Letter to Parents
If You're a Parent of a Study Abroad Student...
Dear Parents and Families of Students,
Greetings from the International Programs Office at John Brown University!
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself to you. I am the director of the International Programs Department at JBU and have been since 1993. I began my life in Northern Ireland before moving to South Korea and, ultimately, coming to the United States in 1982. Because of these experiences, I have a passion for what I do: creating a global learning environment for university students.
John Brown University has a long history in international programs, beginning in 1954, when we were approved to accept international students. Today, approximately 30 percent of our student body participates in our study abroad and summer missions trips.
Students often say that studying abroad was the highlight of their college experience. Involvement in our international trips challenges students intellectually, culturally, socially and spiritually. For the first time, students get to see the United States from the outside, experience God from a different perspective, and learn something unique about themselves by stepping outside of their comfort zone.
Our office works to prepare students with the tools, skills, and the knowledge they will need to get the very best from their trip abroad. After students are accepted to one of our programs, each team begins an orientation process. Topics include visa and passport regulations, health and safety concerns, cultural awareness, and team building exercises. We also provide re-entry sessions to help our students with the challenges that may occur when they return.
We are committed to providing our students with international opportunities that do not jeopardize their health and safety. For this reason we monitor global news daily and maintain contact with the US Department of State, embassies and consulates, the Center for Disease Control, and onsite experts, many of whom are our own JBU alumni. We have contingency plans in place and are prepared to make changes in our programs at a moment’s notice. Furthermore, we prepare our students prior to departure on their role in avoiding risk when traveling internationally. We urge them to make wise personal choices to minimize all potential risks to their health and safety. We hope that you assist us in reinforcing this message.
As a parent myself, I understand your worries about your child and your hopes that your son or daughter would gain the most from this opportunity. With these worries and hopes in mind, the International Department would like to offer some suggestions and tips for helping your son or daughter have the most wonderful experience abroad possible.
Before they leave:
- Discuss choices
The options for studying abroad may seem overwhelming. Some students know exactly where they want to go and what they want to do. However, if your student is unsure, encourage him or her to discuss the options with you and help by researching and comparing the possibilities.
- Help with paperwork
Make sure your student has all the paperwork—passport, visa, vaccinations, and insurance—that he or she needs. The International Office will help your student fill out the paperwork, but you can use the links on this page as a further resource.
- Plan a budget and help apply for financial aid
Help your student spend wisely by making sure your student has budgeted for the trip. Encourage him or her to independently find scholarships and financial aid for the trip. This page lists most costs and provides links to many scholarships specifically for studying abroad.
While they’re away:
- Communicate but encourage independent exploration
Plan for when you’ll contact your student. On the one hand, make sure to allow him or her enough independence to fully experience the local culture. On the other hand, be sure to show your support and love through the ups and downs of adjusting to a new culture! Also, if you plan to visit your student, please do so before or after the study abroad experience has concluded, or while on breaks.
Allow this opportunity for your student to explore on his or her own. Don’t allow your student to use you as a crutch. Rather, encourage exploration outside of his or her comfort zone.
- What can JBU disclose? (FERPA)
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prevents JBU from disclosing educational information, including study abroad information, with families without written consent from the student. If you contact us for information about your student, outside of an emergency situation, please be aware that we will not be able to share information with you.
- What to do in an emergency
In case of an emergency, the International Office will contact you promptly. If you have an emergency situation at home—illness or death in the family, for example—please contact us and we will let your student know as soon as possible.
After they return:
- Listen and ask good questions
Your student will be bursting with stories to share. Be sure to listen! Also, show that you care by asking thoughtful questions. For example, “What made you laugh the hardest?”, “What was your most embarrassing moment?”, "What are you proudest of?", and “What will you miss the most?”
- Encourage reconnection
Don’t let your student isolate him or herself. Instead, encourage your student to reconnect at home and with friends. Support him or her in the emotionally difficult time of re-entry. This page contains many resources you can use to help your student.
Thank you for your support of study abroad at JBU’s International Programs Department. Please visit us at our website for more information and resources to help your student.
On behalf of the whole team at the International Programs Department,
William A. Stevenson, III
Director of International Programs
Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies