What you need to know
Congratulations, parents, and welcome to the world of opportunities
at Murray State University! Study abroad can raise many questions for
parents, so this information is designed to assist you as you try to
navigate this exciting opportunity for your student. Please feel free to
contact the Study Abroad Office of the Institute for International Studies
if you would like to speak to a study abroad professional.
We understand you want to help your student have a successful study abroad experience. However, allowing your student to help himself will be more beneficial for both of you. See this article before taking on too much of the responsibility yourself.
Why Study Abroad?
Parents sometimes ask why students should study abroad. What is the
benefit? In today’s global market and tough economic times, students
must do everything they can to make themselves more marketable. Study
abroad is one resume item that does this because it shows that your
student has initiative, is willing to take risks and step into the
unknown and is open to uncertainty. Study abroad creates global citizens
who appreciate the world we inhabit and how our respect of others views
informs our own views and the world we create. Study abroad requires
flexibility and the ability to think on your feet. Applicants who have
studied abroad and showcase this on their resume often find themselves
talking about it in question one of their job interview. You’ll know
what we mean when your student returns and you wonder who she is. She
will have gained great self-confidence, knowledge, and independence.
Perhaps she’ll change her major or add study of another language to her
academic or career goals. You’ll notice. For more on
internationalizing your student’s resume, see the link on this page.
If you are involved in assisting your student with choosing a
program, please keep the following factors in mind. Usually a student
knows the answer to at least one of these questions, which then guides
the selection process.
- Academics. Does your student plan to take courses in his
major while abroad? Which programs offer such courses? Encourage your
student to talk with his Academic Advisor regarding which courses will
best fit with his degree plan. Remember that courses outside of his
major can still be counted toward graduation in other areas – minor,
electives, general studies. It is perfectly acceptable not to take
courses in his major while on a short program abroad. Though we highly
encourage longer term students to seek out a program offering his major,
if your student is ahead in his academic plan or is in an academically
flexible major, he could attend a semester program without taking major
courses as well.
- Language Study. Does your student want to study language?
Programs vary from beginning level language learners up to full
intensive language-only programs. Programs are also available in
- Length of Program. How long does your student want to study
abroad? What programs will work academically for the length of time he
wants to go? MSU programs are as short as a spring break and as long as a
full academic year with everything in-between, even winter break
programs. Encourage your student to examine all the options.
- Location. We offer more than 170 programs in more than 40
countries worldwide. Chances are your student has an idea of where he
wants to go, but if he doesn’t this can be a fun part of your program
exploration. Keep in mind that not all locations have programs
throughout the year, but instead may offer a short-term option only or a
semester option only.
- Costs. Keep in mind that the price you see for a program may
or may not include all costs associated with the program. Perk
comparison in relation to price is an absolute necessity. When comparing
programs, look for the following major costs associated with study
abroad: airfare, tuition, housing, meals, on-site transportation,
required group activities and excursions, travel insurance, visa fees.
Other costs to consider: passport, personal spending, application fees.
- Talk with your student about the program they have chosen. You can
find many program details online, including in many cases, available
courses, fees, and dates.
- Attend orientation. All parents are invited to attend the program
orientation for your student’s study abroad program. Orientation dates
can be found on the program checklist for your student’s program, found
in the Application
Materials & Deadlines section of this website. A sample
orientation agenda can be found in the Helpful Links bar of this page.
- Be sure to investigate options for your cell and home phones.
- Students on longer programs consistently recommend Skype
as an easy communication tool.
- Daily communication is unrealistic. Remember this is your student’s
chance to gain some independence. They can’t do that if they’re
checking in with you every day.
- Your student may call at some point during the program and be very
unhappy or even depressed. This is usually associated with Culture
Shock. It is difficult to enter another culture and grow accustomed to
everything that is so new and different. Even if your student initially
called with extreme excitement, this call could come a week later.
- Do not encourage your student to come home or ‘feed’ their
depression. Encourage them to continue to remain involved, seek out
American food and other comforts that may remind them of home.
- In many cases the problem they call you about solves itself within
24 hours. Resist your initial urge to fly over and save the day.
- Encourage your student to seek out the people necessary to help
resolve the problem and let your student take the lead in doing so.
Remind your student who can help with issues that have popped up so they
can solve them on their own.
- Ask them to call you back within the next 24 hours. Usually by that
time they are feeling better and problems are solved – but they often
forget to call and tell you that part.
Visiting Your Student
- Do not tag along for orientation at the beginning of the program.
Students have much to do to get acclimated and must attend orientation.
If you are tagging along they are drawn away from the other students and
find it more difficult later to make the friends they could have made
during that orientation period.
- Do not visit at the end of the program. Though this often sounds
like a great idea to both you and your student, by the time the end of
the program rolls around students realize how difficult this could be
for them. At that point they are wrapping up a life they have made for
themselves and figuring out how to leave relationships behind. They need
time and space to do this on their own without being torn away to
- When visiting, remember your student is a student. It may be your
vacation, but it’s not a vacation for your student. She still has to
study and attend class. Don’t encourage her to miss group excursions and
other program requirements while there.
- Encourage your student to ask about the emergency plans for the
program she is attending.
- All students studying abroad receive an emergency contact card. Ask
your student for the emergency numbers for her program and keep them
handy in case of emergency back home.
- At least one parent/guardian should have a valid passport in case
an emergency occurs and you need to get to your student abroad.
- Encourage your student to leave a copy of the following at home:
- All ATM, debit, and credit cards, front and back
- Insurance cards (both primary and travel-specific), front and back,
with plan information including contact details for the provider
Costs and Scholarships
If program cost is a concern for your family, you are not alone. The
majority of study abroad participants seek out some type of aid to make
their dream a reality.
- All students interested in studying abroad should make the Student
Financial Aid Office one of their first stops. Even if your student has
not been eligible for federal aid (grants and loans) before, study
abroad is an additional educational expense that in some cases may make
them eligible for aid.
- KEES. Students receiving funding through the Kentucky Educational
Excellence Scholarship can use this money on any semester or year-long
study abroad program they choose.
- Encourage your student to apply for the Study Abroad Scholarships
he is eligible for, which can be found at the Scholarship
section of this website.
- Remember to compare what each program is providing for the cost.
One program may appear much cheaper than another because it is not
providing roundtrip airfare and the other is.