Frequently Asked Questions for Parents of Students Going Abroad

Why is studying away important?
The opportunity to live abroad and gain valuable language abilities and intercultural skills may only come during your student’s university years. This may very well be the most important personal and/or academic decision your student ever makes! Among the most cited benefits of studying away are: increased self-confidence, increased maturity, enhanced interest in academic study, improved problem-solving skills, reinforced commitment to foreign language study, enhanced understanding of one’s own cultural values and biases, new career direction, and improved employability. Click here to view a list of notable U.S. Study Abroad and Peace Corps Alumni.

When should my student start planning for study away?
The sooner your student begins planning, the better! Ideally, students should begin planning at least one year in advance, and should have their applications ready to turn in at the beginning of the semester prior to their semester/year abroad.

Will studying away keep my student from graduating on time?
Studying away does not automatically preclude a timely graduation. In some cases, it may allow students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to graduate in four years to do so. In other cases, studying away could potentially delay graduation, but early planning lessens this possibility. In any case, studying away is a very important investment, and the global mindset it fosters is certainly an asset for students entering the ever-more-globalized job market.

When can my student study away?
Beyond our basic eligibility requirements of 30 credit hours, 2.5 GPA, and full-time enrollment status, there is no one time frame that works best for all students; academic considerations and maturity level are just a few of the factors that determine a student’s readiness to go abroad.

For how long can my student study away?
Students may study away for as short a time as a summer or as long as a semester or academic year. Many students even study away more than once during their academic career!

What can my student study while abroad?
Students can study in over 70 countries at over 250 universities worldwide through the office of Study Away Programs at Missouri State. Any major can study away. Whether students wish to take language immersion classes, elective classes in English, or elective classes in a foreign language alongside students from their host country, the opportunity exists. At the office of Study Away Programs, we do our best to help meet students’ academic needs. In order for us to help students do so, they must invest in the planning process in order to find the study away experience that is right for them.

Our website’s Search by Country feature is a great resource for students as they research program options. Culture Crossing is also an excellent web resource for researching destinations.

Does my student need to know a second language?
No. While many students choose to participate in language immersion or to take content courses in a foreign language while abroad, there are many non-English speaking countries where students may take courses in English, perhaps alongside a course to learn the country’s language. There are also many English-speaking countries in which students may study. International Student Exchange Programs (ISEP) has an excellent guide to English-speaking study away programs worldwide.

How does my student get credit from study away? What kind of credit will it be?
All academic credits earned through approved study away programs will be transferred back to MSU upon receipt of a student’s transcripts from the host institution abroad. Credits will transfer as pass/fail (with the exception of the Missouri London Program and Short Term Faculty Directed programs, which will transfer as letter grades A-F) and will transfer as GEN 000 general education credits unless the student gets their courses approved to transfer as specific MSU courses. Course approvals are completed online prior to departing to study away. 

Will grades from abroad affect my student's GPA?
Credits earned abroad will transfer to MSU as pass/fail and will thus not affect a student’s GPA as long as the participant receives a passing grade. Exceptions to this include the Missouri London Program, and Short Term Faculty Directed programs, both of which assign letter grades just like those given at MSU.

What will the academic environment be like?
The academic environment of students’ study away experiences will vary greatly depending on their host country. Adjusting to cultural differences is an integral part of the study away experience, and academics are no exception to this. In many countries, for example, attendance will not be required (though it is the student’s responsibility to choose to succeed academically), or class grades will be based on one exam rather than multiple assignments and tests. It is important for students to remember that studying away is not just an extended vacation, and that just like at Missouri State, they will get out of their academic experience what they put into it.

Where will my student live?
Students will live in an on-campus residence, a shared apartment, or in a homestay with a local family, depending on their preferences and on which program they choose. Each living arrangement has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some students will feel more comfortable living on-campus or with a local family, while others may wish to have a somewhat more independent experience in an apartment. For language immersion, homestay accommodations may be particularly helpful to a student’s language proficiency.

What are the admission requirements?
Admission requirements will vary for each host university. Some may have language prerequisites or course subject requirements, and some may have a higher GPA requirement than that which Study Away Programs requires. Our basic eligibility requirements for participation in a study away program can be found here.

How does my student apply for the study abroad program?
The first step in applying is to complete the MSU Study Away Application and submit it to the Study Away Office. Applications for Short Term Faculty Directed programs, can be found here.

How much will it cost?
Program costs vary greatly. Students studying in Paris or London can expect to pay much more than students studying in a small town in Latin America, for example. Our budget planning worksheet in your application will assist you in your Study Away financial planning, and the information in below (see question 15) will help to answer questions regarding financial aid and scholarships.  

Will my student's financial aid or scholarship apply when they study abroad?
Missouri State University students who are studying abroad through Study Away Programs are eligible to use their Missouri State University scholarships and financial aid. Students MUST meet the Study Away Programs eligibility requirements and be participating on an approved study away program in order to use their MSU financial aid and/or scholarships. Opportunities for MSU scholarships for study abroad can be found here, and many outside scholarship opportunities for study abroad also exist.

Students who have completed a FAFSA should contact the Office of Financial Aid to discuss their aid packages.

What about safety?
Many parents worry about the safety of their study away students. Unfortunately, no one can guarantee a student’s safety on the students home campus, nor while abroad. However, many students report that they actually feel safer during their stay abroad than on campus here in Springfield. Common sense is perhaps the most powerful weapon against safety threats while abroad. For example, when walking at night or going to bars or clubs, it’s very important that students go in pairs or groups. Different alcohol laws may also become a safety issue if moderation is not practiced, so it is absolutely essential that if students chose to drink alcohol, they do so responsibly. Speaking the local language and avoiding obviously American brand or sorority/fraternity logos may also serve as a safeguard against pick pocketing by helping students to blend in with the locals. The most important thing is to be alert and aware of one’s surroundings.

The US Department of State Consular Affairs Website includes up to date information about country-specific safety concerns, as well as a new page devoted specifically to students abroad. Information about traveler’s health and vaccinations can be found at the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Health and Safety section of the Missouri State University Study Away website will also help to answer further questions.

Is 9-1-1 the emergency number worldwide?
No.  Every country has their own emergency number and your student needs to be aware of their host country's number.  A list of the most common countries can be found here.  Also, additional international fire safety information can be found on the website JUSTICE.

How can I stay in touch with my student while he/she is abroad?
The frequency with which you contact your student will depend entirely on you and your student’s preferences. Skype is a commonly used method of communication between study abroad students and their loved ones. Computer-to-computer calls are free and purchasing Skype credit allows one to make calls from a computer or mobile device to a landline. Emails, Facebook, and even good old fashioned letters are also wonderful ways to stay in touch.

You may wish to establish a time to contact your student each week.

An important aspect of the study abroad process is for students to find the balance between staying in touch with their loved ones at home, and fully investing in their experience abroad. The downside of the easy communication is that it can be overused. That being said, Students should utilize communication resources without allowing them to detract from their study abroad experience.

What about “culture shock”?
Adjusting to an unfamiliar culture and environment can lead to culture shock. The degree to which study away students experience culture shock varies greatly, and depends on factors such as a student’s study away location, personality, and specific circumstances.

Furthermore, there are many stages of culture shock, and they can occur both abroad and upon returning home.  We often refer to the “Culture Shock W”, as illustrated in the graphic below, to explain the ups and downs of culture shock.

Culture Shock W Curve

Parents and loved ones play an instrumental role, particularly in the culture shock and reentry shock phases. Confronted with a culture differences, students may begin to feel homesick and may feel frustrated with the host country’s culture. Most students then adjust and thrive in their host country.

The process often occurs in reverse upon a students’ reentry to the United States.  Initially, they may be thrilled to be home, but later may begin to feel sad, frustrated, withdrawn, and “homesick” for their study abroad life. Parents and loved ones can support students during this process by listening to them, helping to remind them that what they are experiencing is normal, and by encouraging them to stay in touch with their friends from abroad and to find ways to stay connected to their host culture and language. Returning home does not mean losing or "packing up" study away experience. Rather, it represents a wonderful opportunity to integrate the knowledge, skills, and experiences gained abroad in your life at home!