Programs and processes vary at every university and college. We know that some parents or family members had their own study abroad experiences, others have had children or friends study abroad through other institutions, and for some of you this may be a whole new world! We want to explain the process at UW-Madison to help you understand the steps your student will be taking.
We have programs for all majors that can range in duration from one week to the full academic year, and they take place here in the US and in many countries around the world. All students participating on an approved UW Study Abroad program earn academic credit towards their degree at UW-Madison. For more of the basics of study abroad at UW-Madison we encourage you to watch this video.
We urge you to have your student take the lead in all aspects of their program planning. They should be able to answer questions you may have or have access to resources with those answers. We have included some potential conversation starters to use through all parts of the experience.
Program Selection and Application
We offer a variety of different program structures. We encourage students to research which option is best for them and encourage them to understand the differences in academics, housing options, on-site support, internship and volunteer opportunities, costs, and extracurricular activities. Depending on the program structure, parents and family members may also hear directly from our partners. This is most common with Provider programs.
No matter what program your student chooses, all UW Study Abroad programs are designed to help students meet a core of common academic, professional, and personal goals. When exploring programs, it is important for students to consider their goals in these areas as well.
We offer advising services throughout the process and encourage students to talk with us.
All students complete an online application and submit materials to our office.
- What programs most interest you? What classes can you take on that program? Are there opportunities to do an internship, research, or volunteer?
- What are the program costs? What is included in the fee you’ll pay to UW-Madison and what are the estimated additional expenses? Have you talked with financial aid about the program? What scholarships are available?
- How does housing work on this program? Is it provided or do you need to find your own housing? Will you have a roommate?
- Do you know that you can talk to the study abroad office if you have unanswered questions?
- Have you checked in to see if your major or certificate has a Major Advising Page which may help narrow down program options?
- Have you talked with your academic advisor about your plans?
Once a student is accepted to a program, they receive a MyStudyAbroad, account which will have a set of acceptance tasks to confirm their participation. Their MyStudyAbroad account will include tasks to complete as well as information on: costs and cancellation policies, handbook, orientation, academics, travel, passport and visa information, and health and safety information.
Students may also receive a portal similar to MyStudyAbroad from their host university and/or provider.
Preparing to participate on a program can be a very exciting time. We encourage students to talk with us and their parents and family about questions they may have.
All students must read our Handbook that goes over many of the different general details needed to prepare for their experience.
Some students have found it helpful to create a program folder for their parents/families. Things that could be included are:
- Copy of passport
- Copy of visa
- Copy of credit/debit cards (front and back)
- CISI health insurance information
- Flight itinerary and tickets
- Housing information
- Emergency contact card information
- Basic phrases for you in the appropriate language if you’ll be calling a host family. Examples include: “Is Sam there?” “This is not an emergency”
Conversation Starters after Program Acceptance
- Do you need a passport? Have you applied for your passport? or Does your passport need to be renewed?
- Do you need a student visa or residence permit to study in your host country?
- Have you completed your acceptance tasks?
- What health/safety information do you have? Can you share it with me? Do you need to visit the doctor and/or get any vaccinations? Do you need to get prescriptions to last the whole time?
- How will we communicate when you’re away? Is your phone unlocked? Will you get a phone there?
- How does your arrival work? Will you be picked up at the airport or will you make your own way to the program?
- Do we need to buy converters/adapters for your electronics? What extra things do you need to pack?
- I think it would be a good idea to add me to your bank account in case we need to get you funds quickly. What do you think?
- Have you talked with UW Study Abroad staff about any questions or concerns you have?
When your student arrives on site, it may take some time before they are able to let you know they’ve arrived. This is normal. It helps to discuss communication plans in advance, so you know when to expect to her from your student.
Students will receive an on-site orientation and we encourage them to work first with their on-site contacts (who are in their same time zone!) if any issues arise. Our staff is also here to provide support for students.
Just like when your student first came to UW-Madison, your student may go through a number of adjustments on the program (and upon return). We have more information on this in the Handbook.
We know that some parents/families like to visit their students while they’re participating on their program. We recommend waiting to make travel plans until after your student has arrived in case there are any changes to schedules. We have also found it is best to visit at the end of a program when your student has become more comfortable in their host city and can really show you around.
Conversation Starters While Participating on the Program
- What are some of the biggest differences you’ve noticed between your program site and home?
- How are your classes going?
- Are you meeting people from the host site?
- What activities are you doing? How are you exploring your host city?
- What is the favorite food you’ve eaten so far?
- Have you connected with your Study Abroad Advisor and told them how your experience has been?
Returning home sounds like it should be easy, but often students go through an adjustment period. This is often known as “reverse” culture shock. Students often feel like they’ve experienced lots of things and are excited to talk about them, and find that people at home don’t always want to hear their stories, or that they can’t relate to their experiences. We encourage you to ask your student questions about their experience. We have many resources for returned students here.
Conversation Starters Upon Return
- What is one thing about your host site/culture that surprised you?
- What do you feel most accomplished about?
- Are there clubs, organizations, or other ways to stay connected to your host site on campus?
- Have you looked at the Returned Student Resources or talked with a career advisor about how to add this to your resume and talk about it in interviews?
- What was one of your favorite experiences on the program?
- What food/do you miss the most? Maybe we can make it here!
- What part(s) of your daily routine do you miss? Could we do something similar?
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