Parents and families serve a critical support role in the study abroad process - before, during, and after. We offer on this page some key ways that you can support your UVM student as they explore and participate in a study abroad experience, organized into the major stages.
Selecting a Program
Selecting the right program is critical to beginning the UVM study abroad experience. Students should only select an approved program (one that appears in our GoAbroad system) and make their selections based on:
- Academic Considerations: Different programs of study inherently influence the program options and ideal time to go. While "spring junior year" is often thought of as the "normal" time to go abroad, it may not be the best option for some disciplines. Additionally, some study abroad programs are less competitive for fall semester study abroad. Our GoAbroad system lists all of UVM's approved programs, UVM students cannot study abroad on a program not found in GoAbroad. We encourage students to begin a conversation with their academic advisor to better understand approved programs that have been well-suited for the degree the student is pursuing at UVM. More generally about academics abroad is here.
- Financial Considerations: Different programs come with different financial considerations, and family members who are funding studies hold a critical role in helping their UVM learner understand their financial capacity for study abroad. For example: some programs allow portability of UVM scholarships (including tuition remission), but many don't. Some programs support use of a 539 college savings plan or a GI bill and others do not. And of course destinations abroad may have higher or lower costs of living. Your student may not have the full picture of their financial resources and thus not factor this in until it is too late to switch programs. More about program finances to start a conversation with your student is here.
- Expectations for Support and type of experience: Does your student want to be with other UVM students or have a more independent experience? Are they seeking to be in a major city or off-the-beaten-path? What kind of on-the-ground support do they expect they might need? Are they seeking a semester abroad or a short-term program? Our "Study Abroad 101" meetings review the types of experiences with students, and you can read more about types of programs to begin those conversations. Importantly: no experience abroad will be the same as UVM and students must prepare themselves for different rules, support, living conditions, and cultural norms. As a parent, you can support your child by considering how you might support them in a new experience form afar.
Selected a program? Time to apply.
Applying and Pre-Departure
All UVM students seeking to study abroad must apply through UVM's GoAbroad system. This can only be done by the student, and must be completed by the Office of International Education's deadlines. Exceptions cannot be granted for late applications, and an application is not considered complete without all elements. Importantly, there are pieces of the GoAbroad application that require students to plan ahead as they will need to carefully read the application, write thoughtful responses to any essay/short answer questions, upload documents, etc. Depending on the program type, students may also need to obtain a language proficiency report, complete a secondary external program application by UVM's deadline, etc. We recommend students begin their application several months before the deadline to avoid last-minute stress. If a student does not have a passport that is valid for the duration of their time abroad, they should apply for that as soon as they are aware.
Once a student has applied through GoAbroad and after our application deadlines, students will receive instructions for next steps. For some competitive programs, this will include placement decisions and deposit payment. All students will have forms to complete in GoAbroad to receive final approval to study abroad. We encourage having conversations with your UVM student about what they are working on. All students also are required to attend one or more pre-departure orientations (requirements vary by program) and as a parent you are invited to attend one piece of it. After students have completed all steps in GoAbroad and attended Pre-departure Orientation, they will be enrolled in a placeholder course as their formal final approval to study abroad. This will be concurrent with being charged the study abroad fee.
You can help them with the fun things too, of course: research their new host city, pack bags (don't take too much!), perhaps plan a visit of your own. But by keeping them on track with the required steps in the process, you will be helping to reduce stress overall.
Once your UVM student arrives abroad, we hope you will remain in regular communication with them. They will need you to celebrate their successes and support them when they have moments of frustration that are inherent in living in a new environment. A few tips for supporting them as they (and you) adjust:
- Give them time to settle and remind them of why they are doing this: just like it takes many first-year students some time to settle into their first semester at UVM, it may take your student time to settle into their host community abroad. Remind them that cultural adjustment is a process. Remember that we often decompress most overtly to the people we know best, and you might be on the receiving end of them processing something that feels big in the moment, though their reaction might not be indicative of their overall well-being. It is easy to get overwhelmed in a new place. Everyone started the study abroad process for a reason, and sometimes remembering the goals of that can be helpful in creating a bit of a "reset" for students.
- Suspend your own judgments: Parents and family members can have a huge influence on how a student interprets their new surroundings. And often, it is hard to have a good understanding of the lay of the land abroad without being there. Remember that things will look different from being at UVM. For example, while we expect all of the housing in our study abroad programs to be safe, it might not have some of the same amenities that students are used to in Vermont. Listening with curiosity and an open mind can help you learn about their experience while also supporting them.
- Listen to your gut: We want students to help themselves, but we also know that sometimes outside eyes can make the difference for a student to get the support and help they need. When the moment calls for it, be directive with your UVM student on what steps they should take which could be reaching out to the host institution abroad for support, connecting with someone back at UVM, or reaching out to UVM's emergency response provider for help.
Returning to Vermont
When your UVM student returns to the US and to Vermont, you still have a role in their readjustment. Ask lots of questions: often the return home cna be harder than the arrival abroad because of a lack of "new" to discover. Getting to tell stories to curious listeners goes a long way in supporting students reacclimatize to Vermont. And then, encourage them to continue to engage in their global learning back on campus through a class, studying a language, connecting with UVM's international student community, etc. There are ample opportunities to get involved on campus.