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International Center

Information for Parents and Family Members

 

Welcome to the parents' information page for study abroad at Winthrop University!  Study abroad is a life-changing, invaluable experience and we encourage you to guide and support your student(s) throughout the process.  This section of our website has been designed to help parents and family members understand the process of studying abroad while at Winthrop University. 

In an increasingly interdependent global society, having an international experience has become an essential part of higher education.  As a Winthrop student, your son or daughter has access to a myriad of opportunities to gain international experience.  The variety of opportunities available both through Winthrop and through other universities or program providers makes studying abroad a possibility for any student, regardless of major and language ability. 

Winthrop’s International Center is dedicated to providing support to students while they study abroad.  A few of the services we offer include counseling from the Study Abroad Coordinator and study abroad peer mentors, a student handbook, a pre-departure orientation , and referral to additional resources such as the travel clinic, the Office of Financial Aid, and foreign embassies and consulates.  The International Center stays in touch with students while they are abroad and provides support for your student to help them address issues that impact their academic progress and/or safety. 

At Winthrop, the staff at the International Center firmly supports parents’ involvement in a student's decision to study abroad.  However, it is vital to remember that the student must make the major decisions and do the work required in preparation for study abroad on their own.  Although we welcome general inquiries from parents, it is ultimately the students' responsibility to see that the required processes are followed.  Due to privacy legislation (FERPA), the International Center cannot release information to any third party (including parents) regarding a students' program of study without his or her explicit consent.   

We encourage you to browse the information offered on our website regarding the policies and procedures of study abroad at the Winthrop University and discuss them with your son or daughter throughout the application process and prior to departure.   If you (or your son or daughter) have questions after reviewing the information found in our website or study abroad portal, please feel free to contact the International Center at 803.323-2133.

Practical Preparations Before your Student Departs

Read and encourage your student to read Winthrop’s Study Abroad Handbook for important information prior to traveling abroad. Many of the questions students and parents have are addressed in the handbook.

Travel Documents

Passports

 

  • If your son or daughter will be applying for a passport for the first time, his or her birth certificate or official abstract of the birth certificate will be required. For official information regarding how to apply for a U.S. passport, visit the Department of State. Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website.
  • If your son or daughter already has a passport and it is perhaps at home with you, you can help by checking the passport expiration date, as some countries require that visitors have a passport that is valid for a certain length of time.
  • Permanent residents will need an up-to-date US Resident Alien Card and a valid passport from their country of citizenship.
  • It is also a good idea for at least one parent or family member to have a valid passport, in case of an emergency.

Visas

 

  • In most countries, a student visa is required for a stay of over 90 days. While Winthrop staff, program sponsor staff, or host university staff may provide tips or advice, the student is ultimately responsible for obtaining his/her own visa and for maintaining his or her visa status in the host country. Student visas are issued by the host country government through its embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. The student will need to research where and how to apply, what applications materials are required, and any applicable deadlines.   
  • It is vital to prepare well in advance when applying for a visa. For some countries, students must submit their visa application many months prior going abroad. In the meantime, the student's passport may be held at the consulate until right before your student leaves to study abroad. It may also take some time to receive the visa back from the host country’s consulate/embassy.  Without the appropriate visa (and passport) in-hand, a student may not be able to board the plane, so be sure to help your students plan well in advance to obtain the appropriate paperwork on time.
  • Please keep in mind that non-US Citizens may have to follow different procedures in order to obtain a visa.  Research the necessary steps as early as possible.

Health

Before departure your student should have a general physical and any immunizations that are necessary. Any pending dental work should be done before going abroad. Make sure he/she packs a complete medical record and enough needed prescription medications to last for the duration of their time abroad. Continue carrying your child as a dependent on your health insurance policy, even if he/she will have other coverage while studying abroad. Be aware that in many countries the cost of medical services must be paid in advance by the patient (and then reimbursed by insurance).

Insurance

Continue carrying your student as a dependent on your health insurance policy. Many programs offer travel health insurance as part of the study abroad program. If your student’s program does not include insurance, Winthrop offers a comprehensive travel health insurance plan through CISI for $40 a month. You can read more about the plan here.  Be aware that in many countries the cost of medical services must be paid in advance by the patient (and then reimbursed by the insurance company for covered expenses at a later time). Insure valuables your student will take on the trip, such as a laptop computer, camera, or cell phone.

Budgeting & Personal Finances

 

If your student does not have much experience making and sticking to a budget, the pre-departure period is a good time to discuss wise consumer behavior and set some guidelines as to how much extra spending money will be available. Encourage your student to become comfortable with the currency exchange rate before they travel so they are better able to maintain a budget abroad.  It’s often easy to “forget” that foreign currency is not the same as U.S. money (and as a result your student could quickly overspend without realizing it.)

Work with your student to determine how to access money for everyday financial needs and emergencies. Generally it is important to ask your bank how (or if) its ATM card will function abroad and what extra fees there might be. A personal credit card with cash advances could also work, depending on costs and banking fees. Work with your student to make arrangements to pay any monthly bills and, if necessary, to file your student’s income taxes.

  • Have your student contact any credit card providers for any cards he/she will be using overseas.  Your student will need to inform them of the dates and location of his/her overseas study program in order to avoid fraud alerts and holds being placed on the credit card account. Speak with a representative from your bank to learn more about international/foreign transaction fees, exchange fees, and inquire about any reciprocal agreements between your bank and banks in your student’s host country. It is important to monitor all credit and debit cards on a regular basis, and have credit card contact numbers easily accessible in case the card is lost or stolen while abroad.
  • For students receiving financial aid and/or scholarships, keep in mind that they are usually disbursed shortly before the Winthrop semester begins. If your student's study abroad program begins prior to the Winthrop semester, your student may need some money in advance.
  • Research international cell phone voice and data plans and fees before your student travels abroad. Some programs provide students with pay-as-you-go cell phone upon arrival in their host country, while others opt to have students purchase their own phone and minutes abroad.

Travel Planning

Research travel costs and help your student book flights. Learn regulations regarding the type and size of luggage that can be carried; then help your son or daughter pack lightly. Be aware of any restrictions the tickets you purchase may have (such as a ticketing change fee and/or other policies). A money belt can help keep valuables safe during the trip. Helpful resources for this phase of planning can be found here.

Staying in Touch

Make sure you have a telephone number where you can reach your student and know the times of day when he or she is most likely to be available at that number. Minimize the cost of staying in touch by establishing communication methods in advance. Contact your phone service provider to arrange for an international calling plan and/or research internet phone options for you and your student. Given the cost of calling abroad, it might be a good idea to set up a regular schedule for e-mailing, instant messaging, or video chat with an application like Skype. Remember to take time difference into account when contacting your student abroad.

Emergencies

Make sure you will be informed if your student runs into difficulty overseas.  Many students who study abroad are adults (over 18 years of age) so it is important to note that parents and/or family members would not be contacted in the event of an emergency unless you are designated as your student’s emergency contact on their program application forms.  It is also important to discuss with your student how you will handle any family emergencies that may arise while your student is overseas.

Student Data File

It is important to gather and maintain information you and your student might need while he or she is away, including the following:

  • Your student’s local address in the host country
  • Contact information for the On-site Resident Director  (or Winthrop faculty member(s) if it’s a short-term Winthrop University trip)
  • The home office of the program provider (ask if they have a 24-hour emergency number)
  • Winthrop University Study Abroad Office
  • Medical professionals who have treated your student in the past
  • A list of any allergies and all medications (including pill name and dosage amounts) for you to retain at home while your student is abroad
  • Citizen assistance section of the embassy or consulate nearest your student’s program
  •  U.S. State Department - Emergency Help While Overseas
  •  Your student’s credit card numbers
  •  Your student’s passport number
  •  Duplicate lost passport kit (your student should take one abroad as well) containing two passport photos, an official copy of his or her birth certificate, a photocopy of the photo, signature, and visa pages of passport

While Your Student Is Abroad

 

Adjustment

 

Adjusting to a new environment isn't always easy. There may be times when your student shares tales of frustration and homesickness while he/she is abroad.  It is tempting to try to solve these issues for your student.  However, one of the most important aspects of studying abroad is to provide an opportunity for your student to learn valuable coping skills that will serve your student well throughout the rest of his/her life and professional career.  As a parent or family member, work to be supportive and understanding during your student’s time of difficulty.  However, also encourage your student to make use of the on-site student support services that are available at the program site. Most programs have either a resident director or an international student office. Your student’s ability to manage day-to-day challenges is a key part of their personal growth as a young adult.  Additionally, part of the study abroad experience is learning how to overcome difficulties and moving past them. Your student will gain valuable life skills including the confidence to handle challenging situations in the future.  And if there are adjustment concerns (especially emergencies) that can’t be handled by the on-site staff, please don’t hesitate to contact the International Center.

Communication

 

It is not unusual to experience less frequent communication with your student while he or she is overseas.  It is important for family and loved ones to keep in mind that the more time your student is connected to someone in the U.S. via e-mail, text message, phone, social media, the more time he/she isn’t making and interacting with new friends in the host country. Encourage your student to be fully present in their experience abroad while also making safe and responsible personal choices.

Visiting

Study abroad students are not on vacation. Attending class with your student or taking him/her out of class to go sightseeing will interrupt both the educational process and the immersion experience. If a parent or loved one wants to visit, try to do so when the program has finished or during a semester break so you can travel together without missing out on the academic experience of studying overseas. While traveling, remember to be cognizant of local customs and cultural norms in the host country as well as with the home-stay or dorm.

When your Student Returns Home

 

Be Prepared For Transformation

 

After living abroad for an extended period of time, students often feel changed by the experience. This personal transformation may manifest itself in many ways including new ways of dressing, craving different kinds of foods, a new-found sense of independence, and even the desire to return abroad. It is important to be supportive of your student and be open to his/her transformation as part of the readjustment process.  

Reverse Culture Shock

 

Some students may experience some degree of reverse culture shock, and need some time to fully readjust to living at home again. Your student may even experience a period of depression and long to return abroad. It’s important to know that these feelings are a natural part of the study abroad experience and your support and understanding during this time will be very helpful. Most study abroad participants report years later that the time they spent overseas was the best part of their college years and that their time abroad significantly changed their lives in a positive way.   Encourage your student to share information with you throughout the process and after he or she returns home.  Additionally, keep in mind that study abroad will more than likely be one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of your student’s college experience.   The International Center at Winthrop as well as Health and Counseling Services are here to help your student, so please feel free to contact us with your questions or concerns. 

CONTACT INFORMATION
International Center
701 Oakland Avenue
218 Dinkins Hall
Rock Hill, SC 29733, USA
803/323-2133
803/323-2340 (fax)
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