While Abroad

While Abroad


Communicating While Abroad • Time Differences • Homesickness 

Perceived versus Real Emergencies • Visiting Your Student

Communication While Abroad

It may not be possible to get the actual email and phone numbers until your student arrives in the host country. In that case, your student needs to contact you first to give you their information!

Contacting Your Student Upon Arrival

Parents are often concerned when they do not hear from their son or daughter immediately after arrival. Your concern is natural, but in most cases, students are not able to make international phone calls from the airport. Sometimes students are moving from one place to the other, participating in orientations, taking other modes of transportation, in bad cell reception areas, unable to locate a phone or computer, sleeping, et cetera.

Do not worry if you do not hear from your student within the first few hours of their arrival! Your son or daughter will contact you when he or she gets settled in. Be assured that the on-site program staff or the Office of Global Affairs will always notify parents if there is a serious problem.

Mailing a Package Overseas

Mailing a package to your student can be easy but quite expensive. Any major postal carrier can ship packages internationally and give you advice and step-by-step instructions on how to do it. However, be very aware of the dimensions and weight of the package you are sending as the price for shipping the package can quickly exceed the price of its contents. Please also be aware of restrictions for mailing medications. As a general rule, all students should bring a full supply of medications in the original packing when going abroad. Please have your student contact HTH Insurance, our international health insurance provider, with questions regarding access to medication overseas.

There may be customs restrictions that you should be aware of before attempting to mail items to your student in the host country. Restrictions vary depending on the service or contents (i.e., medication cannot be mailed to Italy).

Email and Social Media Sites

Email and social media are wonderful ways of staying in touch with your student. Most universities have adequate Internet access on campus and in the accommodation facilities. Internet Cafes are located in cities and towns of all sizes, so your student should also have email access while traveling. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and IM are available worldwide, and these sites can be the perfect way to "stay in touch" even if your student is too busy to talk on a frequent basis. While lightning quick cable internet connections are common in the United States, your student may experience slower connection speeds in other countries. Downloading music, videos and other large files, or accessing popular U.S. websites may take much longer.


Skype is a great way to stay connected and is a free service! With Skype you can make free calls over the internet to your student for as long as you like, to wherever you like, for free. Additionally, your student can purchase a U.S. phone number through Skype for a small fee (includes voicemail), so that you can call him or her from any phone and reach your student through Skype as if he or she had a local phone number. Learn more about Skype.


Calling international cell phones can be expensive, so be sure to compare international rates with different phone companies, as well as looking for deals on the Internet.

How to Dial Internationally from the U.S.

Placing international calls will vary depending on if you are calling directly or using a calling card. In general, you can follow the guidelines for dialing directly, but be sure to review the instructions provided by the long distance phone company and/or on the calling card.

Calling Cards

Students can buy international calling cards when they arrive in the host country if they would like. Typically calling cards offer competitive long distance rates, and they can easily be purchased at local convenient stores and shops. If your student does want to buy one in the U.S., please make sure that the card is able to be used from the host country, and that your student knows what number to use when placing calls outside of the country.

Cell Phones

Many students decide that a cell phone is a convenient way to stay in touch while abroad. Some students prefer to purchase a cell phone upon arrival in the host country or use their current cell phone with a new SIM card from the host country. Often times, students will purchase local pay-as-you-go phones and deposit money on them as necessary.

For programs that span two weeks or less, cell phones are not entirely necessary. For semester programs that span 3 – 4 months, cell phones are recommended and commonly used as the primary method of communication. We recommend that students NOT purchase a contract plan!

Note: Cell phones are an amazing benefit, but as a direct line "back home" they can also be a real negative deterrent to learning to deal with the new situations. The student, their boyfriend or girlfriend, and parents at home are in constant phone contact, thus handicapping the on-going adjustment to the new experience. Be brave and strong, and try to limit cell phone use for "normal communication" -- not for constant or excessive play-by -play advice and relating what is going on each and every minute. Give your student a chance to figure things out for themselves, and to live his or her new life. Your son or daughter will tell you everything soon enough!

Remember the Time Difference

Wherever your student is located in the world, the time differences can be quite significant. To understand the time difference in the host country compared to where you are located, please check the website www.worldtimeserver.com. Your student will be much happier to hear your voice when it is during an hour when he or she is already awake!

Have a suggestion for other parents? We'd love to hear about it and pass it on to future parents. Contact us at studyabroad@sacredheart.edu with any tips you might have.

Homesickness Abroad

It is very common for a student to experience some degree of homesickness or difficulty transitioning to a new culture when he or she goes abroad – even a student who has traveled previously. Being in a new and different environment is challenging and takes a little getting used to; some students adapt sooner while others need more time. Do not be too concerned if your son or daughter has some ups and downs while adjusting to life in his or her new country. Culture adjustment issues are very normal and most students experience them to some degree.

A few helpful tips:

    • If your student appears to be having difficulties adjusting to new surroundings, please let the Office of Global Affairs know. O ften, we are able to contact someone at the host university or on site, whom we trust to determine whether there is a problem, provide a different perspective on the situation, or arrange for appropriate intervention;
    • Do not encourage your student to come home or ‘feed’ their depression. Encourage him or her to continue to remain involved; in many cases the problem your son or daughter calls you about solves itself within 24 hours. Resist your initial urge to fly over and save the day.
    • Encourage your student to seek out the people necessary to help resolve the problem and let your student take the lead in doing so.
    • Ask your student to call you back within the next 24 hours. Usually by that time he or she is feeling better and problems are solved – but your student will often forget to call and tell you that part!
    • Remember: Stay in touch – but not too often! The acculturation process will be slow if your student spends too much time emailing and talking on the phone to family and friends back home. Instead, encourage your student to spend more time exploring the city, making new friends, and learning the ways of the host country.

Perceived versus Real Emergencies

The Office of Global Affairs wants you to talk to your student but not every day. We understand you want to know what is going on in his or her new life but you need to allow time to acclimate to the new surroundings. Teary phone calls during the first few weeks of a study abroad program are not usually cause for concern, especially if your student is attending classes, eating regularly and going out on program activities and socially with other students. It is entirely normal that your student will call home when feeling lost, lonely and want to hear the comforting and consoling voice of a parent. These healing moments, while difficult for the parent, help your student to work through the adjustment process and to progress in his or her learning and development.

If you notice a pattern in which your student is exhibiting one or more of the following behaviors; however, you should recommend that your student seek advising and counseling from the onsite program staff. These behaviors include: a very negative attitude toward the host community over a sustained period of time with little or no sign of enjoyment or appreciation; you hear your student blaming and criticizing in an exaggerated manner the host family, school or country for his or her own feelings of discomfort; physical manifestations that can no longer be attributed to jetlag (which can last up to a week) such as frequency and intensity of headaches, stomach aches, loss of appetite, irregular sleep patterns, heightened anxiety, crying or angering more easily.

These emotional and physical manifestations can be debilitating and need to be addressed. Please encourage your student to seek local help through the program’s on-site staff or university’s international student office. A small percentage of study abroad students experience severe culture shock every year, so most overseas programs have resources in place to provide care and treatment to your student. If you do not think your student is getting the necessary local help or he or she is incapable of asking for it, then contact us directly to discuss available options.

Most importantly, avoid stepping in to solve problems for your son or daughter and urge them to find a solution on their own. Offer your support and let your son or daughter know that you trust them to make the right decisions while studying abroad.

Visiting Your Student

It is important to remember that study abroad students are not on vacation. Attending class with your student — or taking your student out of class to sightsee — will interrupt the educational process and immersion experience. If you are going to visit your student, arrange your plans around the program’s holidays, break dates or optimally at the end of the program. Remember that at the beginning of the term your student is going through the acclimation process. Help your student by giving him or her time to master the challenges so that he or she can feel comfortable and confident when you do visit.