Before your student leaves, you should discuss your plan for communication during the student’s time abroad, particularly upon arrival. The first several hours abroad can be challenging – flights may be delayed, Wi-Fi or phone connectivity may be poor, housing or orientation check-in may take longer than expected, or exhaustion may set in. For whatever reason, make sure to come up with a loose time frame in which your child should check in with you. It is also important to have a system in place for getting in touch in case of an emergency. Also, remember that the more time students spend communicating with family and friends back home, the less time they spend immersing themselves in their host culture.
Planning a Visit
We encourage you to visit your student while abroad if possible, but it is important that the visit is timed appropriately. The beginning of programs is a time when students are transitioning to life abroad and developing friendships. Going at the beginning of a program may keep the student from finding their own footing. Parents and guardians are encouraged to wait until the middle to end of the term. Your student should then be able to show you favorite places, impress you with foreign language skills, and introduce you to new friends. It can certainly be impressive to see your child navigate with ease through a new culture. Before planning your trip, we suggest talking with your student regarding class commitments or program obligations.
Academic Study Tours
Students participating in select programs during specific terms participate in European or Asian Study Tours. These tours are a required academic component of several programs for which students will earn business credit. The Academic Study Tours are designed to develop research, analysis, and presentation skills in an experiential format allowing for students to apply theory, concepts, and skills gained at Olin to consulting-type exercises abroad.
The EST provides students with a greater understanding of the European Union, its institutions, business culture, mechanisms, and policies. Students conduct research on an allocated European country and European integration in general. They must set up interviews in their allocated country and later collect and present their general and interview findings in a debate with other students during the Brussels section of the EST in the format of a mock parliament. The design and process of the program help the student to not only acquire business knowledge but enhance interpersonal communication skills and cultural adaptability. Travel and accommodations to both their allocated country and Belgium will be pre-arranged.
The Asia Study Tour allows students the opportunity to explore the business and cultural environment of a pre-determined Asia Pacific country.
Working through Cultural Adjustment
Be aware that your student may experience a cultural adjustment (often referred to as “culture shock”). Cultural adjustment is a normal part of the study abroad experience and most students will experience it to some degree during their time abroad. Culture adjustment is rarely identified as such by the person experiencing it: have patience, listen, and support your student in finding ways to immerse themselves in their new culture and experience. Remember, your student is much more likely to share negatives than positives with you as students are more likely to call in times of frustration. Please try to frame their frustrations in a positive light because they are part of the study abroad experience and contribute to your student’s growth. You can assist students by helping them to understand the difference between an inconvenience, a problem, and a crisis, and then what the appropriate action should be taken in the case of each. Of course, if you feel something major is wrong, do not hesitate to contact Olin Global Programs.
Cultural adjustment as a “W” | When a student first arrives abroad, there is often a period of euphoria – their planning and hard work has landed them just where they want to be. However, reality soon appears and the student must adjust to a new country, changes in academics and expectations, and life in general. This may be the time you get frantic phones calls or conversely, no communication at all. Remind your student of their skills and resources. Suggest remedies like exercise, nutrition, and congratulate them on even simple tasks – learning to buy groceries in a different language or getting from point A to B on public transportation without getting lost. There is a gradual improvement to when the student learns to accept and adjust to their new environment. Resources for students: https://olinundergradglobal.wustl.edu/cultural-adjustment/
Reverse culture shock is as common as the culture shock students experience abroad. Most students don’t realize how much they have changed from their study abroad experience until they arrive home. One of the biggest frustrations after returning home is that people are not as interested in hearing the details about the students’ experiences as they would like. The family should listen to students’ stories and look at their pictures. It is also important to encourage them to stay in touch with friends they made overseas, continue to practice foreign language skills, and get involved when they are back on campus.
- IIE Parent Guide to Study Abroad
- Department of State Information for Parents
- Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
- Using Mobile Phones and Messaging Apps Abroad
- Diversity Abroad
- Adjustments and Culture Shock
- Currency Converter
- How to Call Abroad
Is something missing? Email Sara Stratton (email@example.com) with suggestions for what info should be on the Parents as Partners page.