"A nation, like a person, has a mind - a mind that must be kept informed and alert, that must know itself, that understands the hopes and needs of its neighbors - all the other nations that live within the narrowing circle of the world." Franklin D. Roosevelt, (Third Inaugural Address, Monday, January 20, 1941)
Study abroad programs provide an incomparable teaching vehicle to enhance learning, provide deeper understanding of places and peoples, and develop new skills. Study abroad incorporates interaction that students have with new places and people as part of the strategies for learning. This interaction can have the benefit of turning routine aspects of daily life into learning opportunities. For example, students may have to depend on mass transit instead of the more familiar car. The daily activities experienced in the new setting can help students develop maturity, self-confidence, and awareness of other cultures.
Study Abroad at UCF International Studies is considered a life journey that must be entered into intentionally. Before students chose a program we ask them to pause and do some self-reflection. They will be bringing into the process their expectations, norms and a lifetime of experiences. We remind them that these beliefs and values are the lenses that they use to interpret the world around them and this will help to shape the experience that they have.
Next, we encourage them to evaluate their academic, professional and personal goals as they relate to study abroad. We remind them that study abroad is not a vacation or a trip but an academic endeavor.
Upon completion of the self-assessment and analysis of purpose we recommend that they start (or continue) a dialogue with their academic advisors, financial aid advisors, staff in our office, parents, friends, and former study abroad students to fully assess their options, costs and benefits.
Each program at UCF has learning outcomes listed on the program webpage. Additionally, the program pages provide necessary information (GPA, pre-requisites, faculty contact information, program fees, etc) to assist students in finding the program that is the best fit for them.
Learning, within the study abroad structure, does not happen automatically. Students must understand that, to earn academic credit for the courses in the program, the faculty director must be able to gauge their level of accomplishment of the stated objectives.
As a parent, you will likely be involved to some degree in the study abroad process, although your relationship with your child will dictate to what degree. You may be affected financially and emotionally as they engage in this journey. It is important for you to know that although you may want to assist with all aspects of this process, FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) laws will limit our relationship with you as the student is our point of contact.
Federal law and university policies provide the framework for the information that we can provide to a parent. In order to comply with Federal requirements, please review the information and follow the processes established by the UCF Registrar. You can contact the Registrar's office if you need additional information about the appropriate process and forms to file a release of information. To avoid confusion, we request that the student be involved in all conversations and decisions related to their program, even if the appropriate releases are submitted.
Some aspects of the study abroad process will lend themselves to more parental involvement than others. For example, you can take advantage of the students' interest in studying abroad to help them develop skills to make mature, well-informed decisions; especially if you are paying for some or all of it. During the program orientation process, we give them the "homework" of developing a set of personal goals and a personal budget. You may want to take advantage of this opportunity to share your experiences and skills. Also, you may want to help them hone their skills of making mature, independent decisions on their own. When they leave the US, they will be safer if they are able to think on their feet and make decisions based on the specific circumstances, instead of expecting someone to make decisions for them.
We understand that your child's health and safety is important to you and it is also important to us. In addition to working with vendors and faculty directors who have good local knowledge, we also provide links to information about the country and program sites on the program webpage. The program orientations include discussions on personal safety skills and scenarios. The university also has procedures to address an emergency, if one develops.
We require each participant to provide at least one emergency contact, including address, phone and e-mail. We will not accept a student into a program unless that information is completed. The information provided on that form will be used in an emergency. It is important that the students provide and maintain the appropriate information on the study abroad online information system. This information is available to the Faculty Director and International Studies staff in case there is a crisis or emergency. We also request that each participant registers with the Smart Traveler program of the US State Department
Participants must also provide medical information to ensure that their specific medical circumstances are considered if they have to visit a doctor or hospital while abroad. We also expect that the student is upfront about mental health concerns, since being abroad may have an effect on them. A description of the medication is also requested. This information is maintained confidentially and only shared if necessary.
All participants are covered by health, emergency evacuation and repatriation insurance. In case of emergency, the Faculty Director or International Studies staff will contact the person listed in the system and provide assistance and support to address the specific needs. You may want to ask your child to share their policy information with you, in case you need it as a reference while they are abroad.
Your child may decide that they want to spend additional time abroad before or after the program. International Studies is not involved or responsible for those plans. Information about programs dates and itinerary can be found on the specific program webpage at http://www.studyabroad.ucf.edu/.
Finally, most students will need emotional support as they adapt to their environments when they arrive at their program destinations. They may be jet-lagged, excited, tired and emotional when they send their first e-mail or make the first call. In the end, you probably know them better than anyone and may be able to provide the best advice and to help them adapt and make the most out of their study abroad.