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Study Abroad Tips for Parents

The Where, How & What Ifs of Study Abroad Programs

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Study abroad programs have become a very popular option for U.S. college students. More than a quarter million spend a semester or year at foreign universities. But studying abroad is a major undertaking. Here's a quick rundown on issues parents may want to think about or discuss with their kids beforehand.

1. Who, Where & How Much?

Photo by Sanja Gjenero, Stock.Xchng
Nearly every college in the country offers a study abroad program of some sort. The only questions are where to go, when and oh dear, how much will it cost? The University of California, for example, and University of Redlands run their own programs overseas, so the credits for any courses taken abroad transfer back to the home college. If your child uses an independent option, it's important that he meet with a study abroad adviser at his school beforehand to eliminate course credit surprises down the road.

2. Options for Music and Pre-Med Majors

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Many students in music, pre-med and other requirement-heavy programs find that they can't afford to spend a year or even a semester abroad. They simply have too many courses to take at their home college. Fortunately, there are several options for them.

3. Vaccines & Health Issues for Kids Studying Abroad

Whether it's dengue fever, African sleeping sickness or just an upset tummy, getting sick far from home can be an unnerving experience. If your child is heading abroad, particularly if the destination is outside North America or Western Europe, make sure he or she visits the doctor at least six weeks before the trip. Better yet, make it a physician who specializes in travel medicine and can equip your child with the necessary vaccines and preventative measures for the area in which he's heading.

4. Student Health & Emergency Plans

Doctor's bag
Courtesy Sanja Gjenero, Stock.Xchng Photos
At home, you know exactly who to call and what process to follow when your family gets sick. Abroad, it’s a whole different deal. So if your child is heading for a study abroad program, it's wise to talk through an emergency plan now, before he’s battling a high temperature or serious injury far from home. Here are some tips for making that plan.

5. College Drinking: Study Abroad & Alcohol Issues

Tapas Bar
Photo by Cristina Arias/Getty Images

Got a kid heading abroad? There are a number of topics you need to discuss before he boards that plane, including passports, customs,  - and alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking anywhere endangers a student's safety - but do it abroad, in a country whose laws, customs and terrain are not as well known, and the stakes can rise dramatically. And a new study has found that U.S. students who study abroad double their alcohol consumption. Here's the scoop.

6. Study Abroad Visas and Paperwork

(Courtesy scol22, sxc.hu)
Whether your child studies abroad through his university’s international program or via one of the large education travel companies, he'll need to plan his itinerary, figure out housing, and gather visas, passport and insurance. And chances are, you'll be involved in the paperwork.

7. Keeping in Touch

Photo courtesy of Sylvain Plante, Stock.Xchng
Phone calls are pricey when your kid is traveling overseas. Here's a quick rundown on ways to stay close, including free Skype calls, Facebook and travel blogs.
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