Before You Send Them
We appreciate parental concerns regarding international programs for their so or daughter so we have put together the following checklist to ensure each participant is fully prepared for departure. Many of these ideas and recommendations are common knowledge for experienced international travelers. Your children will probably appreciate all of these issues by the time they return from their experience abroad.
Discussing the various topics below can help students gain confidence in their abilities to handle any situation which might may arise. It can also help you feel that you have fully prepared your child for their Global Experience. Please review the information carefully and feel free to contact us should you have any questions or concerns.
Choosing the Best Program
Selecting the best program option for you is the most important factor when deciding to live, work or study abroad. Global Experiences' programs are designed with varying degrees of personal and professional enrichment in mind. Though traveling abroad in itself is certainly worthwhile, we find that participating in a formal program with a greater purpose is even more rewarding in both the short and long term. An international internship can open many doors to employment, global contacts, and unparalleled practical experience in a chosen career field. Teaching English as a foreign language is a great way to travel the world, experience many cultures, and get paid to do it. Volunteering abroad provides opportunity to 'give something back' to the global community while experiencing the wonders of immersing oneself in a foreign culture. Click Here to learn more
Discuss the Challenges of Living in a Foreign Country
While your son or daughter lives abroad they will go through a range of emotions as they become familiar with a new place and new cultural differences which they need to adapt to and understand. By discussing some of the common situations they might expect it will be easier for them to enjoy their time away and, while they will have periods of home-sickness, they will get the most out of the program as a result.
Discuss Communication While Abroad
There are many ways for you to keep in touch with your son or daughter abroad. Families often agree that once a week on a certain day they will email or call each other just to check in.
Email: If you don't already have an email account it can be good to set one up through one of the free services such as Yahoo or Hotmail. It is cheap and easy to send emails with many of the students and interns having free access through their language school or intern placement company. Internet cafes are also easy to find and offer affordable means of keeping in touch if a phone is not readily available.
Phone: International phone cards are a great way to keep in touch. There are many choices and pricing options available. Many companies can be found on www.goabroad.com. Many of our locations include the rental of a cell phone. Students are responsible for arranging the core costs of the phone. I is necessary to understand the terms and conditions for costs, but in most cases incoming calls are included in the phone rental.
Understanding the Language
For those traveling to a non-English speaking country it is important to start thinking about the language before you arrive for the first day of class. It is strongly recommended that students take some time to learn some basic phrases and what we call travel language. One of the best ways to prepare is with a CD or audio tape learning program, which can often be borrowed from your local library. When your child starts a program it is essential they attend all language classes where applicable. Obtaining a good understanding of the language of their host country is essential to continue onto internship or study components, not to mention simply living and understanding the local culture.
What to do in an Emergency
Although we have never had to deal with any to date, emergencies may arise and it is important to know what to do and where to go just in case. The State Department web site provides travel warnings and other relevant information on every country in the world so please be sure to check there from time to time. Our staff in each location is available 24 hours per day as well so please be sure your child has all of the relevant contact information for their host program. It may also be a good idea to make sure they know the phone number of the US consulate in the city they are living in case they find themselves in need of help. These numbers can also be found on the State Department website. Of course, you are always free to contact our administrative staff at any time should a problem arise while abroad.
What to Pack
The temptation to take everything you own when you travel overseas is very strong, especially for those embarking on their first international travel experience. Many of our staff members have funny stories of their packing miscues so please be reasonable with what you bring. It is best to take a limited amount of clothes and items which can be easily washed, don't need to be ironed, and in a bag which can easily be carried or wheeled without having to always use taxis. For Americans traveling abroad we recommend students do not openly identify themselves as Americans where possible. One way to avoid this is not wearing US flags on clothing or hats, and not wearing US sporting or collegiate sweat shirts and memorabilia. Otherwise, it is good to have the staples for any trip away from home. Please check with our program coordinator to determine exactly what you might need for your program. We also send out predeparture information for all of our programs, which includes further specific information regarding what to bring with you.
Be Street Smart
Tourists and visitors anywhere in the world are always a target for petty theft and other minor crimes. Make sure your son or daughter has a money belt to keep passport and money in while traveling. Once they have arrived at their accommodations and begin their program, we recommend not carrying all money, credit cards and passports on their person but to find a safe place to keep them at home. Make photocopies of passport and health insurance information in case they are lost or stolen. Parents should also discuss common sense practices about traveling alone, at night or in areas of the city where one should avoid if possible.
It is a good idea to keep in touch with international issues while traveling abroad. It can also be reassuring to read about what is happening at home to gain a better understanding of the host country and even one's own country with a new perspective of being on the outside looking in. Some of the most invaluable experience students have relates to a new appreciation for their own culture in addition to that of the foreign country in which they are living. In non-English speaking countries the International Herald Tribune offers a great way to stay in touch. English speaking newspapers published locally are also often available, including USA Today (European version).
How to Avoid Homesickness
On some level, this is almost impossible, especially for a first time traveler. Students will often find their accommodation different to what they are accustomed to, and that their usual sources of entertainment are no longer available. To ensure your child has every tool to handle these challenges, we encourage them to bring photos from home, books they like to read as well as music and headphones so they can entertain themselves when necessary. To assimilate to their new environment, it is important to try to make friends not only with other program participants but also with locals. One of the best ways to forget about what you are missing is to learn about and take advantage of all the great things your new home has to offer. Of course, we expect they will have little difficulty forgetting about Pittsburgh for a while if they are exposed to the wonders of Rome or Sydney or Quito!