Teen Planning to Study Abroad? Follow This Easy 7-Step Parents Guide

Planning to study abroad is a worthwhile aim for your high school or college student. In addition to the educational opportunities, travel opens them up to a broader perspective of the world.

It also offers a chance for your child to have a little more independence. But let’s make sure you offer a safety net with some guidance. 

That’s why we’ve put together a 7-step parents guide. When your child is planning to study abroad, look to these easy tips, below.

planning to study abroad

CONTENTS – In this article, you will learn how to help your child prepare for a trip abroad, including:

  • Practical Advice for Planning to Study Abroad
  • Step-by-Step Guide for Your Teen’s Trip
  • Understanding Challenges Going Abroad
  • Ensuring Your Child’s Safety Abroad
  • Best Ways You Can Help Your Child
  • Final Thoughts: Planning to Study Abroad
  • Next Steps

Preparing Teens for the First Travel: Practical Advice

It is not uncommon for parents to feel anxious when their teens are planning to study abroad alone for the first time. 

After all, it is a big responsibility. 

Many things can go wrong. 

However, there are a few simple steps that you can take to help your teen prepare for the trip. That way, it’s more likely that everything will go smoothly.

Study Abroad Guide for Parents: Preparing Your Teenager to Travel Abroad

Knowing what to expect and being prepared for it is half the battle when it comes to planning to study abroad. 

Follow this step-by-step guide for parents to help your teen get ready for their big adventure. 

Whether it’s April Vacation in France with their high school program, or a college semester abroad in Florence Italy, here’s what you need to know. 

1. Set Their Expectations

Talk to your teenager about their plans and expectations for the trip. 

You must be on the same page about what he or she will be doing and how long they will be gone.

Find out what your child thinks the trip will be like, and let them voice any concerns. Listen to what he or she is excited about.

Even though they are getting older, they need to know you are interested and supportive of their experiences. They may not show it, but your opinion is still really important to them.

Having this conversation will help them avoid disappointment and also get clear about what’s expected of them. 

It’s also a chance to find out how much or how little they would like you involved.

This is an important first step that shouldn’t be skipped. It sets the ground-rules for the remainder of the steps.

2. Help Them Do Trip and Destination Research

If they are open to your help, you can assist in researching their destination.

High school programs usually have a fairly defined itinerary, and you should make sure you have a copy. Study abroad semesters for college will be much more open-ended.

Your child should know where they are going and what to expect when they get there. This will put their minds at ease.

You’ll also want to make sure they look up information about the culture, customs, and language. Knowing these things in advance will help them adjust to any culture shock. 

It will also teach them some of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to etiquette while away. 

Depending on where they are going, it may be very different from home!

3. Double Check Documentation Requirements

International travel usually requires certain forms of documentation

This may include a passport, visa (if required), and other required permissions or paperwork. 

If they already have a passport, check the expiration date. In many countries, the expiration date must be six months or more in the future.

The health requirements for entry to a foreign country and for re-entry to the US are in a constant state of flux right now. So, make sure to stay informed, right up until they depart and return.

It’s important to make sure your child has all the necessary documents well in advance. 

Failing to do so could mean they can’t enter the host country – or return as planned. 

4. Assist Them with Packing

It’s a good idea to help them pack their bags, if your child will let you.

They should pack light, but make sure to include all the essentials. If your child can bring items he or she can use in multiple ways, even better.

For instance, capsule wardrobes or layered clothing options maximize luggage space.

A good rule of thumb is to pack for the weather, so check the weather forecasts and average temperatures online, too.

You’ll also want to check the weight and size limits for checked luggage. You may also find similar limits on carry-on bags, too.

Baggage requirements will vary by airline and ground transportation, such as buses and trains, so read the fine print.

This may be a good time to go over what items are allowed in carry-on bags and what must be packed in your checked luggage instead.

For instance, identify how many liquid ounces are allowed in your child’s carry-on, as well as which things may be prohibited on board and in cargo altogether. These will likely apply on the return trip, too, so make sure your child is aware of the rules.

Otherwise, your child may risk having a souvenir confiscated by airport security.

Banned items for air travel usually include things like flammable items, chemicals, explosives, and beverages over 40 proof. Hopefully your child is not transporting any of these things, but good that he or she knows!

5. Teach Safety Tips

At this point in your child’s life, you’ve probably taught them many safety tips. But now, you’ll need to teach your children how to stay safe while away.

This includes knowing their surroundings, being aware of their personal belongings, and not talking to strangers. 

It’s common for expensive smartphones to get stolen, especially in big tourist cities. So, extra special care is required in that case.

Encourage your child to always stay in groups or with a friend. You may even want to ask them to enable location sharing on their phone – if not with you, then with a trusted friend.

Finally, he or she should never leave a drink unattended or drink too much. Those are opportunities that invite disaster.

6. Have an Emergency Plan

When your child is going abroad without you, it’s important to put together an emergency plan. That way, they know who to call if something goes wrong and how to contact you. 

Have a plan in case their phone gets stolen or they run out of money. 

Discuss what to do if their passport or credit cards go amiss.

And if they have any medical conditions, prescriptions, or severe allergies, discuss how to handle emergencies abroad.

Consider all the things that can go wrong, and talk through the best way to handle each situation.

With any luck, your child won’t face any emergencies. But if they do, they’ll be prepared.

7. Stay in Touch 

You may think your teenager will be too busy to hear from you while they’re studying abroad.

But checking-in with your teenager regularly to see how they are doing will offer comfort to you and them.

Decide ahead of time how often, best times, and preferred ways to keep in touch.

Is a daily text too much?

A weekly phone call?

A random email?

Find out if they plan to post on social media and if they are okay with you commenting. That way, you can virtually follow their travels.

Whatever you decide, make sure to research the added costs and limits to international phone, text, and data. These days, it’s pretty affordable to stay in touch.

What Are Common Challenges?

Following these steps can help your teenager prepare for their first trip abroad. Then, you can ensure they have a safe and enjoyable experience.

Yet, despite how much you prepare your child for travel abroad, there will be challenges.

Here are a few challenges you should be aware of when your teen is traveling abroad for the first time.

  1. Teens may not be used to being away from home. It might mean they miss you more than usual or have difficulty adjusting to the time difference.
  2. They may not be familiar with the culture and customs of their destination. This can lead to them feeling homesick or out of place.
  3. Your child may not be able to speak the language fluently. It can also be true when they go to write a college paper or other dissertation materials. This can make it challenging to communicate with locals and get around.
  4. They may not be used to being on their own. Remember, that can be a big adjustment for teens who are used to having their parents around. 
  5. Most teens do not have a lot of experience with travel. This can lead to them feeling overwhelmed or stressed at times.

Be ready to offer the support they need if these issues come up. And don’t worry. It’s common for them to experience several of these things. 

But it’s a worthwhile opportunity and they will grow from the experience!

How to Ensure That Your Children are Safe Abroad

Getting in touch with your teenager regularly is essential, but it is also vital to ensure that they know they can contact you if something goes wrong.

There are a few things you can do to help them feel safe and secure while they are away from home:

  • Give them your contact information. This includes your phone number, email address, and the address of your home.
  • Make sure they know how to use a phone in an emergency. This includes teaching them how to make international calls and use apps like WhatsApp or Skype.
  • Give them money for emergencies. This can be in cash, traveler’s checks, or a debit card. It’s a good idea to send them with two different credit cards: one on their person and another locked in the room safe. If one is stolen, they have a back-up.
  • Make sure they have insurance. This will help to cover them in case of an accident or illness.
  • Talk to them about what to do in an emergency. This includes knowing who to call and what to do if they get lost or injured.

Indeed, it is normal to feel worried when your teen is planning to study abroad for the first time. 

However, by taking a few simple steps, you can help them prepare for the trip and ensure they have a safe and enjoyable experience.

Final Thoughts on Planning to Study Abroad

Studying abroad is an excellent opportunity for teenagers to learn about new cultures and gain independence. 

However, as a parent, you need to help prepare your child for the trip. 

Help them plan and pack, get the necessary documents they need, and stay in touch. 

Following these steps can help your teenager have a safe and enjoyable experience abroad.

Then, both you and your teen will be better prepared for the challenges that come with traveling to a new country. 

The most important thing is to ensure that your teenager knows they can contact you if something goes wrong.

The good news is, with today’s technology, it’s easier now than ever.

Next Steps

Continue reading more about how to support your high school or college student:


Author’s BIO: James Hughey is a researcher and essay writer whose work focuses on topics such as education and parenting. He has written articles for many online journals, and also works at a college in the USA.

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Jackie Gately

Jackie Gately is a seasoned travel writer, photographer, and marketing consultant who is passionate about travel. She loves casual-luxury experiences, coastal getaways, cultural attractions, and local, wholesome food and wine pairings. A perfect day ends with her toes in the sand or by chasing the sunset with her camera--ideally both.

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