they realize. Students also have figured out how to live and act as a local. Being mistaken as a local might just be the highest compliment your child might receive! Finally, some students may reach the biculturalism stage. Not all students reach this point, as significant time living in the culture is usually required. However, students studying abroad for a semester or year may. At this stage, students are able to live comfortably and blend in in both their home culture and host culture.
How do I communicate with them when they are abroad?
Communication can take many forms, including email, instant messaging, Skype, or phone calls home. Phone calls can be very expensive depending on each country's exchange rates, so international calling cards can be a cheaper alternative. Skype, email, and instant messaging are free! It is important that parents understand their role in their student's successful adaptation to their new culture. It is recommended that communicating with friends or family at home be limited to a few hours per week. A good idea is to set up a specific day and time when the student will be calling/Skyping home so that everyone knows when to expect the call. Limiting communication like this actually greatly benefits the student. If students are constantly in contact with or thinking about what is going on at home, they have one foot in their new country and one foot in the USA. This constant back and forth makes it very difficult for students to embrace and adapt to their new surroundings. While students may think it will help their homesickness to call home, the comfort from the call is usually short lived, and students actually start to miss home more than they did before the call. On the other hand, students that focus on their current life in their new culture and get involved in local activities adapt much more quickly, which in turn lessens homesickness. When parents speak with their child, parents should focus on what their child is doing abroad. What was your class like?What new friends are you making? Have you been to any cool restaurants? Questions such as these help students to focus on their current life and not think about things they might be missing back at home. If you as a parent go on and on about all the fun things happening at home or talk in depth about things family members are doing, this can contribute to homesickness and prevent your child from moving through the stages of culture shock as quickly as possible.
If my child has a problem and needs help solving it, who should they contact?
Students should contact the program coordinator or on‐site program staff. Students will be given this information upon arrival. On‐site staff is the quickest way for your child to receive help and are best equipped to provide assistance at the location. Students are also welcome to contact their study abroad advisor at the University of Memphis if they feel they are having difficulty solving their concern with the on‐site staff.
What if students will miss registration deadlines or other university deadlines while
Students can register for next term's courses while abroad using their online MyMemphis account. It is recommended that students speak with their academic advisor prior to going abroad to discuss possible course options and obtain guidance before they leave. Should any questions come up during registration, students can email their academic advisor.
RETURNING TO THE USA AFTER STUDYING ABROAD
What is re‐entry shock?
Re‐entry shock is often thought of as reverse culture shock. Re‐entry shock occurs when a student returns home and realizes that their world at home has changed and it is not the same as when they left. This can come in the form of relationships, changes in environment, such as a home remodel or family move, and the reality that they are no longer abroad. Students will miss people, places, food, and activities they experienced while studying abroad. A hard hitting reality many students will experience is that public transportation in the USA is significantly lacking compared to other countries. Students can no longer hop on a train or bus and go travel or see places as easily as they could while abroad. It is also important to note that students who spent a semester or year abroad are likely to have more pronounced reentry shock as they had adapted more fully to life abroad.
It is important that parents keep in mind that students have just come from an environment where they had to be very independent and rely on themselves. When students return to their parents' home and are expected to do their chores, follow household rules, and give up some of their independence they had while abroad, it is very common for students to be frustrated. Students also may experience difficulty expressing their thoughts and feelings because it is very difficult to describe such an incredible study abroad experience to someone who was not there or does not have a similar experience to relate to. This can cause communication breakdown and frustration for both students and parents. Parents can help by listening to their students and showing a genuine interest in learning about their experience abroad. The important thing for parents to remember is that students will adjust; it just takes time. The adjustment period requires patience and understanding from parents as well as the knowledge from students that they are experiencing re‐entry shock and accepting this fact. Remember, most students are at least a little prepared for culture shock because they were expecting it; however, most students do not anticipate re‐entry shock, so it can be more surprising and more difficult to deal with. Yet, it is part of the study abroad process, and students will come out with a much deeper understand of their home culture, host culture, and how each part of their experience connects them to people of different cultures.
What is the process for making sure credit earned abroad is added to their transcript?
Before students left to go overseas, they completed a Transfer Credit Request (TCR) form. At the end of the program and before they return home, students should confirm with the host institution that their official transcript from their study abroad program will be mailed directly to the address below:
University of Memphis
Study Abroad Office
Panhellenic Building Rm 110
Memphis, TN 38152
Students will be notified when we receive the transcript, and at that time, students will set up an appointment with the Admissions Office to complete the transfer process.
Can students study abroad again?
Students may study abroad again, especially if the first experience was a short term program. They may feel more confident to participate in a semester or yearlong program. Sometimes a student may choose to study in a different country or location. The important issue is for students to make sure they will be able to enroll in the necessary courses abroad so they do not delay their graduation.