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Study Abroad Programs
My daughter will be doing the upcoming fall semester of her junior college year in South America. She is following a similar path as my own but things were quite different 30 years ago! She is bilingual, very responsible & level headed. I'm very excited for her but also a bit anxious. Looking for tips & reassurance from parents whose college students have recently studied abroad. In particular, communication with home, best practices for local cell phone option, how much technology (how do you keep safe cell, ipod, laptop, camera....), managing money (debit or credit card???), health insurance (did you buy additional student/travelers insurance?). Thank you in advance! excited but anxious study abroad mom
I'm recently back from the Peace Corps in Ecuador. Almost three years. I was a bit older that your daughter (I went when I was 25), but many volunteers are just out of college, so I feel I have a good sense of the safety issues for that age group.
The overwhelming majority of volunteers experienced no ''security incident'' (as we call them) worse than a shirt disappearing off the clothesline. Even those in big, dangerous cities did, by exercising good judgement, stay completely safe. Risk of course cannot be eliminated but it can be greatly reduced. Can I ask what country she's going to? South America, broadly, is far less dangerous than Central right now.
The biggest thing she can do is take a taxi home after dark, and make sure it's a legit taxi by calling a service or learning to recognize the marks of official taxis (the US Embassy in any country can help with this and other security tips - though be prepared to wade through the very scary-sounding language they post).
Alcohol is the biggest culprit in security problems. She can and likely will drink a bit, but the best thing she can do for her safety is to never engage in more than light drinking. And no being on the beach alone at night ever - not even for five minutes.
As for cell phones she will do best I think buying a local phone, and then buying a chip that works on one of the local networks. Getting and maintaining a pay-as-you-go phone could not be easier in Latin America right now. There is basically a duopoly between two companies and they're both good. If she wants to bring a phone from here just make sure it is a SIM card phone, and it is unlocked. An old blackberry or smartphone is a safety plus because she can get a small data package and then use it to stay in touch with you online. Even the non-smart phones can send and receive texts from the US, however, and receive (expensive) calls.
ATMs that work with her bank's credit AND debit card will likely be ubiquitous, but she should bring both. This is another area to be very careful about of course. Only go to the ATM in the day, go with friends if possible. And if ever confronted, give it all up.
The technology should be no problem so long as she keeps it safe in her room for the most part. All those items you mention are becoming rather common among locals as well.
I can't help with health insurance advice, unfortunately.
I am excited for your daughter. I consider my experience a pretty good guide and I know that smart, level-headed, Spanish-speaking young people like your daughter rarely get into trouble, so long as they get a good orientation at the outset and maintain their common sense throughout. Jack
My 15 year old 9th grade daughter wants to study abroad next year (sophomore year) for a semester. She will have 2 years of Spanish and would like to go to a Spanish speaking country. She actually prefers Central or South America, but may consider Spain. What are the best organizations for this type of experience? I want to make sure the organization is well organized and respected. What is the average cost? Are there organizations that ensure a quality experience, perhaps with some community service or theme? She has spoken to her high school counselor, and we also want to get a variety of options. If you have had an experience that was successful, I would like to hear about it. Thanks for your help! Study Abroad Mom
AFS is a very reputable student exchange program. I've known students, from the U.S. and from other countries, who've had good experiences and others who've had bad experiences-- it can be a matter of temperament, ''fit'' with the family, or (lack of) support at the school (like the bright European student put in vocational classes in the U.S. instead of with the college-bound students). Your student might end up in a family with no other teens, or the family might live in an isolated rural area. Or the family may have tensions that have nothing to do with the student but make her very uncomfortable.
AFS doesn't let you pick the language or country you want, only the hemisphere, which can be a blessing in disguise, according to students I've known who've ended up in Brazil and Italy. This is my two cents.
Hello, your daughter should be commended for wanting to contribute in a small, but significant way, to global peace and understanding.
There are several websites you might want to take a look at, here are just two: Dept. of State website http://www.state.gov/youthandeducation/ . Somewhat confusing site, but a good place to start. Also there is a non-profit council (CSIET) who's mission statment is to identify reputable international youth exchange programs: http://www.csiet.org/
I have a sophomore who is also interested in foreign exchange and I also happen to be a DOS Certified, Local Coordinator. As a Local Coordinator, I see the other end of these programs, I find host families and monitor the student while they are here in the US.
Here are a few questions to ask potential programs: 1) Cost? What is included in that cost? Airfare? 3 meals a day? Local transportation to school? Insurance? School fees? 2) How are families,homes and students evaluated? If you just pay a fee and the student is in without any testing etc. this probably speaks to how they evaluate their host families. Ask for references from former students. 4) How often are the students and the host families contacted? Via in person contact? Phone? email? 5) If it is not a ''good fit'', what are the steps taken to move the student? 6) What is their business model? How are the families and Local Coordinators compensated?
You may also, want to consider hosting yourself prior to her departure so that you have a better understanding of what your daughter will be going through and how the program operates (many orgs also give you credit towards your students travel abroad).
The Center for Cultural Interchange (CCI) is a 25 year old non-profit, exchange organization with an environmental slant. Our students are encouraged (via trips and prizes) to contribute to their host communities via social welfare projects and conservation efforts, education and conscious living. We facilitate almost 10,000 exchanges each year. Our website is www.cci-exchange.org. Also, have your daughter take a look at our blog and she can read about US students currently abroad at: http://greenhearttravel.wordpress.com/high-school-abroad-2/
Good luck! Candace
My daughter who is a junior at UC Berkeley just heard that she has been accepted to the study abroad program for the fall. She will be going to Madrid,Spain. I am happy for her but also nervous. Has anyone sent their child on one of these programs? The details about who the ''host family'' is sound vague and she apparently won't know who she has been assigned to until she gets there. Outside of the living situation, how safe is it? Any insight would be greatly appreciated. wary of foreign countries
First, to reassure you, there will be at least one U of C person on site for the program, and the students have someone to turn to if anything becomes problematic either with the host family or her courses. There will also be other American students there in case she gets lonely/homesick. And nowadays you can chat with each other with a visual image on Skype, she can share photos of where she lives instantly, etc. She will not seem so far away if you can contact her regularly and speak face-to-face (virtually).
Finally I want to say a word about how important these programs are. If a person wants to learn to speak a language -- really speak it and understand the spoken language -- he or she MUST go to a country where it is spoken and live there for a while. I say this as a professor of foreign language and literature. It is really imperative for young Americans to learn about foreign culture as well, and living in a foreign culture is the best way to figure out that our culture is not the only possible way of life. And these experiences can be life-transforming in other ways, too, teaching self-confidence and giving the person a stronger sense of self. My life was transformed by a study abroad program and improved immensely. I try to make all my students go. Encourage your daughter, and go yourself! You can allay your own fears that way. traveling mom
When I was a college sophomore in 1978, I went to Paris for a study abroad program. There was no host family, or housing help: We all had to find our own housing. We all did fine. My husband, in the same program a few years earlier, spent the semester living in a VW bus below the Eiffel Tower. He did fine (and has great stories). The world was much bigger and challenging then -- before cell phones and credit cards and Skype. Fast forward 30+ years: My son took a gap year between HS and college last year. He traveled the world, and made all his own travel and accommodation arrangements (including, in France and Hungary, arranging host families). Sometimes, we only knew which country he was in because his phone had a tracer feature. He was 18 years old, and did great. After that, we are confident he can handle anything life sends his way. Time to Stop Hovering
Madrid can be as safe as any big city that has more than three million people. It depends on where you are, with whom you are, and what you do. People there, as people here, have values, manners, and respect each other. Your daughter experience there is going to depend largely on how she carries herself. And no one can guaranty total safety in Madrid or anywhere.
As a foreigner (from Spain), as a mother of a student who spent a year abroad in Perugia, Italy, and who also spent many months of his life in Spain, and as a former UC lecturer that had students who spent a year abroad in Madrid and was there while the students were there, I can tell you that most of the experiences that the students had and that I am aware of were positive. I can also tell you that I have seen American students and other foreign students totally ''losing it'' and not knowing what to do with so much freedom away from their parents and in a foreign country. It is not only of foreign countries that one should be wary of.
I hope your daughter has a wonderful experience in Madrid. Madrid es mucho Madrid. Victoria
But from a parent's perspective, I understand that one's child is always one's ''child'', even when they're 21 (or in my case, 50 - my mother still worries about me when she hears I've been out driving on a rainy day, bless her!) But if your daughter applied to a study abroad program, then obviously she's interested and ready to try something new and different. And as to the host families not being known, that's normal. Don't add that to your worries - they're usually great, and if there's an issue, she can probably change families.
And while I'm sure people may jump down your throat for your statement that you're afraid of foreign countries, well, at least you're honest. Lots of people (especially Americans) are afraid of the unknown. But if I were Spanish, I'd be more afraid of sending my daughter to the United States...especially to the Bay Area! On a per capita basis (from U.N. statistics), the murder rate in the U.S. is 3x that of Spain, we have more than 3x more assaults, 4x more total crimes per capita, twice as many rapes, we have more motor vehicle deaths...really, you name it...the U.S. is a dangerous, scary place....at least it would look that way to a Spanish parent!
So yes, there is theft in Spain, pick-pocketing in tourist areas, etc., and I suppose there is the theoretical threat from the ETA Basque separatists, although there have been no attacks on civilians since 2004. The world is a dangerous place, the world is a wonderful place, please let your daughter go to Spain. Oh, and by the way, I'm sending my 15 year old daughter to Spain this summer!
No te preocupes....(don't worry...) Natasha B.
I found the most valuable information buried deep in the 80 page online handbook. For instance, the third world country my son went to requires proof of ability to pay if you need emergency medical care, so I put him on my Visa account and sent him with a credit card to be used only in emergency. This was on top of the pretty comprehensive insurance that comes with the UC study abroad program.
As far as your daughter's safety goes-- she'll attend several days of orientation there, and get to know the liaison person. Madrid is a big city, and in all big cities your daughter should keep her eyes open, a tight hold on her purse, and probably not travel alone at night. Check what the State Department's website says about travelling in Spain. Spain is experiencing a recession right now so probably property crimes are up.
As far as the host family goes, they will probably be kind but it may or may not be a good fit; she may not get close to them, but it will be a good learning experience to figure out what's due to a cultural difference and what's a temperamental difference, or which tension is due to adjusting to the American student and which tensions already existed in the family.
When my son studied abroad we talked frequently on Skype. It's great to talk face-to-face, and it's a very small program to install
Don't worry too much
Does anyone have experience or advice with a BHS junior doing her/his first semester abroad? My daughter, now in AC, has the opportunity to live with good friends in Dublin next fall and we're trying to figure out how it could work/coordinate with school. She would likely be registering for AP classes at BHS and I wonder about doing only the second semester of them next year. Thanks! mom
My son, a high school freshman in IB at Berkeley HS, is interested in spending a semester overseas next year, ideally Britain or France. The IB folks don't seem to have alot of info. We're looking for a high school program, not one of the summer vacation language schools. Anyone out there with any experience or recommendations? Parent of a teen
Looking for suggestions on keeping in touch with my daughter when she spends the year in Italy in a college program, next year! What about Skype? JahJah? AIM (Instant Messenger) on your computer? How available are computer connections? How costly? What about cell phone service within Italy? Do we get a ''service''? Sign up for a plan? Finally: What about health insurance for the student abroad? Apparently, the EU now requires that non-EU students buy health insurance to get a student visa. One website says you can walk in to any Italian post office and get it. But how much does that cost? The college says we should buy their health insurance for service abroad, but it's expensive, and not sure what it would cover (their mandatory $1400/year U.S. service does not cover much). Thanks for any and all advice and suggestions!
Next year my daughter will be at school in Florence. Her college here wants us to buy medical insurance -- but I don't see why she needs it. Any suggestions? When we were in Italy, my husband became ill, went to a local hospital, was seen by a doctor and 4 others (xrays, etc), all for free. Then he got a prescription that was filled at the local pharmacy for $12. I am also interested in trip interruption insurance, in case she became so ill she had to be sent home. Any suggestions? Thanks very much
I think you should check with the Italian Embassy to find if there is any mandatory insurance requirement.
Looking for advice about ways to minimize costs for college student who wants to do semester abroad -- I have heard that if you do it through a school in another country instead of your own university it can be much more economical. Anybody have any experience/advice on how this works?
Big savings tip - check with the local banks to see which one has collaboration with a bank in the country your child is going to. We discovered that Bof A had a partner bank in Australia that was just as prevalent everywhere in Australia - it meant that our son could use his BofA ATM card at their atm machines for no cost!!! I could deposit money here, and he could get it there at an optimum exchange rate and no fees. Huge savings! (you just can't shop with it, just use it to get cash, there are big fees to use it outside of the atm). You can likely find a similar set up for most European banks, just call around here. been there
Has anyone had experience with high school programs in France for either a semester or a year? I have a teen who would like to spend their junior year in France. We are looking into SYA, a clear frontrunner and amazing program. Just hoping someone has some input for us. Thank you. parent of a francophile
http://www.usa.afs.org/usa_en/focus_on/high_school/30 AFS is much less costly than SYA (although SYA has need- based scholarships) but I believe it is not nearly as comprehensive in terms of organization, supervision and issues like transferring credits to your child's high school, and helping with the college planning and application process. (Recommendations from junior year teachers are often quite significant in college applications). optimoms
My Berkeely High School freshman will be spending her sophmore year in Italy. We have to decide whether to send her to a local Italian school (she hasn't studied the language much) or send her to a private English-speaking school. If you have a teen who has spent a year abroad, did they attend a local school or a private school? How hard was it for them to adjust? Did not knowing the language create a social barrier with other students? Did they learn anything? How hard was it coming back into high school? I'd like to hear about your experience.
I had previously posted a query about my Berkeley High School freshman who will be spending her sophmore year abroad. I wanted to clarify that it will be in Milan,Italy; that the family is going; and that I would like to hear about the following issue. Is the difficulty and social isolation of adjusting to high school in a foreign language (my daughter knows very little Italian) worth it?
Although less language learned, it is also a less painful adjustment to attend a private English-speaking internations high school which is culturally not that different from high schools here. Does the easier route make more sense? If you or your teen have had any personal experience on the subject, I'd enjoy hearing about it.
My year in Sweden at age 17 living with a host family and attending public school was one of the hardest but most rewarding years of my life. Getting over the language barrier was difficult but by Christmas (I had arrived in August) I had my first dream in Swedish and was pretty fluent when I left a year later. Language was a bit of a social barrier. I did not make any lasting friends and if I hadn't had my host sister I think it would have been a pretty lonely year. I did enjoy doing things with acquaintances--often other foreigners--so I wasn't an outcast by any means.
I did learn some things in school, even in Swedish. Math was not a strong subject for me and even more difficult in a foreign language. I enjoyed science--still know the endocrine glands in Swedish. :-) I enjoyed their English class and learned a lot just from seeing language and literature from a different perspective. History was a little difficult but I enjoyed learning a bit about Swedish history. PE was a welcome respite.
From the many people I know who have spent a high school year abroad (both with exchange programs and their families) it is a really difficult experience (I don't know anyone who has just sailed through) but an amazing year of personal growth. It does make going back to American high school an equally difficult transition--I don't think you can get around that. It's such an eye opening, maturing experience and it sets you apart from the ''silliness'' of American high school. Sally
My HS junior wants to go to Japan for a year as an exchange student. We visited Japan last year and he is obsessed with going back. He is doing very well in a college-level Japanese class this year but is otherwise a rather poor student. I want to encourage him to follow this one interest he has besides video games, but I am worried about 3 things: 1) can he hack Japanese schools when he can only manage Cs here? 2) the Japanese school year apparently runs March-Nov which means half his senior year and part of college would be missed 3) I don't know if I can bear for him to be gone for a whole year
Anyone have experience sending a highschooler off to a faraway country for a year? Or just general advice? Thanks
Everyone I knew who did an exchange program benefited from the experience -- ASSUMING IT WAS A REPUTABLE, WELL RUN PROGRAM. The boy I knew who went to Japan had the hardship of doing Senior year afterwards, due to scheduling problems...he then went to college and became a pediatrician, married and had a family. It certainly worked for him -- and his mom got through the year without him ok, too. Good luck. Heather
The deadline to apply for next summer is very soon AND there are some scholarships available. (Some are sponsored by the US government and some are paid for by the Japanese Ministry of Education.) The program volunteers do extensive interviews of candidates and the orientation before departure and in Japan was excellent. Rosemary
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