Quick Facts for Parents of Students Considering Semester Study Abroad
Students on all semester abroad programs pay MICA tuition (without fees) directly to MICA and will pay no tuition at the host school. Students are responsible for all other expenses (e.g., travel, housing, meals, health insurance, studio fees, and personal expenses), some of which may be required and billed by the host program. Costs of living vary depending upon where your student wishes to study. We talk about financial planning, external scholarships, and budgeting during required group advising sessions.
MICA Financial Aid
MICA students with MICA scholarships or financial aid will be able to use their award (except work-study) for their MICA abroad program. Financial aid awards will not be increased to cover any additional cost of transportation to and from the host program and students need to be able to support this cost as well as those of the living, educational, and miscellaneous expenses described above.
Housing options vary from program to program. Some arrange housing for students, while others offer varying levels of assistance in finding roommates or apartments. Students should carefully consider their prospective program's housing options or arrangements, as final responsibility for securing accommodations, either through the host program or independently, rests with the student.
You may receive an invoice from the host institution with fees for such items as room and board, organized activities, and other local services. Please discuss these study abroad costs with your student prior to departure to make sure that he or she has realistically considered expenses for the semester and has discussed any questions with the Office of International Affairs. Note that often invoices from host institutions will not be posted until well into the semester in which your son or daughter is abroad, so students should budget accordingly.
Students must attend a required group advising session in International Affairs to learn about programs and the study abroad process. In addition, students must submit all required application materials accurately by the appropriate MICA deadline and meet the criteria for study abroad or their applications will not be considered. Students can only apply for one program and study abroad for one semester. We ask that students make their choices carefully and, of course, plan financially for study abroad.
There is no guarantee that MICA can or will approve a study abroad application. Some programs have limited space and/or can be competitive. All decisions will be made by a review committee after the deadline within 3 to 4 weeks. If approved by MICA, MICA will send a student's application to the host institution or program and they will make the final decision. If MICA approves an application, additional paperwork and application materials may be required.
Please be aware that MICA has no control over the duration of a host institution's acceptance process. Many reach decisions within several weeks or a month; however, others, particularly direct exchange programs, may take longer.
The safety of students while studying abroad is MICA's top priority. MICA does not send students to host institution sites that we feel are unsafe. MI CA follows safety and security information from the U.S. State Department and makes decisions accordingly. It is still important for families to understand that there are risks associated with travel; consequently, they should plan accordingly by purchasing appropriate health insurance coverage and researching the health and safety of the host country.
After notice of admission, please encourage your student to carefully research medical needs and resources in the host country. Also be sure that your student fully understands the insurance coverage that he/she will have while abroad. If your student has a health condition or other circumstances that may require special attention, the student is responsible for making this known to MICA's Office of International Affairs before going abroad. Health services and accommodations vary widely in different parts of the world, and the types of care and services to which we are accustomed in the U.S. may be limited, very different, or unavailable abroad. If your student has medical needs or requires accommodations for a disability, please encourage your student to notify International Affairs well in advance of departure to allow sufficient time to determine whether specific health services or accommodations are available at a given site and, if so, how they are accessed.
The date when your student must arrive at or depart the host site depends on the institution and, sometimes, on visa regulations in certain countries. The host institution will be in direct contact with admitted students regarding these arrangements.
Credits and Your Student's MICA Degree
All students participating in a MICA study abroad program are guaranteed that MICA will accept the credit for all courses passed from the host program as long as the courses have been preapproved. It is the student's responsibility to work with his or her academic advisor and department chair to understand how this credit will fulfill degree requirements and to obtain the necessary approvals prior to study abroad. If students fail to follow course approval policies and procedures, they risk not obtaining credit for unapproved courses. While abroad, students should document the work they complete to ensure proper awarding of credit.
Students must take a minimum of 12 MICA credits while abroad. They cannot take more than 18 MICA credits or they will have to pay for the additional credits. On the SACI program, students cannot take more than 15 credits or they will have to pay SACI's tuition for the additional credits. If a student falls below 12 MICA credits, this will affect his/her scholarships and financial aid.
Letter to Parents of Study Abroad Applicants
We are very pleased that your student has chosen to study abroad. As your student prepares to embark on the enriching experience of living and studying abroad, we wish to share thoughts on the overseas study experience and suggestions on how you might support and encourage your student while abroad. Although your student is an adult, we recommend that, prior to departure, you discuss together communication, finances, and safety, as these are the areas that are often of most concern to families.
(Note that this letter focuses on overseas study and uses the term "study abroad" throughout, but we are also addressing it to those of you whose students are participating in MICA's domestic [U.S.] exchange programs, similarly administered through the International Affairs office. Much of the same information in this letter will be applicable to your student's experience on domestic exchange, and we equally look forward to working with you should any questions or concerns arise during the semester.)
We advise discussing communication with your student and deciding on a time each week or month that you will make contact via email, text, phone, Skype, etc.. Be sure that you each have addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, and best times to make contact with the other (and be sure to take into account the difference in time zones). Check with your phone carrier regarding discounts on international calling rates. Communication options and strategies are discussed in the Study Abroad Handbook.
Perhaps you recall the adjustment that your student had to make when he or she first arrived at MICA: everything was new and different, and nothing was quite the way it was at home. All of this will be true once again, though perhaps even in exaggerated form, in another country.
Your understanding, support, and encouragement will be important at critical times during your student's semester abroad. For example, in the initial weeks of the semester abroad your student is likely to be intensely focused on orientation activities, scheduling classes, and learning his or her way around town and within a new academic system. This initial phase of the semester abroad period is a time when significant adjustment takes place - and for many students all of the changes and newness can initially be unsettling. However, it is important to keep in mind during this phase that, frequently, a scenario that may be relayed by a student as emergency will quickly sort itself out. We know of many instances in which a student has called home in distress shortly after arriving at a far-away destination; the parents worried about whether to bring the student home, or send more money, or travel to be with the student. The parents phoned the student back a short time later and received no response and imagined all sorts of dire scenarios until finally reaching the student several hours later only to find out that all had become well and that the student had made a new friend over coffee and was beginning to enjoy the new setting.
Our experience has been that students often neglect to call home when they are busy and things are going well, but call or send e-mail messages more frequently during periods of stress or low morale. Accordingly, please realize that homesickness and culture shock do not necessarily indicate a serious psychological problem in your student or any shortcoming on the part of the administrative staff abroad. Please support our efforts to encourage your student to problem-solve independently and to approach the appropriate faculty or staff member at the host institution with any issues and concerns that might arise. Learning to address and resolve problems locally and independently is a very important indicator of a successful living and learning experience abroad and will result in the most significant personal learning and development. Most students rebound quickly from a phase of difficult adjustment, and actively engaging in and pursuing new activities and friendships abroad is often the most effective remedy. Still, please do not hesitate to contact me in the International Affairs office at MICA if you wish to discuss any concerns.
Trust your student: remember that handling these challenges is part of the adventure of being far from home and part of growing up.
Visiting Your Student
We discourage parents from traveling to the program site to help their students settle in or from making an extended visit while classes are in session abroad. If you plan to visit your student abroad, please arrange for your visit to coincide with a scheduled vacation period or take place after final semester critiques and examinations. It is difficult for students to focus on their course work and to engage fully in their local community abroad when family and friends from home are in town. Moreover, absence from classes or other required activities abroad because of travel or visitors is not permitted.
MICA tuition will be billed directly to students' accounts, while students are responsible for all other (non-tuition) expenses associated with the study abroad experience. Your student has indicated to us that he or she has carefully reviewed all costs associated with the selected study abroad program. Your student may have received or will receive an invoice from the host institution with fees for room and board, organized activities, and/or other local services. Please discuss these study abroad costs with your student prior to departure and work with your student to budget accordingly. Note that in some cases these invoices will not be posted until after your student's semester abroad begins.
It is wise to make arrangements with your student as to how you would transfer additional or emergency funds if the need were to arise, as well as the source of such funds and their potential uses (e.g., emergency travel home versus local travel for sightseeing; funds to cover lost or missing luggage versus gifts for friends, etc.). If the source of funds is the student's bank account, you might consider a short-term Power of Attorney arrangement so that the student's signature is not needed for withdrawals. The student's financial institution, whether a bank, a savings and loan, or a credit union, can let you both know what is required. You may want to provide a copy of this information to MICA's Financial Aid Office so that any funds made available to the student can be directed appropriately.
Safety and Health
During the study abroad pre-departure orientations at MICA, all students were provided information related to safety and health issues and risks and means to avoid these risks. MICA offers study abroad programs in more than 20 different countries. Because conditions vary throughout the world, the International Affairs office takes these issues extremely seriously and provides students with detailed safety and risk information. Additional sources of overseas safety information that we follow and use include:
- US Government advisories, including those issued by the State Department and in-country embassies
- Centers for Disease Control for health issues abroad
- The knowledge and judgment of overseas leadership staff for each program
- Contact with professional colleagues at other institutions with program sites in the same vicinity as our programs
Despite all precautions, total safety cannot be guaranteed while abroad any more than it can be in the U.S. In spite of this, the International Affairs office continues to do whatever it can to maximize the safety of those participating in our programs. We suggest that you talk with your student regarding any concerns you might have and the student's plans for avoiding risks while abroad.
Your student also received at the pre-departure orientation detailed information regarding health insurance recommendations for study abroad. In the Study Abroad Handbook your student received is a series of questions to ask your student's health insurance provider regarding overseas coverage and procedures. We strongly encourage you to discuss these health insurance issues with your student and to ensure both that your student's coverage will be sufficient during the entire period abroad and that your student understands how his/her insurance works abroad. You can find the Study Abroad Handbook HERE.
A safe and enjoyable experience abroad is not based solely on the factors listed above. The safety of your student also depends on his or her behavior while abroad. If your student's physical or mental health status may be placed in jeopardy by being away from current support systems, it is important to have a thoughtful family discussion about this.
It is also common for students far from home to feel invincible, ready to take on new challenges and risks. Participating in certain activities - whether it be snorkeling, hang-gliding, or taking photographs of a political demonstration - can pose a much greater risk while abroad than at home.
Many countries have a much lower legal drinking age than the US does; alcohol use can be a problem for some students when far from home, either because they are unaware of their personal limits or because they are "breaking loose" from the restrictions imposed in their home country. Availability of other recreational and/or illicit drugs may also be greater for students abroad, either because of the site of their study program or because the students are seen as easy targets by drug dealers. Americans, and especially American females, are often mistakenly perceived as being willing and receptive to sexual advances. If you feel it is appropriate, a frank family discussion of personal behavior while abroad can be important.
All students participating in a MICA program abroad have been made aware that they are bound by MICA's disciplinary policy regardless of whether they are on campus or abroad. They also know they are subject to the laws of the country in which they are studying or traveling.
In addition, students participating in study abroad have signed an agreement that sets out the responsibilities and consequences of behavior deemed detrimental to the student and/or the program. This includes the stipulation that students can be sent home, at their own expense, for behavior disruptive to the program. Students have also been reminded that, while abroad, they are subject to the laws of the host country.
As part of the pre-departure orientation, students also received information about culture shock and the cultural adjustment process. Culture shock results from anxiety from the loss of what is familiar. Initially, those experiencing culture shock may reject the environment they are in and will often be found complaining about the new environment to anyone who will listen.
The next stage is regression, in which the home environment is "the best," with only the good things about home being remembered and talked about and a hostile attitude expressed toward the host country. In the next phase, the adjustment phase, travelers begin to be able to joke about home and about the difficulties they are having overseas. Finally, acceptance occurs and the traveler realizes that this "foreign" culture is simply another way of living.
The longer your student is away, the greater the chance that full acceptance will occur. Because of that, it is important to be aware that re-entry shock (or reverse culture shock) is a possibility when your student comes home: everything about the host country will suddenly be wonderful, and everything at home will simply not compare!
What can you do to simplify the transition to the host country and back again? First, be prepared just to listen. Often, simply talking about the difficulties of the adjustment will be sufficient to aid the student in completing the transition to the new culture or back again. Second, follow the news about the country where your student is studying or traveling, both to stay current on what your student is experiencing and because recent study abroad returnees often show an increased interest in world affairs. Finally, expect a period of readjustment when your student returns, including the possibility of a change in academic goals, interests, and/or hobbies.
Encouraging Your Student's Active Engagement Abroad
Please strongly encourage your student to balance time spent communicating with family and friends at home and traveling away from the study abroad site with the unique and rare opportunity to experience profound and active engagement in their institution and local community abroad. One can always travel and be a tourist, but the opportunity to establish meaningful friendships with international classmates abroad and to gain a true and deep understanding of a foreign culture is unique to the semester abroad experience. The two most commonly cited regrets of students who return home from study abroad are, first, that they spent too much time communicating with friends at home and traveling on weekends with American friends instead of fully experiencing life and friendships in their host community; and, second, that they lacked sufficient knowledge of their host country and culture while abroad to fully notice, understand, and benefit from the many learning opportunities that were available to them. We hope that you will encourage your student to learn as much as possible about the host country, culture, and language prior to departure and to spend as much time as possible engaging in learning and community activities at their host institution and locally in town while abroad. Persistent active efforts to engage locally while abroad will result in the most memorable and influential study abroad experience.
While regular office hours at MICA are from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, you may leave a message at any hour, day or night, and your call will be returned when the office opens. The International Affairs office telephone number is 410-225-2243 and e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The office's fax number is 410-225-2548 (please send faxes to the attention of "International Affairs").
In case of emergency outside of normal business hours while your student is abroad, please contact MICA's Campus Safety office at 443-423-3333. This phone is staffed 24 hours a day, including holidays, and Campus Safety personnel are prepared to relay information to the Office of the Dean of Students. They will ensure that appropriate MICA staff are notified and that you will be contacted regarding action taken.
Please be aware that MICA, the Campus Safety office, and the International Affairs office are subject to the provisions of the Buckley Amendment (also called FERPA), which may limit the information that can be released to you. The amendment, designed to protect the privacy of individuals' records, may result in the delay of your access to detailed information about your student. However, please note that students are offered the opportunity to sign a waiver with the International Affairs office so that MICA can immediately release information to designated individuals about a student's status abroad.
While we have made every effort to prepare your student for an enriching experience abroad, questions or concerns may still arise. Included in your student's pre-departure Study Abroad Guide are important information and resources for study abroad. Please be sure that your student takes the Study Abroad Guide with him or her abroad, as it will provide immediate answers or guidance for many common questions and situations.
Most students return from study abroad demonstrating increased independence, maturity, flexibility, and insight - the direct result of actively engaging in learning and in their community abroad and of facing and overcoming challenges in daily life and learning. These are the signs of a successful study abroad experience, and we hope that you will recognize and appreciate your student's achievements in these areas. For most students, the experience of study abroad is one of the most formative in their lives and your encouragement is enormously valuable in making it a success.
Please feel free to contact our office with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your student's time abroad. We hope that this will be a valuable and enjoyable experience for both your student and you.