While fully recognizing that the majority of our student travelers are adults, we view parents/guardians as partners and collaborators in the preparation and journeys of our participants. We welcome your involvement throughout the study abroad experience and would like to share our ideas about how you can help your student to maximize their experience abroad. Know that your support and ongoing communication with your student both before and during their program can be an instrumental part of their success.
We, the founders of API, as former study abroad students ourselves, are intimately aware of the personal and professional growth that result from international experiences. Yet as mothers who have sent our own children abroad, we can fully relate to the anxiety and nerves that affect many parents/guardians in the pre-departure phase and well into the abroad experience itself. Putting your students on a plane to a distant — and often unknown– location is heart wrenching, even when you know it is to their benefit!
We have created this list of what you can expect from API as parents/guardians, as well as our expectations regarding how you will assist your students.
Assurances from API:
- API’s stateside staff and Resident Directors abroad are committed to delivering high quality student services and programs. All API university programs have on-site coordinators and directors to provide ongoing assistance and guidance to students in our host destinations.
- API offers academic and cultural opportunities for your student, seeking to push them outside of their comfort zones. Cultural events and excursions have been selected with the goal of providing students with a broader vision of their host country or region.
- API will place your students in accommodations that have been thoroughly investigated on the basis of quality, safety and convenience. Safety can never be guaranteed, but API believes that ongoing reviews of our housing and careful selection can help to mitigate risk.
- API will send detailed information and communications to your student throughout the study abroad experience: before, during and post-program. We will also communicate with your student’s home institution whenever warranted.
- API will monitor potential social and political unrest abroad and provide your student with instructions regarding how to respond safely. We will also notify your student’s home institution of the situation, sharing how API is monitoring and handling matters on the ground.
- API has established extensive policies to promote safety and security.
- API provides contact information for our in-country directors who are available 24/7 to students for ongoing support or emergency needs.
- Parents and guardians are able to reach API stateside staff during business hours or, in case of an emergency, after hours by calling 1-800-844-4124 and following the prompts for our emergency messaging service.
- API will seek to empower your student to handle most situations independently, but may choose to involve parents/guardians during emergencies. Parents can expect support and timely responses whenever they seek out API expertise in emergency situations.
Expectations for Parent/Guardian Involvement and Collaboration:
- Discuss their student’s goals and expectations for this program pre-departure and at a variety of points during the session abroad to monitor progress.
- Seek to understand how the program works and how it will impact the students’ academics upon their return to their U.S. campus.
- Review our guide: “What to Know Before They Go” as well as the API website, our blog, and other social media outlets to more fully understand all that is involved with the experience abroad.
- Assist their students with financing and budgeting concerns. Doing so can mean diving into the complicated world of financial aid!
- Engage their student in a thorough discussion of safety and behavioral issues, as well as the API Code of Conduct. In particular, parents should speak frankly about the use of illegal drugs and alcohol while abroad, as the use thereof is the number one factor in on-site emergencies and personal crises abroad.
- Establish a communication plan with their student as to when and how often to be in contact while abroad. It is particularly important to discuss the importance of a first call home upon arrival!
- Encourage their students to utilize the API-provided cell phone or see that they get a cell phone as soon as possible once in the host country. Students will be asked to provide in-country contact information to their respective API Resident Directors in case of an emergency.
- Respond quickly to any requests from the API office.
- Encourage their student to bring up issues and concerns directly to API Resident Directors on-site (e.g., roommate concerns, academic issues, cultural adjustment problems, etc.). Strive to balance the concerns of the students with the advice and expertise shared by API Resident Directors and U.S. staff.
- Understand how FERPA laws affect what universities and API can and cannot share with parents and guardians (i.e., certain legal protections regarding the release of personal information for adult participants affect what API is able to share).
- Give their student both “roots and wings.” Encourage their student to take the lead in the planning and execution of this time abroad, but provide support when they face inevitable challenges adjusting to a new environment.
- Coordinate with their student if planning to visit the host country so as to not conflict with class schedules, exams, or with travel dates for excursions and special events included in the API program.
- Discuss any independent travel plans and activities not included in the API program, and strongly encourage their student to complete the Student Travel Notification Form to notify API staff of upcoming travels, to include travel dates and details (including airport connections), contact information for fellow travelers, and lodging details.
*We thank our colleagues at NAFSA, Arcadia and CISAbroad for their work outlining expectations for parents and guardians, and for inspiring API to articulate the information and recommendations above.