Parents and Families
Study abroad is an exciting and unique chapter in a Rice student's undergraduate education. It is a life-changing experience and a time of tremendous academic and personal growth.
The Rice Study Abroad Office recognizes the important role that parents and family play in a student's study abroad experience. Our goal is to provide resources to help families learn how to best support and encourage their student before, during, and after the international experience, as they learn to navigate a new city, culture and way of life.
Our office works with students to examine the options available for studying abroad, paying attention to academic, financial, and personal needs. Once students select a program and are accepted, we work to prepare them for the academic and intercultural experiences they may encounter abroad. Our pre-departure orientation program discusses travel, health, safety, and culture abroad. In addition, we pay careful attention to world events with respect to the health, safety and security of students abroad.
We encourage parents and families to engage in open discussions with their students and to utilize the resources on our website. You can help your student as he/she embarks on this journey by becoming informed about various aspects of studying abroad, including Rice’s study abroad policies and procedures, student responsibilities regarding health and safety, and cultural adjustment considerations.
FERPA student privacy regulations prevent our staff from sharing specific information about students. We therefore encourage you to share your questions and concerns with your student who can then voice these concerns to their study abroad advisor. We can then help best meet your needs and questions, working together with your student.
Why Study Abroad?
We believe that a study abroad experience provides incredible opportunities for students to learn about the world and themselves, gain new perspectives on their academics, and obtain skills for living and working in a global community. Through these international educational experiences, we hope to give students a totally new perspective - one which will greatly enhance their lives and shape who they will become.
Selecting a Program
A variety of study abroad opportunities exist allowing students to study within their major or minor, learn a language, or participate in an internship, research or field study program. Our Study Abroad Advisors assist students in identifying academic, personal, and financial needs as they consider program options. Please take time to review the Getting Started section of this website to learn about the study abroad process and the types of programs available to your student.
Financing Study Abroad
It is important to understand all of the costs involved in an education abroad program. The actual costs for studying abroad vary widely by program - some program costs may be similar to studying at Rice, while others may be significantly more or less expensive. Early and comprehensive planning may assist you and your student in obtaining financial aid and scholarships. Please remember that inflation, changes in exchange rates, and other unforeseen factors sometimes alter costs.
Rice University financial aid and scholarships may be used to help pay for the costs of a Rice-approved study abroad program. In addition, many national and provider scholarship opportunities are available to qualifying students on a competitive basis. Please review the Finances section on our website to learn about: Study Abroad Billing, Financial Aid Portability, and Scholarships.
- Pre-Departure Preparation: Once your student has been accepted to study abroad and is preparing for the experience, we encourage you to discuss the with them the information they have learned during our mandatory Pre-Departure Orientation session, as well as responsibilities and requirements prior to departure. This includes considerations such as travel arrangements, visas, health and safety issues, payments for the program and cultural awareness and preparation.
- Health and Safety: Carefully review health and safety information and legal issues, in general and for the specific host country. Students should be up-to-date on all immunizations. U.S. Department of State Country Information pages and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can provide further information.
- Health Insurance: Rice University requires that each student participating on a Rice study abroad program maintain comprehensive health and accident insurance, including emergency travel insurance, during the entire duration of his/her study abroad program. Please review insurance coverage to determine if your student is properly covered during the study abroad experience.
- Research: Encourage your student to obtain as much information as possible about the host country prior to going abroad. Not only will this research greatly enhance the study abroad experience for your student, it will also help you appreciate this opportunity. The "Once Accepted" section of our website offers additional information.
- Passports and Visas: Your student will have to have a passport valid for six months after the return to the U.S., and may need a visa to study abroad. Your student is responsible for obtaining both official documents. You may also want to be sure to have a valid passport, should you need to travel to be with your student at any time during the experience.
- Communication: Maintain communication with reasonable frequency. Allow your student the independence to integrate into the new host culture.
- Program Calendar: Keep the program calendar in mind. If you haven't heard from your student, it may be because she/he is on a program excursion or traveling during a break.
- Cultural Adjustment: Be aware that your student may experience a cultural adjustment (sometimes referred to as “culture shock”). Students go through a wide range of excitement and emotions once they leave home and begin to adjust to a new location, culture, and possibly a foreign language. As a parent or family member, you may often serve as a long-distance sounding board as your student tries to make sense of their new surroundings. Some students report experiencing confusion and a range of emotions while abroad, so you may receive an exuberant phone call one day and a very dejected email the next. Transitioning to a new way of life can be challenging, and it takes a while to settle in and begin to put things in perspective. It is important for family and friends to recognize the normalcy of this struggle and to remain supportive as their student adjusts to the new culture. This adjustment is a major component of the learning and development your student will experience in the new country, and part of what will make the time abroad so interesting and rewarding. After some time, if you truly believe your student is having serious difficulty adapting to the new environment, encourage her/him to consult with an onsite program representative or Rice Study Abroad staff member. We will always be very willing to assist. Information about cultural adjustment is available in the Adjusting to a New Culture section on our website.
- U.S. Department of State: Monitor online up-to-date information and advisories from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs.
- Incidents and Emergencies Abroad:
- Should your student experience an unpleasant incident (displeasure with housing situation, theft, trouble with classes) while abroad, the first reaction may be to call you, no matter what time of day is is for you, or how far she/he is from home. If such an event occurs, please encourage your student to call the in-country program contact regarding any concerns. Most problems can be easily and quickly resolved when handled locally. Please remind your student to remain calm and to feel free to discuss the situation with the program staff on-site.
- Should your student experience an emergency abroad (bodily injury, crime, etc.) please encourage her/him to contact the local program staff, and local authorities, immediately. The program contact will be able to help in obtaining any additional assistance or support necessary.
- Students are also able to contact International SOS in emergency situations. For severe emergencies that might require evacuations, or for other emergency services for U.S. citizens abroad, students may contact the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate, or the embassy or consulate of their home country. Be aware of the specific services that these two entities provide.
- Students should contact the Rice Study Abroad Office only after the emergency situation is stabilized, and keep us apprised of any developments.
Continue your enthusiasm for your student's experience in the months after she/he returns home. Show interest in the photos, stories and memories to help keep the experience alive.
Be aware that your student may experience a re-entry adjustment. Coming home can sometimes be just as challenging as adjusting to life overseas. This is particularly true for students who spend a semester or year abroad. Your student will have grown personally, and will not be the same person you said goodbye to at the airport. Your student may feel frustrated because she/he has experienced so much, but everything at home feels exactly the same. Expect some level of personal confusion and a wide range of emotions. Be patient and allow your student time to share stories and memories from the time abroad. With time - often several months - she/he will eventually fall back into step with life in the U.S. You can be there to support your student during this time, encouraging integration of the international experience into life back home in the U.S.
- Communicating with Strangers: An Introduction to Intercultural Communication by William B. Gudykunst and Young Yun Kim
- American Cultural Patterns: A Cross-Cultural Perspective by Edward C. Stewart and Milton J. Bennett (Chapters 4 and 5, especially)
- Survival Kit for Overseas Living by Robert Kohls
- Trans-Cultural Study Guide by Grey Bryan, Ken Darrow, Dan Morrow & Brad Palmquist