Your student must take a variety of documents to his or her program site. In addition to a passport and travel visa (where required), the student should also plan to take credit and debit cards, insurance cards and other health-related documents. IESP recommends that students make photocopies of these documents and leave them with a family member in the unlikely event they are misplaced or stolen.
In addition, students may also choose to grant power of attorney to someone they know well and can trust. A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives a person your student chooses the power to make financial and other decisions on the student's behalf while he or she is away.
What parents can do to stay informed
IESP encourages parents to stay informed about current events and to learn about the country and region where their student is studying. This list of web resources will help, as will reputable media sources.
Communication with your student abroad
Communication should be easy with phone, e-mail and internet calling, video and text chats. The technology for doing so changes frequently.
Most students opt to purchase a cell phone while abroad, and there are many reasonably priced plans and phone cards available in the U.S. and abroad to call internationally.
Another option to consider is communicating via the web (via a technology called Voice over Internet Protocol, VoIP), which can be free or inexpensive. Skype.com provides free computer-to-computer or inexpensive computer-to-phone talk services. Vonage.com also provides inexpensive VoIP services linked to a land line.
Please do note that daily contact with your student is not always desirable. Students need to separate themselves to some extent from their home support networks as they build a local one, as they immerse themselves in the local culture. So, while you may want to check on your student often, it's better to set up a fairly regular schedule to communicate without talking too frequently, and to show flexibility in this regard as well.
Do establish a steady mode of communication that both supports your student and gives him or her the space to develop that independence that is one of the big lessons of study abroad. Strange as it might seem, our students can be almost as concerned about you as you can be concerned about them! If they do not hear from you, they may worry.
Visiting your student overseas
If you want to visit your son or daughter overseas (and we hope some of you do), it would help if you could arrange your visit to coincide with vacation times or after the program has ended. Then your son or daughter does not have to make the difficult choice between academic work and having fun showing you how competent he or she has become in a new environment.