There is a great deal of support that you can provide for the student in your life as they move through the process of selecting, applying for and preparing for their education abroad experience.
In particular, your emotional and moral support are critical as your student negotiates the process. However, there are also a number of steps that you cannot take on behalf of your student, since they themselves are the legal persons making the application to study on the program. Below is a summary of roles that you can and cannot fulfill.
Positive Roles for Families
General Moral Support. The decision regarding whether or not to study abroad is a major, life-altering decision and may - next to choosing in which university to study - be one of the most significant decisions that your student has to make in the course of their life. It is quite helpful to the student if her/his family can provide overall moral and emotional support as she or he navigates the challenging process of making a decision about whether and when to go abroad.
Selection Advice. Some parents or guardians may also be able to provide some advice to their student about where to study or intern abroad. Particularly, those parents/guardians who are well traveled can offer their own observations about several different countries or regions. You also can serve as a sounding board for your student, helping remind them of the advantages and disadvantages of various sites. In particular, the student may have learned a great deal about the sites from an information session held on campus, from an advising meeting, from online materials, or from other sources. In addition, they may also have spoken with an academic adviser about how particular programs might benefit their academic progress. Helping reiterate these points of information and to think about them comparatively is one way that a parent’s or guardian’s experience and wisdom can be quite useful for the student.
Financial Support. Of course, education abroad programs sometimes cost more than on-campus study and residence, and parents or guardians who are able to provide financial support of any kind or amount are able to alleviate one of the major sources of stress and difficulty for students who want to expand their education with a study abroad or global internship experience. Remember, the education abroad experience is an investment in the future of your student, who will reap many professional and personal benefits that will last a lifetime. Seldom does anyone return and say that the experience was not worth the funds invested, and alumni several years after their experiences will often say quite the opposite!
Travel Preparations. Once your student has been admitted to the study abroad or global internship program, you may be in a strong position to help them prepare for the journey. You can assist them as they make travel arrangements, or using your own frequent flier miles. In addition, students will need to obtain student visas or residence permits for some countries, and your assistance may be required to document that your student will have access to enough personal funds while in the country.
While Abroad. While your student is abroad, you can also provide support from stateside by staying in email contact or other communication with them, being there to provide support if they face unanticipated difficulties, and maybe even wiring over or depositing into their account some extra cash at some point during their international adventure. It's important to find the right balance, too, though, and not to allow the student to become overly dependent on too-frequent communication with you, as that will defeat one of the main purposes of the experience.
Re-entry Support. You may be surprised to learn that re-entry to the U.S. is, for many students, the most difficult part of the experience. Encourage your son or daughter to visit OSU International Programs to meet and debrief with Education Abroad Advisors, who can offer resources on and off campus.
What You Cannot Do for Your Student
Completing Documents. You are not able to complete or sign any documents on behalf of your student, including the program application, pre-departure paperwork, participation agreements, medical forms, and other required paperwork. Your student is the legal person who will be participating in the program and, thus, is also the legal person who must complete and sign these documents. It is very important that students participating in any programs read all documents and handouts thoroughly and ask a UO Study Abroad Programs or other relevant staff person about any questions that they (or you) have.
Handling Registration and Other Business Matters. Sometimes well-meaning parents try to handle certain “business” matters of the education abroad experience (course registration, on-site housing, etc.). However, your student is a legal adult whose right to privacy in these matters is protected by a federal law called FERPA and by university rules. Furthermore, we strongly prefer to work with the student directly because the student is the one who will actually be participating in the program, and we need to know that they are taking responsibility for the experience and are fully aware of all the administrative and other details. We are not inclined to accept students who cannot accept responsibility for making their own arrangements since they are unlikely to be able to handle similar situations while abroad - when you will certainly not be there to handle their affairs for them. Therefore, we ask that you resist the urge to “micromanage” your student’s education abroad experience, and that you encourage them to take responsibility themselves, though you can and should still provide the various kinds of support suggested above.
This information is borrowed from “What can I do to help?” by University of Oregon.