We understand that parents, guardians, and loved ones want to help their student succeed and have a positive experience abroad. In order for this to happen, it is important that you allow your student to take charge of his/her application and pre-departure preparations. We encourage all parents to support their study abroad student and ask questions, but by allowing the student to spend his/her time meeting with various departments around campus, contacting their bank and cell phone company, and corresponding directly with WMU Study Abroad you will help develop confidence in his/her skills of perseverance, critical thinking, and problem solving. These skills are essential for once the student goes abroad so it is important that they practice them early. If a student is hesitant to contact their bank or meet with financial aid, they may also be hesitant asking for directions in a foreign country so it is recommended that you try your best to acclimate your student to stepping outside of his/her comfort zone and to taking on new, and sometimes challenging, tasks before they depart.
Once your student is abroad it is important that you continue to support his/her experiential growth.It is normal for students to have moments where they feel down and want to come home, and you can help them through culture shock by reminding them why they wanted to participate in this experience.
- Discuss your student’s goals and motivations prior to his/her departure so that you can be a cheerleader for them as they experience cultural difficulties and make mistakes.
- Remind them that it is normal to have challenges and to find the positives in their experiences. Knowing that you are supportive of their participation can help them view their experiences as learning opportunities instead of failures.
In addition to being a support system it is also recommended that you grant your student a reasonable degree of independence. If he/she is constantly taking time to communicate with people back home, he/she is spending less time engaging with locals, experiencing cultural activities, and practicing his/her problem solving skills.
- Before your student leaves, agree on a reasonable plan for communicating, but let him/her know you are flexible, and you do not want him/her to sacrifice any part of their experience to Skype or send an email.
- Studies have found that the more students are able to disconnect to their life at home, the more they gain in terms of cultural awareness and self-confidence so be sure to help your student maximize the return on this investment.