Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange encourages families and friends to support their student by empowering them to be actively responsible in preparing for the study abroad experience.
"Before going to India, I had only a slight idea about what I wanted to pursue and achieve in life. Because of my study abroad experience, I was able to cultivate a passion for the field of international development. I will always look back at this trip and remember what I saw and to act upon my experiences." - Alexandra Turcios, Fall 2015
Study abroad can benefit your student's personal growth, professional development, and academic goals. Therefore, it is never too early to start planning for study abroad. The study abroad process has multiple, important phases. Each student is unique and no two will navigate these phases of study abroad in the same way. In an effort to explain the steps your students will need to take to study abroad, Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange (IAGE) has outlined the five major phases of the process below.
1. When they express interest in studying abroad…
There are several ways for students to engage with our office and select the right study abroad program for their academic and professional goals. Attending a First Steps Info Session (dates/times are available on the IAGE Events Calendar), using our program search to research program options, and talking to their academic advisor about their plan to study abroad are great first steps. We also welcome them to stop by our Advising and Resource Center to talk with our Program Assistants. Program Assistants are student staff who have studied abroad on one or more of the Illinois-sponsored study abroad programs. They are wonderful resources for your student and are trained to generally advise on study abroad. Once the questions get more detailed, your student can meet with an Education Abroad Coordinator. The Coordinators have walk-in regional advising hours throughout the week. Before applying, your student should also consider meeting with the Office of Student Financial Aid, meeting with a career coach, researching scholarships, and then, when they are ready, start the application online.
If your student is an incoming international exchange student, we encourage you to review the incoming exchange pages of the IAGE website. International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) will be an excellent resource for your student's questions regarding their U.S. visas.
IMPORTANT NOTE: IAGE is not the only study abroad office on campus. Program titles starting with IAGE (Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange) are sponsored by our office and are programs we can advise on. If the program title starts with the college (e.g. LAS), then any questions should be directed to the respective college study abroad office.
2. When they apply…
Application requirements will vary depending on the type of program. The standard requirements will be an Illinois transcript (whether paper or electronic will depend on the program), a photocopy of your student's passport, replies to short answer essay questions, and a disciplinary action questionnaire.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Encourage your student to make sure that their passport is valid 6 months beyond their return date.
Acceptance to one's first-choice program is not guaranteed. Many of our programs are competitive and have limited enrollment spots.
Throughout the application process, information will be made available to your student at key points in the process and from a variety of sources, including IAGE staff, other Illinois faculty and staff, and the institution where they are enrolling. Please encourage your student to review any and all correspondence carefully and meet the deadlines set by the program.
3. When they are traveling to their host country…
As your student prepares to depart, ensure that you have a copy of their itinerary. Airline websites often offer tools to track the flights. Upon arrival, students may not be able to call or email home immediately as they may be greeted by the program representatives, on their way to lodging, or may not have access to internet or a phone. With a variety of communication options becoming available, most students are able to stay in close contact throughout the program (although certain locations may make this more challenging). We encourage you and your student to research the most affordable and reliable ways stay to contact each other.
Due to FERPA regulations, IAGE will not be able to provide parents with flight information.
4. When they are abroad…
“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you feel comfortable. It is designed to make its own people feel comfortable.” - Clifton Fadiman
Being abroad will be an adjustment for most students as they will be experiencing a new location, new culture, and perhaps a new language. All students are susceptible to varying levels of culture shock, regardless of maturity level, personality type, previous travel experience abroad, or knowledge of their host country. The feeling of culture shock may be similar to their experience leaving home and arriving on the Illinois campus for the first time and is a normal part of the assimilation process.
It is more likely that a student will call or email family or friends during a moment of low morale rather than when they are actively engaging with their environment and things are going well. Supporting your student through these stages and encouraging them to utilize the on-campus resources available to them as seen on the Families and Friends Resources page is a great way to provide support from abroad.
5. When they return…
Returning to their home country can often be as challenging as departing it. Understanding that it may take your student time to re-adjust is critical. Students often experience "reverse culture shock" as they re-acquaint themselves with their home. Providing a space that allows your student to talk about their experiences, asking questions, and encouraging them to incorporate their cross-cultural skillset into their interests is a great way to show support.