Hello Parents! This page should answer some of the most common questions our office receives from parents and families of study abroad students. Please explore the rest of our website, especially the Tips & Resources page found under the heading Accepted to Study Abroad, to find more answers or contact our office.
How will the Office of International Education (OIE) prepare my student to study abroad?
Students are making a significant commitment when they apply for study abroad and we are dedicated to making the journey from application to return from abroad a learning experience that is as safe and enriching as possible.
BEFORE APPLICATION ACCEPTANCE: Prior to a student's acceptance to study abroad the OIE provides pre-application advising in the form of Info Sessions, fairs, and one-on-one meetings. To find out what the application looks like, restrictions, policies, and deadlines, please go HERE.
AFTER APPLICATION ACCEPTANCE: After a student is accepted to study abroad the OIE continues to provide advising and support. Students are required to attend the general pre-departure orientation and site-specific orientations. See a checklist of what is expected from study abroad students the semester prior to their departure. During the orientation and site-specific meetings, students are given details related to their program including arrival, housing, course registration, pre-planned excursions, on-site staff, and immigration/visa matters. Sometimes we do NOT have every detail available to us by the time this meeting happens. In these cases, students will be given as much information as possible as soon as it is available- usually in the form of an email or information packet depending on the program. When logistical information is available is based on two things: the host university and OIE's coordination process. We strive to disseminate information at the same time, to all students in the same program, as soon as it is logistically possible.
It is an important part of the study abroad experience for the students to learn how to research their destination and host-culture on their own. The office provides the student with research topics and a what-you-need-to-know list. Additionally, cultural learning skills are introduced to the students so that they can start to think about what it will mean for them to step into a new culture as a visitor, student, and U.S. American.
TO DO: Have regular conversations with your student rather than expect him/her to have an instant answer to all your specific questions. If you are interested in finding out about specific planning details, please TALK to your student about taking notes and sharing them with you. She/he will do this better if they know what things YOU are particularly interested in knowing. However, there are many other details students MUST know and these may not be the things in the forefront of your mind. Your student needs to pay as much attention to these things as well as to the things that interest you.
TO DO: READ the Study Abroad Handbook. This is distributed to all students and is available online. This handbook should be read by students and parents alike. You will find out what is expected and what your student will be encountering along the way.TO DO: See the section below about helping your student prepare for study abroad. There are pre-departure forms that your student will complete for Willamette, other institutions, and for the visa process for which your input may be needed.
What is the cost of study abroad at Willamette University?
In general Willamette Sponsored Programs cost the same as on-campus (tuition and often room and board), however, this is not universally true. Please see special notes in the Program Fee section and Information on Approved by Willamette programs. Also see each program's information page for details by using the Our Programs/Explore all Programs links on the left side of this page.
Because students are still paying for Willamette tuition through their Willamette account, students may use all Willamette, federal, state, and local financial aid for Willamette Sponsored Study Abroad Programs. The billing and payment schedules for tuition are the SAME as if your student were on campus: fall tuition is generally billed in mid-July, spring tuition is billed in mid-December to each student's student account.
Housing, Meals and Other Program Costs
Please see the information on the Willamette Sponsored Programs Cost Matrix (PDF document) for a detailed explanation of the housing, meal and insurance costs for each program. Most housing and meal costs are similar to a WU Room and Board Plan for one semester. Students who are participating in an "approved as WU" program, (programs NOT on the Explore All Programs listing), may have an additional fee associated with that program's actual cost. Go to the Non-Willamette Programs page and see the section on Approved by WU programs for further details. The timing of when to pay these will vary depending on whether the charge is processed via Willamette or through the host university.
Study Abroad Deposit
This $300 non-refundable deposit is due when student accepts placement to study abroad on a Willamette Sponsored Program, this fee will be applied to tuition if the student attends the program. It can be paid by CASH or CHECK only. Help your student be prepared to make this payment soon after they are accepted.
Additional costs to students include airfare/travel to and from study site; visa costs and any expenses associated with visa travel, passport costs; and typical student-related costs like books and course materials. PLUS funds for personal and discretionary items. Additionally, some programs require a housing deposit (paid upon arrival and is returned before departure) and/or a local area residency registration fee. Generally students spend more money while they are abroad than they spend during a typical semester at Willamette. These costs are generally associated with cost of living differences, local transportation, extra travel, eating and drinking out, purchasing gifts and souvenirs, and personal comfort or convenience items. Follow the program links on the Explore All Programs page to get to the host university's website. They often offer information about estimated costs related to daily living expenses and typical amounts students spend while abroad.
In certain programs (where the student is directly enrolled in a university and not using a program provider), the student will have a "student account" at the university just like they would have here on campus. Also, as at Willamette, unpaid fees will result in transcripts being withheld.
TO DO: Remind your student to inquire at their host university to find out whether they have an account of any kind that they need to settle prior to their return home.
MOST students bring extra funds to travel (locally or regionally) but many agree that they COULD get by with little after they have budgeted for basic food, housing, local transportation, and personal/hygiene items. Well planned extras can enrich an experience but costs need to be carefully managed. Another thing students should budget for are "comfort" items. Whether it is an occasional coffee drink or finding a mango at a boutique grocery, the extra cost can be worth it in comfort.
What credits can my student earn abroad?
If your student participates in a Willamette Sponsored program, he/she earns Willamette credits, his/her grades appear on the WU transcript, and those grades can be counted towards his/her G.P.A.
What kind of credit?
- Students receive general Willamette credit unless credits taken abroad are approved by their academic advisor and/or department chair to count towards a major or minor.
- One MOI credit can be taken abroad, per semester. The Office of the Registrar approves MOI and Writing Centered equivalents.
- Credit arrangements should be make prior to study abroad when possible. Students are given the appropriate form for this during their Site-specific Predeparture meeting.
How can I help my student prepare to study abroad?
Help your student prepare to be self-sufficient and responsible.
While supporting your student through the process is very important, it is also necessary to understand that your student is embarking on a personal experience. One of the best ways you can help your student is by encouraging him/her to take responsibility from the beginning in preparing for study abroad. Help them understand that anxiety from working and living out of their comfort zone is natural. When they experience set-backs, help them problem solve rather than trying to place blame. It can become too easy to use precious time and energy blaming others when, perhaps, better communication is all that is needed. Students are given many tools to assist them with the essential matters (checklists, handbook, health resources, meetings, email updates with specific instructions). Encourage him/her to use available materials to answer questions. Often they discover information they didn't know they needed in addition to answering a specific question.
Review all pre-departure materials and any placement packet material your student receives.
Although we welcome questions about your student's program, it is important that you and your student are sharing information so that it is clear to the student that you care, that you know they have the information they need, and so you can monitor your own student's understanding of their responsibility in the entire study abroad experience.
TO DO: Your student may need information about the HEALTH insurance coverage she/he may have through you, financial statements from your bank or other agency for a visa application, or, if you student is under 18 years of age, your signature on all agreements.
PASSPORTS! GET ONE! Limit international travel within 4 months of the program start.
Does your student have a passport? Your student's passport MUST BE VALID for 6 months beyond the END date of your student's program. If you aren't sure of when the end date will be but you know it will be close, renew his/her passport right away. Each year students find themselves paying extra fees or unable to go abroad because they did not get or update their passport in time. GO HERE to find out about passports: http://www.travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html
DO NOT PLAN INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL within 4 months of your student's departure. Their passport may not be available if they need a visa. Most visas cannot be obtained more than 90 days prior to departure and it can take up to 3 months to get a passport back when students apply for a visa. We do not want you to have to cancel vacation plans but this happens and we cannot change the requirements.
Read the Student Handbook.
This handbook is written with the goal of educating students as broadly as possible about their upcoming experience and giving them specific details about how to go about the business of getting there and having a positive experience. Although it won't answer every question, you'll better understand the responsibilities your student has agreed to undertake. You have a stake in their success. The best bet for making that happen is to encourage and support your student rather than taking those responsibilities on their behalf. The more informed and involved your student is in the ENTIRE PROCESS, the more s/he will ultimately get out of it. Country specific travel guides such as Lonely Planet, Rough Guide and Let's Go are also helpful.
Does my student need a visa? When should we start "doing" something about it?
Typically, general visa instructions will be given at the Predeparture meeting. Specific information for specific countries/programs will be given at the Site-Specific predeparture meetings OR at a time that the students need to start. THIS VARIES WIDELY. The Office of International Education can give the student information on how a particular consulate typically handles visas but we do not have any special influence over the process and the best source of information is to contact the host country consulate directly about any special circumstances your student has. Although WU or the host university information often provides some of the required elements of a visa application, it is the responsibility of the student, not W.U. or the host university, to ensure that a visa is obtained in time for study abroad. Each country approaches the visa process differently and it can change at any time without our knowledge. With that in mind, verify that your student knows how to obtain a student visa and begins collecting information for the application process as far in advance as possible. To do this, students should contact the host country consulate. The internet is a good place to start. Again, students will receive guidance about WHEN to start their visa process but they should NOT WAIT as soon as they know what they need to do.
Students who want to travel before their program starts (with or without a parent) may discover that it can complicate visa processing considerably (including making it more expensive) or make it impossible to get the appropriate visa. Family trips within four months of your student's departure on the program should be planned with the expectation that his/her passport WILL NOT be available to him/her, UNLESS you have verified that the visa process won't interfere with your plans.
Can I purchase airfare and make other transportation arrangements now?
Only if your student has received specific instruction from International Education to do so. Often this will NOT be more than three or four months - sometimes less -of the actual program start. Students usually receive the "OK" to purchase during their SITE SPECIFIC predeparture meeting or via email with any needed instructions. Arrival and departure dates are set by the host site and most international universities do not establish these dates as far in advance as U.S. institutions do. Even more important, study abroad programs often include an orientation period PRIOR to a session's start. Study abroad programs usually have arrival plans that include: requiring students to send their itinerary prior to arrival; contact names and numbers for travel delays to inform program staff of delays; specific arrival cities, airports, dates and/or times so staff can easily assess who may have been delayed and, at some sites, arrange pick-up schedules; and specific instructions for travel to the host site to reduce travel anxiety and expense for students. The details of each program can vary widely from year to year and semester to semester.
We are committed to disseminating appropriate AND ACCURATE information as soon as we have final confirmation from the site hosts and we can ensure all students for a particular program in one meeting or other communication so everyone receives equal access to the details that they need.
- Purchase airfare and make other travel arrangements AFTER your student receives OFFICIAL travel instructions (including arrival AND departure dates, cities, and, possibly, times) from Willamette University study abroad staff.
- Many countries require proof of a return ticket purchased so pay close attention to program dates AND visa requirements.
- BE READY to make flight arrangements as soon as your student receives the OK to do so.
- Please be patient, we do NOT want students to commit before official dates are disseminated. We know many people try to use mileage points and it's hard to wait, but we do not want students arriving at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Travel Difficulties: What if there are cancellations, delays, or lost luggage?
Frequent travelers will tell you that flight delays or cancellations and/or lost or delayed luggage are two real hiccups in travel. Although stressful to inexperienced travellers, these are manageable events that require patience and flexibility. Should luggage be delayed or lost, the airline will explain the process they use in recovery and collect contact information. Students need to contact the site staff to explain the delay and what, if any, alternate arrangements have been made at the time. Site staff can also often help with temporary funding (to be paid back), assistance with staying in contact with the airline in cases of language barriers, and information on where the luggage can be delivered if/when found. Willamette will not cover expenses related to airfare change/cancellation costs, lost/delayed luggage, or other expenses related to these situations. Our office wants to know of significant delays in travel plans or significant loss of belongings, however, students will be working primarily with site staff to work through the issues. This simplifies communication infinitely and enables site staff to do everything they can in the best interest of the student.
TO DO: Follow the program's instructions for travel plans as closely as possible. Make sure you understand what your student will do in these situations (who they will contact at the host site, how they will do so). Know whether your homeowner's/renter's insurance covers lost/delayed luggage and inform your student about what to do should this occur. Consider purchasing Travel insurance through your insurance carrier or other insurance seller (see Theft/loss of Possessions below).
How do I contact my student while he/she is abroad?
The key is to plan ahead. Before departure your student is your best source of information: what time they will arrive at his/her destination and a phone/address of where their first stop will be. Be aware that, although it is comforting to hear from your student as soon as they arrive at their destination, it is not always possible for them to contact you right away. It may take them several hours (or overnight, or a few days) to be able to contact you. If you know that your student is being met by staff or other official representatives, be reassured that they will contact us or you immediately if your student does not show up when expected. Some program sites will not have the accessibility that your student and you are used to and you may have to modify your expectations for communication once they arrive. Before your student leaves, review all the contact information your student has received. Talk about expectations of HOW OFTEN and HOW you will keep in contact. Identify at least TWO WAYS in which you can contact your student directly. Make it a priority to have more than one way to get in touch.
CELL PHONES: Most cell phones used here in the U.S. will not work abroad. You may be able to purchase an alternate SIM card for international use. Students can often rent a cell phone upon arrival. The international services office at the host site can provide information about how to go about doing this. Frequently, though not always, incoming calls on these phones do not cost anything so this can be a good way to stay in contact. HOWEVER, do NOT neglect to get any phone numbers of your student's dorm room, apartment, etc. Keep in mind that students may not be as inclined to maintain their typical pattern of contact with parents and other loved ones while abroad. Sometimes this is due to how variability of internet/cell service or equipment, sometimes they are busy exploring their environs.
MAIL: Some countries have better mail systems than others. Often the question isn't "if" it will arrive but "when". If you think you will need to use a private courier service (UPS, Fed EX, DHL, etc.) to send anything, you will need a phone number of the destination address. Items with any perceived expense will likely be "taxed" or incur a duty of some kind. Keep this in mind when sending items overseas so your student can easily claim it and pay anything that is due. Pay careful attention to a country's prohibitions on items that can be received (or sent) by mail.
SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES: Many students (and parents) find it rewarding to stay in contact via a site such as Facebook. This enables students to communicate about their daily lives with many people at once and communicate any particular news easily. It is a familiar and universal way to stay in touch internationally. Again, this should NOT replace having appropriate phone numbers and contact names should you need to contact your student urgently.
What happens if there is an emergency?
In general, whether your student experiences a minor setback, such as a minor illness or an unwise purchase, or a more stressful event, such as a large loss/theft or more serious illness, etc., remind your student that the on-site staff and/or program director are the best resources for dealing with the situation there. The first priority of on-site staff is to deal with the situation with the student's best interest in mind. Second, they will contact us for further instructions should they be needed or if the situation adversely affects a student's regular study or living situation. On-site staff are best equipped to know what the best course of action is and what is reasonable to expect from local healthcare providers, governmental entities, and legal systems.
As a parent, you may hear, before we do, of a distressing event that your student has experienced. If your student shares news with you that is unsettling, encourage him/her to contact the on-site staff. It is very helpful if the student also sends an email to the Office of International Education so we know what is going on. Parents are often a student's most important emotional contact. If you have concerns, please let us know so we can make contact with on-site staff as needed. If on-site staff or the Office of International Education determine some action is needed, be aware that the resolution may be different than what you could expect in the U.S or at Willamette and that your student may have lingering feelings of distress. This is natural. Reassure them and encourage them to talk to the onsite staff or contact us as a way to get a new perspective.
Theft/loss of possessions is always a possibility just as it is on Willamette's campus. However, with careful attention, students can drastically reduce the chances of such incidents.
- Review with your student which items of value are necessary for their experience and which should be left home.
- Review the safety tips found in the Student Handbook.
- Review your homeowner or renter's insurance policy for info about how your student's belongings will or will not be covered while abroad.
- Talk about personal safety and emphasize that risk factors in the U.S. are JUST AS RELEVANT as they are in the country in which they will be. These include such things as public and private behavior, style of dress, time of day, presence of alcohol, neighborhood, etc. On-site staff offer safety information during on-site arrival orientations.
- Consider purchasing optional TRAVEL insurance. This may include but not be limited to: coverage for lost/stolen belongings; travel cancellation and interruption coverage; and 24/7 travel assistance. These policies also often include Medical Evacuation and Repatriation of Remains coverage. Willamette University will automatically cover your student for medical evacuation and repatriation of remains but NONE of the other items are included in any kind of Willamette coverage. Also, HEALTH INSURANCE is required of all students participating on a Willamette University sponsored program so consider what is available and what your student already has when reviewing travel policies.
SEE the section called Medical Emergency abroad.
- We strongly urge at least one parent/guardian to be in possession of a current passport.
In the unlikely event that a student becomes a candidate for medical evacuation or is experiencing other serious health concerns, having a family member who can travel to the host country can be invaluable. Most countries require that passports be valid for six months AFTER intended date of departure. Know where your passport is and renew it as needed so it is valid for six months beyond your student's program end date.
Emergency at home
TO DO: Have your student give you and/or other family members the local contact information for his/her residence as soon as it is received. This includes phone numbers, physical address and a mailing address. This may happen BEFORE departure OR upon arrival. Your student should also provide you with the contact information for the on-site program director, host university international office, or other on-site contact numbers they've been given. In emergency situations, the Office of International Education can also assist with contact.
Non-medical emergency abroad (civil unrest, natural disaster)
OUR PRIMARY CONCERN is always the immediate safety of students. OIE, our program providers, local embassies , the U.S. Department of State, and host universities all monitor current conditions (political, natural, social) in areas where our students study. Should a crisis develop, we work with on-site staff and monitor announcements from local information sources (like embassies). We implement our own Crisis Management procedures as needed. In the event of a local crisis, our first priority is communication with the local staff. This means there may be a delay in knowing all details of an individual student's status. Should it be necessary, the Office of International Education and/or the program provider will inform each student's emergency contact of the student's status as soon as possible. We collect emergency contact information from each student prior to departure.
We communicate regularly with program staff of other universities domestically and abroad whether or not we have students with them. This gives us even MORE pertinent information about the safety of students who are abroad. The U.S. State Department international travel website contains valuable information about safety and health abroad. Here is a site designed just for study abroad: http://studentsabroad.state.gov/
TO DO: Please strongly urge your student to register via the U.S. Travel Registration website. By registering travel plans in this manner, the local embassy or consulate can locate U.S. citizens (i.e. your student) in the event of extreme natural or civil unrest or other emergency. Registration is voluntary and costs nothing, but it should be a big part of travel planning and security. This should be done before leaving the U.S. and is easily done online: https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/ The local embassy/consulate will have the most up-to-date information on travel warnings/issues, etc.
Medical emergency abroad and usual medical care
Medical insurance is required for all students who are participating in Willamette Sponsored Programs. Coverage must include outpatient care and diagnostic services in addition to hospital/emergency care. Some programs include insurance, some require the purchase of specific insurance, while others have no preference.
Students, as full-time students of Willamette University, will be enrolled in the Willamette University Student Health (Aetna) unless they complete the University waiver. Please also go to the STUDENT HEALTH INSURANCE (study abroad) page for more information. To investigate waiving out of the university health plan, go to the Bishop Wellness Center student insurance page.
TO DO: Paying for healthcare abroad. Most U.S. insurance plans require payment for health services up front and then be reimbursement. Keep in mind that if the unthinkable happens, serious illness or other situation that requires immediate and extensive healthcare, you may need access to a very high amount of money to pay for the bills, anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars. This does happen and is a good reason to consider also purchasing travel insurance that may make it easier to get medical funds temporarily. INVESTIGATE: Make sure you fully understand all the policies and procedures for reimbursement for EACH insurance plan that your student may use while abroad. Talk with your student about using your health plans' help phone lines, email, or chat functions in case they need advice.
Should I visit my student while he/she is abroad?
Study abroad is an important opportunity for your student to gain new educational and life experience. Visiting your student while they are abroad can be an exciting and interesting role reversal, as your student becomes your guide and teacher. We do, however, discourage parents from taking the initial trip abroad with students. It is important that students travel and settle into their new environment and culture on their own. If visiting your student while s/he is abroad is important to you, we encourage family and friends to visit students during academic breaks or after the end of the semester to minimize educational interruptions. Please note programs often will not allow guests on program excursions but some programs have prescribed "parent and family weekends". Your student will have more information on any restrictions or opportunities.
The Office of International Education cannot offer advice about lodging, food, transportation, or other travel matters if you choose to visit your student's site. Please consult with a reputable travel agent or have your student scout out the possibilities for you. Your student will have better access to such information in addition to having excellent local resources (local families, host university staff, etc).
How can I help my student have a worthwhile experience abroad?
The first step in helping your student is by understanding culture learning yourself, and encouraging him/her to research it as well. Reading through Maximizing Your Experience Abroad will help you understand what our office is trying to do to prepare your student for the transition and experience of study abroad. In Maximizing Your Experience Abroad we reference What's Up with Culture?, a website designed to help students navigate cultural learning. Their section for parents may be helpful to you.
My student is returning from study abroad. What should I expect? What can I do to ease the transition back home?
Your student may be excited, a little depressed, dress differently, have different habits, have changed expectations of home life, demand more or less independence, smell different (!), be talkative, be silent, or may seem very similar. These things may change over a period of several months after she/he returns. Be available and acknowledge that things will not be the same. Review the parents section of What's Up with Culture? and read section 2.5.1 to see tips on welcoming students home from abroad. Reading Home from Abroad will help you understand what the OIE and Willamette University suggest and provide for your returning student. Please help us by encouraging your student to take advantage of these resources.
The re-entry process is often the most overlooked portion of the study abroad experiences by students, their families, and study abroad professionals. The steps that a student, his/her family and educators take when students return from abroad can have a major impact on the student's and the community's education.