GEO recognizes that parents and family play a key role in their student’s decision to study or intern abroad. It is important to consider a range of factors in supporting this important decision and investment. To help you navigate some of these, please consult the resources here, as well as those found elsewhere on the GEO website, including your student’s health and safety while abroad and funding options to explore together.
The GEO Difference
The type of global experience your student is looking for is within reach. Global Education Oregon (GEO) offers students more than 250 programs in over 90 countries that combine academically rigorous courses, internship and service learning opportunities, field study and research options, and much more. Our team is here to help navigate the process from start to finish.
Why Study Abroad?
Study abroad is a unique opportunity for your student to develop skills useful both personally and professionally. It’s more than just an exciting chance to travel – it’s an opportunity for growth that will benefit your student far into the future.
Why should your student study abroad?
- Enrich their academic experience with a language immersion experience, classes taught at a highly regarded international university, international research opportunities, or specialized courses taught abroad by UO faculty members.
- Earn professional credentials through internships or service learning opportunities.
- Develop the flexibility to adapt quickly and creatively to unexpected situations.
- Hone interpersonal and intercultural communication skills.
- Gain self-awareness, confidence, and maturity by living in another culture.
Navigating the Process
We know there are many factors to consider when preparing and supporting your student for a study abroad experience. Below, we have outlined some important points along the way where you may be of assistance to your student.
We strive to help students find a program that meets their academic, financial, and personal goals. Your student will have a Study Abroad Advisor at GEO. Study Abroad Advisors help students from program selection and application to pre-departure orientation and any questions that may arise during the program.
The variety of programs can be overwhelming, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Much like choosing a college major, selecting a study abroad program is a complicated and individualized process. The GEO Advisors are here to help, but it is ultimately the student’s decision to choose the program that is right for them.
An important factor, in addition to location and academics, is program type. A major variable in program type is the amount of structure and guidance built into the program. Program types also vary in relative cost, length, and course offering.
You can help your student plan by ensuring that they seek out relevant campus resources:
- Explore program options with a GEO Advisor
- Speak with an academic advisor regarding the timing of a study abroad program and what degree requirements, if any, will need to be fulfilled abroad
- Meet with the financial aid office to verify whether aid/scholarships apply to study abroad.
Pre-Departure Orientation and Program Information
Your student will have a Pre-Departure Orientation led by a GEO staff member or program leader the term before their program. This required meeting will cover important pre-departure and arrival information, guidelines for health and safety abroad, and plenty of opportunities to ask questions about the program. Students not in the Eugene, Oregon, area will have the option to attend the session virtually.
Students also receive two GEO handbooks: a General Study Abroad Handbook and a program-specific handbook. Both will be accessible on your student’s online application before departure. We encourage students to share this information with family and loved ones.
Health and Well-being Abroad
In addition to GEO’s health and safety protocols, we take a number of precautions to support student well-being on our programs.
- Travel Clinic and Health Evaluation: our programs require students to complete a Travel Clinic and/or Health Evaluation (physician visit) form prior to departure. We encourage students to be as honest as possible when filling out these questionnaires. Our office reviews these forms so that onsite staff, program leaders, and coordinators can prepare to provide support to students in advance rather than react to a crisis later.
- Mental Health: in addition to the academic challenges abroad, many students find the experience of living broad and adjusting to another culture to be emotionally challenging. Please encourage your student to include any mental health concerns in the Health Evaluation.
- Students with Disabilities: GEO is committed to making study abroad accessible to all students, and encourage students who have established accommodations with the Accessible Education Center to provide us with notification letters to let us know what resources they might need abroad.
Note: Travel Clinic and Health Evaluation forms are due post-acceptance and do not influence admission decisions.
Travel Arrangements and Documentation
All students will need a passport valid for six months beyond the end date of their program.
GEO also recommends that at least one parent or guardian have a valid passport while your student is abroad. In the event that your student has an emergency while abroad, you may want to travel to be with them in a time of need. As such, we suggest that you apply for or renew your passport before the program begins.
Visas and Residence Permits
Depending on program type, location, and duration, students may need to apply for entry visas or residence permits. Some visas may require additional fees and/or travel. GEO will provide advising and some required documentation for this process, but parents or guardians may also need to document that your student will have access to enough personal funds while in the country. Your student’s Study Abroad Advisor can work with your student to help them understand the travel and visa requirements for their host country.
Students will need to make their own travel arrangements to their program location. Some choose to travel in groups, but GEO does not organize group flights for our programs. Airfare is not included in the program fee. For your own protection, you might want to consider purchasing trip cancellation insurance.
International travel and study abroad has changed drastically with the widespread availability of cell phones and internet connectivity. While instantaneous communication is invaluable in emergencies and can be a useful cultural and social resource in a new environment, it can also have a deleterious effect on students’ integration into the host culture if they remain too connected with home and fail to interact with the host culture.
We recommend that you set up a communication plan with your student. This way, you will not have to worry and they can focus on their new experience while maintaining sufficient contact with home. Understand that students may not have WiFi access immediately upon arrival, but they are strongly encouraged to notify home of their safe arrival as soon as possible.
Program Support and Resources
GEO provides student support remotely from Eugene and on site for certain programs. We staff a 24/7 emergency line, and other emergency options (on-site support, local emergency coverage) are available in country. Please see the Health and Safety page for further details regarding Emergency Planning.
GEO makes every effort to offer students safe and clean housing options on all of our programs. Many international student accommodations differ from those available at U.S. institutions, but this is part of the experience of living in another culture.
Study abroad, internship, research, and service learning programs through GEO are academically rigorous. Students may experience classroom and pedagogical styles that differ significantly from those of U.S. universities. This can be a difficult adjustment, but like for other adjustments students face, on-site and Eugene-based support are available. GEO is committed to making study abroad accessible to all students, and encourage students who have established accommodations with the Accessible Education Center to provide us with notification letters to let us know what resources they might need abroad.
You may be familiar with the term “culture shock” or “culture shift.” This refers to the emotional response that many people experience when they spend a significant amount of time living in another culture. It is important to be aware of this in order to understand reactions your student may have to their experiences abroad.
While culture shock manifests differently for different people, these are some of the common stages:
- Honeymoon: early on in the experience, everything is new and exciting.
- Frustration: difficulties arise in daily life, such as confusing interactions with locals, difficulty shopping for groceries, or different academic structures. A student may feel depressed, want to withdraw from the experience, or express anger at the host culture. This comes from home culture expectations (we might not even realize we have these expectations!) not being met in the host culture.
- Gradual adjustment: a student may get more accustomed to local habits and behaviors, at which point their attitude towards the host country will improve.
- Acceptance: recognition of differences between home and host cultures. At this point, the student has gained an “insider” perspective or understanding of the host culture. They may have settled into a comfortable routine.
This is by no means a linear process or even a process with a definite endpoint: new challenges can arise at any time. However, it is important for both students and their loved ones to understand that this is a common reaction and is indicative of intercultural learning and development. Students should feel comfortable to approach their study abroad advisor, faculty leader, or site director if they have any questions about culture shock/shift or their experience abroad. Some programs incorporate cultural “debriefs” into their structure so students can process the experience while they are together in country.
Reverse Culture Shock
Many students are surprised to hear that returning home could be as difficult (or more difficult!) than adjusting to a new culture. Like the initial culture shock/shift, it can be a disorienting emotional experience. Some students may be relieved to be home and experience very little reverse culture shock, while others may take more time to readjust.
“Twelve Tips for Welcoming Returnees Home” is an article by intercultural learning and international education experts, Dr. Bruce La Brack and Margaret D. Pusch. They offers tips for friends and family members of returnees who may be experiencing reverse culture shock.
Many advantages of study abroad come with the caveat that the experience must be processed and understood to fully benefit from it or be able to articulate it to a potential employer. GEO coordinates a Returnee Workshop for students returning from their international experiences. This program works with students to unpack and understand their experience, continue international engagement, and strategize on how to make their experience relevant for employers. There is also a GEO Alumni Network on LinkedIn for students to connect with other GEO participants.
In the event of an after-hours emergency, please call 503-767-4146.
GEO staff can be reached 24 hours a day through our emergency answering service.
All non-emergency details should still be directed to 541-346-3207.
If your student has an emergency while abroad, their first point of contact should be an in-country resource.
This might be a GEO Site Director, program leader, or local emergency number. This information is provided to students before they depart.
Please see the Health and Safety page for further details regarding Emergency Planning.
If you have not found the answers to your questions here or in our program pages, please contact the Study Abroad Advisor for your student’s program. Although we are pleased to speak with parents and family members and answer program-related questions, we often cannot share details about your student due to FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974) student privacy regulations.