Study Abroad Information for Family & Friends
Gaining international experience is an essential and valuable component of educational and professional development in today's globalized world. An education abroad experience provides great opportunities for students to:
- Learn about the world
- Gain new personal and academic perspectives
- Obtain skills applicable for the global workforce.
As a result, studying abroad is often one of the most rewarding experiences in a person's life because of the amount of personal growth that results. As a parent or guardian of a student studying abroad, you can help to maximize the overall experience for your child.
The UNC Study Abroad Office is committed to supporting our students as they actively assume responsibility for their study abroad journeys. Please encourage and support your student and empower them to be proactive in their own study abroad experiences. There's a lot to take into consideration before your student begins their study abroad journey, and the UNC study abroad office encourages questions from your students before, during and after their experiences away from campus. When your child expresses interest in Study Abroad, have them stop by our office in the University Center.
Picking a Program
There are many UNC-approved program offerings to choose from. Your student must determine which program best suits their needs and personality. Encourage your student to seek the answers to questions on their own and know that our office is here to support them and you.
Remember, UNC offers programs that vary in length. There are some programs as short as two weeks and some that are year-long .
Students with Disabilities
The Study Abroad Office makes every effort to ensure that students who identify as having a disability can participate in study abroad programs. We cannot guarantee that facilities and/or support services will be available at each location abroad in the same range and quality as on the UNC campus. We cannot alter architecture, transportation, or laws in other countries. However, we encourage students with disabilities to meet with our staff to discuss accommodation needs and identify appropriate sites.
Different program fees and payment methods apply for various programs offered by UNC. For most programs, federal financial aid can be applied to any UNC-approved Study Abroad program. Scholarships can also be applied to many education abroad experiences.
The costs of all program excludes spending money. Be sure to take exchange rates into consideration.
Check with all airlines used for traveling for the number and weight allowances of luggage as well as any security restrictions for both carry-on and checked baggage. Here are some tips for packing successfully:
- Pack light! It's difficult to carry luggage through airports, train stations etc. so only bring essentials.
- Buy toilteries and other items (like hairdryers) in other countries.
- Bring unique items with UNC or home state logos as way to share your culture or share as gifts for new friends.
- Don't pack each suitcase as full as possible - leave room for souvenirs!
The health and well-being of UNC students while abroad is of utmost concern to UNC.
Planning and preparing for health care is essential, and health care is somewhat different than here in the US. Many personal insurance carriers will only cover a portion of costs “out of network” and may not cover international medical costs at all.
UNC requires students who are enrolled in 9 or more credit hours to have health insurance and everyone studying abroad is also required to have study abroad health insurance.
- If your student is studying abroad during Summer on a faculty-led program they are required to purchase our GEO Blue International Health insurance at a rate of roughly $34/month, which will be billed directly to their student account.
- Students studying abroad through a UNC Exchange (not including ISEP or an Affiliate Provider program) will be required to purchase international health insurance which will be added to their student account.
- ISEP and our other Affiliate Providers (API, ISA, AIFS, etc) charge their own fee for international health insurance and that cost will be either included in the program price or billed to the student directly.
Please note that when receiving medical treatment abroad, it is likely that your son or daughter may be expected to pay in-full at the time of service, often in cash. While seeking reimbursement from your insurance carrier for this treatment, it is important that your child secures translated, itemized receipts and/or descriptions of the treatment they received, so that they can complete a claim form.
Some countries, such as Australia, Canada, Cuba, Denmark, Egypt, Israel, Italy, and New Zealand among others, have universal health care and may charge your student a health care fee. Please keep in mind that UNC has no control over individual country policies. However, UNC requires you to purchase additional coverage even if you are studying in these countries as national policies rarely include all the coverage required for foreigners .
You will want to work with your student on how to manage emergency communication. Each student is requested to provide their emergency contact information to the Center for Interational Education on the UNC Study Abroad Application.
In addition, every study abroad program has a person or office on site that is responsible for your student's welfare while they are abroad. Ask your son or daughter to provide you with this contact information.
While abroad, don't forget that there are ways you can, and should, stay in touch with your friends, family, and others in the United States.
Staying in Touch
Use free online services, such as:
- Facebook messenger
- What's App
Skype and some other online services offer online U.S.-based phone numbers that connect to your computer. This is a convenient option for family and friends to call overseas but without the expense of international fees.
You can also buy international phone cards online and save money. It is not recommended that you use your U.S. cell phone calling plan abroad, as it can be very expensive. Even though your cell phone will work for international calls, calling rates can and do exceed $3.00 per minutes.
Additionally, text messages are typically charged at $1.00 per message. Your standard calling plan does not include international calling or texting; however, you can add this service. It may be something to look into with your student's phone providers.
Cell Phones Abroad
If your child's U.S. cell phone uses a SIM card, it is possible to use the current mobile phone with a local SIM card. This is generally a cheaper option, as you don't have the cost of buying another phone.
If you choose this option, make sure to 'unlock' your U.S. phone through your provider before you leave the U.S., or the new SIM card will not work in the phone. The iPhone 5 comes unlocked for international service, so you may be able to add international service to your plan.
Otherwise, it is very easy to purchase a cell phone abroad. Most cell phone providers abroad offer a pay-as-you-go option, which is commonly used overseas - no contract is required. Cell phone prices range from very cheap to quite expensive, just as they do in the U.S. (approx. $40-$500).
Almost all students experience some degree of culture shock while abroad. The new cultures, food, music, language, etc can be exciting, scary, and overwhelming for your child. All the new things and lack of the familiar can cause anxiety, which is called culture shock.
Culture shock can be put into four stages, which your child will experience to varying degrees and many times, not is the same order. Becoming familiar with these stages will help you understand what your child is dealing with.
It is more likely that a student will call or email family or friends during a moment of low morale rather than when things are going well. Support your student through these stages while they are abroad.
4 Stages of Adjustment
There are four main stages of adjustment when your student returns home:
When first arriving in new culture, differences are intriguing and you may feel excited, stimulated and very curious.
Excitement may quickly turn into discomfort and a hunger for the familiar back home.
Make the best of the time you have left in your host culture and it starts to feel like a second home. A comfort level will start to appear.
This stage can vary but may feel a combination of excitement of returning home but also understanding the aspect of leaving your new home behind.
As your student prepares to depart, ensure that you have a copy of their itinerary. Airline websites often offer tools to track the flights. Upon arrival, students may not be able to call or email home immediately as they may be greeted by the program representatives, on their way to lodging, or may not have access to internet or a phone right away. Most students are able to stay in close contact throughout the program, however, certain locations may make this more challenging. We encourage you and your student to research the most affordable and reliable ways stay in contact with each other. Students are 100% responsible for making their individual travel arrangements to and from their destination, as well as while abroad. Below are some good websites to begin a search, but there are of course many more options:
Unlike in the US, most large international cities have a strong infrastructure of public transportation. This includes metros, trams, trolley cars, buses, and taxis. These are usually affordable and highly reliable with set timetables. Most likely your sstudent will walk a great deal more to get from place to place than they do in the US. Getting around within most countries or international travel while abroad can be done easily by train, bus, or cheap airfares. We highly discourage students from renting or driving cars while abroad.
Most study abroad students have many stories that they wish to share and to convey what their experiences mean to them. It will help you to reconnect by encouraging your student to talk about the study abroad experience and help them process it. Some students will experience their return as a homecoming, while others will view home as newly strange to them, because they are experiencing the familiar through newly adjusted eyes. Facilitating the re-entry process will help your student integrate the cross-cultural experience into their overall life.