Information for Parents and Families

Studying abroad helps students gain the global perspective that's so important today.  An increasing number of employers are looking for workers who have cross-cultural communication skills; graduate and medical schools are also taking notice of students' study experiences abroad when making admission decisions.  Study abroad enhances a resume and we want our students to have every advantage they can.  More information about the value of study abroad can be found here.

Recognizing that it is important for students to study abroad as part of their college career, CMU joined Generation Study Abroad, an initiative of the Institute for International Education to double the number of U.S. students who go abroad by 2018.  CMU was one of the first institutions to accept this challenge and we are making study abroad a priority for our students. The choices are many: students may choose to go abroad for one week during spring break, a few weeks in summer, for one semester or a full academic year. The advice from students who have studied abroad is to stay as long as possible because it is such a wonderful learning experience - the longer the better.

Family support is very important to students about to take on this exciting new challenge. Your interest and support throughout the process will be of great help to your student. Browse our site to find out more about CMU study abroad and how you can help your student have the best experience possible.

Important Topics:
  • Cultural adjustment. Read about the process and suggestions for a successful adjustment to the new culture.
  • Stories. Read about the study abroad experiences of our students.
  • Photos. Share in others' experiences through CMU's annual Study Abroad Photo Contest.

Guiding your student

We want you to be involved in your student's study abroad experience, while also allowing him or her to handle planning and preparations independently. As your student begins to think about study abroad, the initial questions will be:

Where can students study?
You can read about CMU's study abroad sites by browsing the programs list.

Deadlines
It is important to meet deadlines. A reminder to your student to pay attention to the deadlines (e.g. applications, scholarships, financial aid, passport and visa) will be helpful.

The application process is a good learning experience that will give students a sense of independence and self-confidence that will serve them well once they arrive in the host country. Therefore, we encourage you to let your student be in charge of the process.

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The student process

How to get started
There are some very specific steps that your student must take in order to study abroad. You may learn about the steps on our How to Study Abroad information page.

Choosing a study abroad program
Our Study Abroad Advisors meet with the students to help them select an appropriate study site. It is not required that the students decide in advance where they want to go. The Study Abroad Advisers will guide the students based on area of study, cost, and location.

Passport
All students who travel abroad must have a passport to prove their citizenship. Passport application information may be obtained at the U.S. Department of State's passport website. Applications are also available at the local passport office (usually in the federal or county building) or at the U.S. Post Office.  Students who are already in possession of a passport must ensure that the expiration date is no less than six months after the date of return from study abroad.

Visa
A visa is permission from a foreign government to enter their country. A number of foreign governments require that students who study in their country apply for a visa. When a visa is required, students may obtain application information from the website of the Embassy or Consulate of that country. The Consulate has visa officers on staff to answer questions.

Airline reservation
Students typically make their own airline reservations. Airline reservations may be made on-line or through a travel agent, it's the student's choice. Sometimes group travel is offered and, in this case, students will be notified in advance.

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Paying for study abroad

Studying abroad is affordable. Low-cost program options are available, and we even offer tuition exchange programs that allow students to pay regular CMU tuition. Certain destinations are more expensive than others so it will be important for your student to let the Study Abroad Advisor know if he or she would like to explore one of our many low-cost programs.

Students who are receiving financial aid most often keep that aid to pay for their study abroad expenses. In addition, students may be able to apply for scholarships that are specifically for study abroad students. Additional financial aid, typically in the form of loans, may be available through the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid to fund any additional study abroad costs. Financial aid can cover the added costs of airfare, passport, visa, and any other necessary academic and visa fees. Vacation travel cannot be funded through the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid.

It is important for students to plan ahead and to develop a realistic budget for their study program expenses as well as weekend travel. An estimated budget for the study abroad program is given to the students at the time of application to help with this planning process.

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Health and safety

Everyone wants your student to have a safe and healthy trip abroad, and it is important to read the information available before traveling. You will find helpful information at the following web sites:

U.S. Department of State offers information with facts about each country in the world.

Centers for Disease Control offer travel health information about the country or region. Recommended immunizations are also listed.

U.S. Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) allows U.S. citizens to register their stay in case help is needed from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate while abroad.

 CMU Immunization/Travel Health Clinic can administer immunizations and offer valuable information and advice about health issues to consider when traveling abroad. 

Physical and dental exam
As a precaution, it is recommended that all students have a physical and a dental exam prior to departure. Students who are on medication should request that the prescription be filled for the entire study abroad period. Students who may need medical care while abroad should inform the CMU study abroad staff in advance.

Study abroad insurance
All students are required to have health, medical evacuation, and repatriation insurance when studying abroad. CMU provides a policy for students through HTH Insurance.

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Cultural adjustment

Expect that your student will go through an adjustment period upon arrival. The new surroundings, culture, language or accent, and different educational system are sure to cause students to miss home. And when they feel homesick is when your phone is most likely to ring...

The best advice to give your student is to be patient and to know that s/he will feel more comfortable with each new day. It isn't uncommon for 24 hours to make all the difference! At the end of the term, leaving the place that has become a home-away-from-home will be hard to do.  The Study Abroad staff is always willing to talk to a student who needs some support.

To learn more about the cultural experience, please read the following document on exploring cultural differences. Exploring Cultural Differences.docExploring Cultural Differences.doc.

Returning Home
When your student returns home, expect that there will be a re-entry adjustment that will be similar to the initial adjustment abroad. Students who have had a good experience, who like the country/culture in which they studied, will miss it for sure.  Talking about the experience and sharing stories is a good way to work through the re-entry process.

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Communicating with your student while abroad

It will be important to talk about how often you will communicate and when. With email, Facebook and Twitter, it will be easy to be in touch electronically. By phone, there will be some planning necessary because of telephone access, time difference, and cost. Students who intend to take their cell phones with them are encouraged to check with the plan carrier about access and cost in the host country.  Students will receive more information during orientation about the specifics of internet and telephone access in their host countries.

Sometimes students spend too much time on the internet and the telephone and miss out on so much of what the host culture has to offer. It is our recommendation that you talk with your student prior to departure and develop a reasonable communication schedule.

You will, undoubtedly, want to know that your student arrived in the host country safely. Sometimes it is not possible for the students to contact home immediately. An agreement that a phone call or email within 48 hours of arrival is reasonable. Keep a copy of your students' flight itinerary and track the flight's departure/arrival on-line to know that the plane has landed.

You are most likely aware of how savvy students are on the internet so you will have easy access to pictures and blogs relaying adventures and daily life abroad. Staying in touch is so easy.
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Orientation for Students
The Office of Study Abroad will provide students with orientation information both on-line and in orientation meetings.  Please encourage your student to take advantage of every opportunity offered to prepare to study abroad.
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