Belmont is aware that, while studying abroad, there are a number of rules and regulations in each respective country that may differ substantially from those in the United States of America. Legal issues aside, it must be noted that any Belmont student studying abroad is still a Belmont student, and as such is still bound to the Code of Conduct outlined in your Bruin Guide. Violation of any rule or guideline while abroad can result in immediate removal from the study abroad program at your expense and disciplinary action upon your return.
Additionally, it should be noted that, while many countries are more lenient about certain crimes, others are much more strict, and the punishment for violation of these crimes is significantly more harsh. In many countries, the punishment for possession and/or distribution of controlled substances and for driving while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances is much more severe than in the United States. You should be aware that, if your son or daughter is arrested for a crime overseas, they cannot expect Belmont or the local American Consular authorities to intervene on their behalf. We strongly recommend that both you and your son or daughter research the legal differences between their study abroad location and the United States to avoid any legal issues that may arise while abroad.
The first few days of your son or daughter’s study abroad experience can be especially hectic. For short- term study abroad students, many will have a full day of programs and events, often as early as the first day they arrive. Long-term study abroad students will be even busier, as they will have to find their apartment, register for classes, attend to any needs that their provider may have for them, and generally accustom themselves to their new living situation.
- Jet Lag: Jet Lag is a condition in which the body’s natural rhythm will be out of sync with the time difference in a student’s host country. Common symptoms are irregular sleeping patterns, insomnia, fatigue, and irritability. The greater the time difference between Nashville and your son or daughter’s host country, the more prominent the effects of jet lag will be, and fully acclimating themselves to the time difference may take up to a week.
- Phoning Home: When your son or daughter arrives in their new location, it is not uncommon for there to be a laundry list of things that must be taken care of before they settle into their new living situation. Students may have a day’s worth of programming, even on the day they arrive. Long-term study abroad students will have to check in with their provider, and they may not be able to email or call home until they have Internet access, which is less than readily available in some parts of the world. We stress patience in the first day or two upon your son or daughter’s arrival; stress to them that they should contact you as soon as possible, but understand that it may not be possible immediately. For ways to stay connected to your son or daughter, be sure to check the Communicating While Abroad section.
Housing opportunities vary by program and range from a home-stay to a hotel to a dormitory. Since the standard of living varies from country to country, you should expect certain fundamental differences with respect to university living for your son or daughter while abroad. While there are some notable exceptions, campus experiences abroad differ from a common American university in that few students will live on campus. Many programs will have available housing, and some will guarantee housing when accepted to a program, but this varies substantially from program to program. It is your son or daughter’s responsibility to have a full understanding of your program’s housing offerings, and we welcome you to discuss these housing options with your son or daughter and make the appropriate decision for your family.
When in housing at their respective study abroad program, your son or daughter’s amenities are often different from what would be expected at Belmont or other comparable American college campuses. Electrical systems, heating systems, even the water pressure may be different from what they are accustomed to at home or on campus. Some student dormitories abroad have limited hot water hours, requiring students to shower only at allotted times during the morning or evening. While all student housing is guaranteed to be safe, card access and 24/7 security options may not be available. Storage room, including closet space, is usually at a premium in the program housing, so students should keep packed luggage to a minimum.
When studying abroad, students and their families must be aware of and comfortable with the housing options provided in different countries. If you have any concerns about the quality or safety of your son or daughter’s housing while abroad, please contact the Office of Study Abroad.
Most American bank accounts or credit cards will be fully usable in most countries around the world. Accessing money from an ATM using an American debit card will not be a problem, and Visa and Mastercard are almost universally accepted abroad. That said, many countries are still highly cash-based, and while paying on credit is no problem at larger global stores and businesses, many smaller businesses may not accept credit cards.
It is strongly advised that students check with bank and credit card companies to make sure that they can access their money. Many credit card companies charge an international transaction fee for every transaction made abroad, and frequent credit card use could result in major additional charges if this is the case. We recommend that students ask their credit card company about their international transaction policy. Additionally, it is strongly advised that students notify each company that they will be abroad for an extended period of time; if credit card companies are not notified of international travel, they will assume that any purchases made abroad constitute fraudulent activity and will decline the card.
A Semester Budget
You will find it helpful if you coordinate with your son or daughter to put together an estimated budget for their time abroad. Depending on the program in which he or she is enrolled, fees may include tuition, housing, airfare, board and/or excursions. For short-term programs, you and your son or daughter should have a very clear idea of the included program costs in order to understand what indirect costs your son or daughter will incur while abroad. Some programs are very regimented and will have very little need for extra purchases such as meals or admission tickets. Other programs are less regimented, which affords your son or daughter more freedom to do the things that interest them but will include indirect costs that are much higher than they otherwise would be. Discuss with your son or daughter what they foresee happening during their time abroad, then decide accordingly.
Parents of students on long-term programs should also expect that their first month abroad will be their most financially taxing. Many students will have to purchase basic living items and will not yet have found money- saving measures. Many schools will require students to pay their tuition and/or housing costs before the beginning of the school year, and exchange issues can possibly add cost to any purchases. We recommend that they prepare for this and have money put aside to handle these costs if and when they occur. Students should also consider whether or not they would like to do additional private travel, before, during, or after their program. Both you and your son or daughter should be aware of the visa and immigration restrictions of additional travel as well as the costs. If a student is studying in continental Europe, international travel is extremely convenient and inexpensive. If a student is studying in a country like China, student visas are often single entry and international travel may be inconvenient and much more expensive, though travel within China is extremely inexpensive. Your family should sit down and converse about what your son or daughter hopes to gain out of this semester, as well as what is financially feasible and logistically possible, given the immigration and visa restrictions.
Your son or daughter should be knowledgeable about the country where they will be studying. They will be a far more welcome and comfortable guest abroad if they are familiar with the history, geography, political system, laws and culture of the country or countries that they will be visiting. For general travel safety regulations, the US State department’s website is a must-visit. Once there, your son or daughter can also register their travel with local US embassies or consulates, which will automatically subscribe them to any state department warnings or advisories. While we very strongly recommend that they read extensively about the countries they will be visiting, these are also helpful websites for you, as you may want to learn more about the culture or cultures your son or daughter will be experiencing.
Your son or daughter’s time abroad will be an amazingly enriching time for them, but while studying abroad, they can and will encounter moments in which their experience is challenging, confusing, or difficult. While short-term study abroad students likely will not be abroad for long enough to experience the full cycle of cultural adjustment, for long-term study abroad students, culture shock is a real and perfectly normal phase in every student’s time while studying abroad. Please do not be alarmed if your son or daughter contacts you feeling especially homesick or briefly annoyed, aggravated, or even depressed. These are perfectly normal feelings, and in the context of larger cultural adjustment, should be brief and will pass relatively quickly. As a parent, here are some things that you can do to minimize the effects of culture shock on your son or daughter:
Be Supportive – The choice to study abroad was a difficult one for your son or daughter, but it may also have been difficult for you and/or your spouse. This may be the farthest away from your son or daughter you have ever been, and you may have had doubts that this was a good idea. That said, expressing those doubts to your son or daughter during their vulnerable time is not a good idea. Let them know how proud you are of them and how you’re there to support them no matter what, but that they have what it takes to make it through this period of time. If they read the student study abroad handbooks, they should be equally aware of their own cultural adjustment cycle, so these feelings should not be surprising to them, but if they contact you feeling down, they most likely are looking for support and reassurance from you
Be Available, But Keep Your Distance – Your son or daughter is at a period in their life where they can develop as an independent individual, and allowing them the freedom to do what they think is necessary given these amazing circumstances is a smart idea for you as a parent. As far as frequency of communication is concerned, a good rule of thumb is to try not to talk to your son or daughter more than you would while they were on campus at Belmont. Having a set weekly time set aside for communication with your son or daughter may be a good way to ensure that you will hear from them consistently without imposing upon them.
Show Them You Care – Students often comment that the most helpful thing their family did for them was to send a care package, especially in circumstances where students had a special longing for a certain food or drink not sold where they were studying. While this may not be applicable for short-term study abroad students, given the length of time and variety of locations, any long-term study abroad student would love a care package full of items that they may not be able to buy abroad. Especially if students are cooking for themselves, sending something to them can be a perfect way to show that you care. Please check your son or daughter’s host country’s rules regarding import or export of food beforehand, as some countries have specific rules regarding what can or cannot be imported into their country.
Communicating While Abroad While your son or daughter is studying abroad, communication back and forth is of the utmost importance. You care about what they’re doing and that they’re both safe and having a good time. Fortunately, international communication is easier now than ever before, and free apps are now extremely convenient and easy to use with any computer and/or smart phone. Here are some useful programs and apps that can make communication with your son or daughter much easier.
- Skype – an extremely useful communication app that allows users to communicate with any other user for free through either a computer or a smartphone as long as the phone or computer is connected to a wireless network. It is also common for study abroad students to pay a small monthly fee for unlimited phone calling to the United States, allowing for a skype user to call any American cell phone.
- WhatsApp – a phone app allowing users to connect to any other whatsapp user for free. WhatsApp is useful because users are able to send short (less than one minute) video or audio messages in addition to text messages.
- Viber – a second phone app allowing smartphone users to replicate their phone usage to other Viber users as long as they are connected to a wireless network. While phone quality varies based on users’ wifi signals, it is especially useful for users who are on the go.