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A Guide for Parents: Supporting Your Child’s Study Abroad Journey

A montage image featuring various photographs of parents or guardians supporting their student-aged children during their studies, be it before, during, or even post-graduation.

Studying abroad is a fantastic opportunity to build one’s confidence, skillset, resume, and career opportunities. But, as parents of someone considering studying abroad, it’s normal to feel many different emotions. Parents and guardians can swing from feeling pride for their child’s bravery, to worrying about costs and securing required paperwork, to hoping they’ll have a positive experience. You’re not alone! This study abroad guide for parents talks about all of the above, and how to support your child even in the toughest moments.

Is your child still deciding between multiple study destinations? Here are some factors to keep in mind when deciding where to go.

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Setting Expectations

For a big decision like this, the more knowledge you have, the better. The internet can be a great source; official school sites and government sites will likely have the most thorough and timely program and student visa information. 

The application process can be long, so leave lots of time to get everything done. For example, for postgraduate study in Canada or the United States, we recommend starting to research schools as early as 20 months before your child would like to start their studies. This might seem excessive, but consider that many institutions only offer intakes two to four times a year. Plus, requesting original transcripts and processing school and visa applications can take weeks to months depending on application volume. Lastly, if your child wants to retake an English proficiency or entrance test, they’ll have enough time to do so.

Before taking a language proficiency test like IELTS, we recommend taking a practice test. Here are our top five practice test options.

An illustration of an advisor or parent working with an ApplyBoard student on their study abroad application.

Work with a Trusted Partner

Many prospective international students choose to work with a local advisor. These study abroad professionals help to connect students with programs that suit their skills, interests, and budget, while also bringing a deep knowledge of international study programs to the table. 

ApplyBoard is proud to work with a network of over 1,500 recruitment partners (study advisors). Many of these advisors have completed our ApplyBoard Counsellor Courses (ABCC) on destinations ranging from the US to Australia, gaining knowledge on student visa processes, educational opportunities, and local culture.

Curious about working with an advisor? Here’s how ABCC-Qualified advisors can help!

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Budgeting

Wondering how the cost of living differs in top study abroad destinations? We’ve run the 2022 numbers for Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the US. Once your child’s decided where they’re headed, look at international student tuition for the target programs to create a draft budget.

Many students entering an undergraduate program will be living on their own for the first time. This can be exciting, but also nerve-wracking if they’ve always had immediate family support. If you can, talk to them about strategies for sticking to a budget (remember: student discounts are available on everything from software programs to groceries). And, if possible, encourage them to make (or support them in creating) a small emergency fund. 

Scholarships can also ease the cost of studying abroad. When looking at programs, find out which scholarships from that institution international students are eligible for. Depending on your child’s academic application, they may automatically be considered for some scholarships. Other awards will require a separate application. 

There are many different kinds of scholarships. Our video below outlines five scholarship types available to international students in Canada!

Every family’s financial circumstances are different, but with preparation–and maybe a scholarship or two–you can help ready your child for living and studying overseas.

For more information and specific scholarship suggestions, check out our blog’s scholarship archive!

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Student Wellness

When your child was small, it was easier to look out for them on the playground. Now that the world has become their playground, how can you help keep them safe?

First, remember your child may be considering studying abroad to experience a new culture, which also comes with different languages, laws, social norms, and traditions. It can be helpful to discuss these before they leave for their studies, but keep in mind that students studying abroad are usually legal adults, and will make their own decisions.

One way to build safety and belonging is to research clubs or groups, both on- and off-campus, which tie into a student’s heritage, faith, or favorite pastimes. Joining clubs can help ease homesickness, whether in sharing a meal that reminds them of home, working together through early-morning soccer practice, or hearing a familiar prayer. Sometimes, cultural- and faith-based groups can offer tailored resources to international students, or additional support through a challenging time.

Schools also play a role in helping students adjust. When applying, look at the campus services provided to international students. Some universities and colleges will offer free counselling sessions; others provide peer mentors. Many also have residence advisors in campus housing that students can talk to.

International offices are another great resource, offering student outreach and fun events. It can be hard to make friends when there’s a language or cultural barrier, so international offices work to bring both international students and local students together through events and community outings.

From keeping in touch to making proper citations, these apps are great for international students.

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Communication

As the parent of an international student, you’ll learn quickly that everyone adapts to studying abroad differently. Some students lean on their parents heavily at first, then become more independent as they grow more comfortable. Other students may dive right away into the excitement of their studies and campus life, and forget to connect with their parents–at least for the first little while.

There’s no one-size-fits-all-families approach, but it can help to set guidelines together before your child departs. Agree on how often you expect to connect, and through what medium (like phone calls, WhatsApp messages, or video chat). A regular catch-up schedule can be helpful–in the early days, it’s one steady thing to look forward to in a time where the student might feel like everything else is changing.

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Adjusting Post-Return

It’s also important to be patient with your child when they return. Studying abroad can be rewarding, but like every experience, can change the way someone looks at the world and their own place within it. 

They’ll be happy to see you and enjoy connecting with familiar people and places, especially in the initial “honeymoon” period of their return, but may also experience reverse homesickness (also known as reverse culture shock). If they suddenly seem bored, or start every sentence with “When I was in…”, they may be feeling homesick for their student life. Almost all cases of reverse homesickness fade in time, but in the meanwhile, encourage them to keep moving: meeting up with friends, exercising, and connecting with other international students.

We hope that these strategies are helpful as you support your child’s study abroad journey. Looking for more details on one or more of these topics? Search our blog archive!

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