Parents of students studying abroad are often nervous about what to expect. Put your mind at ease by planning ahead.
For parents of students studying abroad, watching your child prepare for the adventure of international study can bring a mix of emotions. You are excited for them, but also nervous and unsure of what to expect. Below, we’ve gathered some common questions from parents of international students studying in the USA.
1. What travel documents does my student need?
Your student will need three documents to enter the United States – a passport, a visa, and an I-20 form. Getting each of these documents takes time, so make sure you and your student plan accordingly. Here are the requirements:
- Passport Your student must have an up-to-date passport that will not expire while the student is in the U.S.
- Visa An F-1 student visa is needed for international students at American colleges and universities.
- Form I-20 Your university will provide this form to your student. It proves he or she is authorized to study in the U.S. Your student will be asked to present their I-20 form at customs.
Parents of international students can travel on standard B-2 visas. Remember, you will also need an up-to-date passport. Even if you do not plan to travel with your child to the university, it is a good idea to have your own passport in case of an emergency.
2. Will my student be welcomed in the United States?
Many American universities and colleges have students from all over the world. This means that even though your student may be far from home, they are not alone. Trust that the school your child attends knows how to support international students. In fact, many have designed specific programs and outreach campaigns especially for students studying abroad, like #youarewelcomehere.
If your student faces a challenge like trouble with a roommate, a difficult class or depression, encourage them to get in touch with their international student office. The counselors in these departments are trained to help students like yours have a positive college experience.
3. Will I be able to keep in touch with my student?
Yes, absolutely. The internet makes communication between international students and their families a lot easier. You can communicate with your student via text chat, video chat platforms like Skype or over the telephone. Make sure your student has an international cell phone plan so they can easily call you. Time differences can make calling home tricky, so before your student leaves home, schedule a weekly phone call that works for both time zones.
4. How can I support my student?
Your child might feel lonely, but probably not at first. Students usually are busy and excited at the beginning of the semester. They are having new experiences, meeting new people and getting comfortable in their new environment. Most students will not get homesick right away because they have too much to do.
After a few weeks, though, you may notice that your student calls home more often or seems more withdrawn. This is a great time to send a care package. Then, when you do talk to your child, encourage your student to get involved and make friends on campus. There are many clubs, organizations and events that can help students feel more connected to their campus community.
5. What if an emergency happens?
Although emergencies are unlikely, it is still a good idea to be prepared. If your student is sick or injured while studying abroad in the USA, they can go to the campus health center or the emergency room at a local hospital. Campus or local authorities can then notify the international student office, which will get in touch with you.
Make sure that both your student and their international student office have reliable contact information for you and other family members. Know that, in the United States, hospitals and other health care institutions must follow privacy regulations that restrict the release of health information. Your student may need to sign a waiver form before their health and personal information can be released to parents or other family members.
6. What other resources are available for parents of students studying abroad?
Each school will be different! If you have questions about the university or what life is like for your child as an international student, you can reach out to the school’s international student office. The staff in these departments at U.S. universities have helped thousands of international students and parents of students studying abroad with the college experience.
You can also ask about onboarding information and parent orientation activities. Some universities offer special orientation sessions where they provide tips for parents of international students.
Remember, as the parents of international students, this is an exciting time for your family. Prepare in advance for your child’s journey, stay in touch with them while they’re on campus, and get to know the school’s international student office, and you’ll set your student up to succeed.
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