Tips for Parents of Students Studying Abroad
Study abroad programs have become an important part of the college experience. Every year students traverse the globe to continue their studies and explore exciting new places. These trips are filled with adventurous experiences where students learn independence, new languages, culture and make life-long friends. Here are some tips to ensure that your sons and daughters have a safe travel abroad experience.
It's important to research the areas where students will be spending their time abroad. Conducting pre-planning of the country and area with your student will allow them to know what to expect and once they arrives1. Here are some aspects of pre-planning to review with your student.
A very important part of pre-planning is to ensure that your student is up-to-date on his/her vaccines. You can even make an appointment with a physician who specializes in travel medicine and properly equip your child with the preventative measures to take prior to and while traveling to their selected destination. Additionally, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website offers comprehensive health and medical information for travelers on required immunizations, staying safe in country, and what to do if a traveler becomes ill or injured.
2. Important travel documents
Ensure important documents are up-to-date and won't be expiring during the study abroad experience. Most countries require that a passport be valid for at least six months beyond the completion of a trip. If your passport expires sooner than that, you must apply to renew your passport. In most countries, a Visa is required for a stay longer than 90 days. Make copies of your student's passport, international drivers license, and visas. Your student should have a hard copy with them while traveling. Also consider storing electronic copies in the cloud using a service such as DropBox. This will make the documents accessible anywhere in the world from a computer with an internet connection.
3. Travel Security Plans
Most colleges utilize 24 hours per day emergency services for medical and security related issues. They typically provide a toll-free number and instructions for who to call in the event of an emergency. LIM College utilizes International SOS and provides students with instructions on what to do during emergency situations.
4. Contact information
Get a list of important phone numbers to include lodging, school point of contact, roommates, host families, the U.S. Embassy and your student's in-country number and program the numbers into your phoness2.
5. Living arrangements
Research and review with your students where they will be staying for the time abroad. Put important addresses in your cell phones to include housing, school, work study, and other areas they will be going to regularly. Also review housing safety codes and any emergency evacuation plans that the study abroad program might have available.
6. Types of transportation
Find out what types of transportation are available to your student. Review their train stops, bus stops and taxi services with them. If your student is going to be walking to and from various locations, help them plan their walking routes. Try to stay on main roads and in higher populated areas.
Explore multiple options to determine which phone and phone service will work best for your student while abroad. Consider the amount of usage, the location and a monthly budget that works best. Most U.S. cell providers offer multiple international service plans depending on desired usage needs. Another option is for your student to purchase a local cell phone and SIM card when they arrive at their destination. The most inexpensive way to stay connected and maintain a line of communication is to download free apps including Facebook Instant Messenger, WhatsApp and Skype. These applications allow you to make free online calls through the internet anywhere in the world.
8. Sign up for the Smart Travelers Enrollment Program (STEP)
The Smart Travelers Enrollment Program is a free service provide by the U.S. Government for its citizens who are traveling to different foreign countries. This program allows you and your student to research and find information on their upcoming trip. When your student signs up for the STEP program, he or she will receive automatic updates and current information about the country they're travelling to. The STEP program also allows Americans abroad to receive routine information from their nearest Embassy or Consulate. To sign up for STEP go to the Department of State's website at: https://step.state.gov/step/
9. Learn about local laws and customs
U.S. Citizens are all subject to local laws while studying abroad. Foreign countries laws and legal systems can vary from our own and it's very important to know what's legal and what's not while abroad. Take the time to review different laws and the legal system with your student before they travel abroad. The U.S. Embassy cannot get your student out of jail or avoid prosecution.
10. Pack Smart
While helping your student pack for their trip abroad encourage them to pack light. Packing light will allow them to move quickly and have a free hand while in the airport. Have your student carry a minimum number of valuables as well as plan certain places to conceal them. It's important to have all luggage properly tagged with your student's identity and nationality so they are covered in the event of lost luggage. Lastly, avoid packing ID's, tickets and other important documents in bags or luggage that you won't be able to see at all times.
Safety Tips While Traveling
Here are some good traveling safety tips to review with your student before they leave to study abroad.
1. Carrying Items
Store your credit cards, money, identification cards, checks and information you won't be using in a safe place within your living arrangements. Also keep important documents and items in your front pockets. Items can easily be stolen from back pockets.
2. Leave expensive jewelry at home
Showing off your jewelry can make your student look like a worthy target for mugging or pickpocketing.
3. Don't be a hero
If your student is a victim of a robbery, they shouldn't try to fight back. They should give items up and once in a safe area go to the nearest authorities to report the incidents3.
4. Adventure trips and excursions
Since your student is in a part of the world that he or she has likely not been before, it's natural for him or her to want to explore a bit during free time. Here are some safety tips to discuss with your student about excursions and trips while abroad.
o Only take trips or excursions that are provided by a tour operator or another reputable organization. o Always let someone know where you are going, who you are going with and when you expect to return.
o Take photographs or videos of anything that causes concern and record names and addresses of those involved if possible. These can later be used as evidence in any subsequent complaint.
5. Avoid using credit card at internet cafes
Criminals have found new ways to commit identify theft and steal your credit card information while paying for internet access. Students should not make financial transactions online at internet cafes.
6. Stay with a group when going out
Ensure that your student knows that traveling alone can be dangerous and that staying with a group is very important. They should also know how to identify safe havens such as restaurants, stores, police stations and embassies.
7. Keep drinking under control
The drinking age in some countries may make it legal for your student to drink while abroad. Encourage your student to drink responsibly and stay in control while abroad. A good technique is to have no more than two or three drinks and drinking water between alcoholic drinks.
LIM College is a client of International SOS (ISOS)
International SOS is a medical and travel security risk service company. All of the LIM College students, faculty and staff traveling abroad for educational purposes are encouraged to register with the ISOS services. The service provides 24 hours, 7 days a week assistance during any medical, security or natural emergencies that occur in your time abroad. ISOS service includes more than 11,000 employees that are led by 1,400 doctors and 200 security specialists around the world. Once you and your student registers for ISOS service you'll receive an emergency card containing instructions for contacting assistance and the LIM College membership number.
Emergency Services While Abroad
1. Contacting Police, Fire, EMS
While your student is studying abroad in another country it is important to discuss what to do in emergency situations. Not every country uses "911" as its emergency contact number. The emergency numbers to contact the police, fire, and EMS vary depending on the country that you are in. In some countries, the number dialed may vary based on the cell phone provider. For a reference list of emergency contact numbers in foreign countries visit https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/students-abroad/pdfs/911_ABROAD.pdf. Once you've found the appropriate emergency numbers, have your student program those numbers into their cell phones. Hopefully they won't need to use them, but it's worth knowing just in case an emergency occurs4.
2. U.S. Embassy or Consulate
It is also very important to have the contact information for the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for the country that your student is visiting. Consular duty personnel are available for emergency assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at U.S. Embassies, Consulates and Consular agencies overseas.
3. Reaching Student in Emergencies
If you have to reach your student because of an emergency at home, you can call the Office of Overseas Citizens Services in Washington D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (during business hours) or 202-647-5225 (after hours). The State Department will have a consular officer try and locate your student to relay the urgent message if possible.