FAQs for Parents
Please note that the Mount Saint Mary College Office of
International Programs cannot discuss information
from a student's records unless we have received a completed FERPA
form from the student.
Where can I find information about my student's semester-long
study abroad program like housing and fees?
You can find program information by contacting the Office of
International Programs directly, or by seeking out the appropriate
university or third-party provider with whom your student is
My son/daughter has been accepted to a program. Can I see the
materials they received?
Yes, of course! If you wish to speak to your student’s study
abroad advisor directly, you may call between 8 am-4 pm
Monday-Friday or email email@example.com at any
What about financial aid?
Financial aid will come through the student's home campus in the
U.S. Students can contact the financial aid office directly or
speak with their Study Abroad advisor.
Does my student need health insurance while abroad?
Yes. Students will be advised as to what insurance is relevant
to each country. Mount Saint Mary College works closely with each
student to make sure that they have the appropriate coverage for
any and all emergencies and will recommend purchasing additional
insurance if needed.
Will my student need a visa?
This varies by country. The Office of International Programs can
provide support during the visa process, but ultimately visa
requirements are dictated by the host country's government.
Countries often change their visa requirements without notifying
us, and as we try our hardest to stay on top of any minor or major
changes, it is encouraged for all students to also be as up-to-date
as possible on the visa process.
How do I budget for study abroad?
Budgets will be discussed throughout the application and
acceptance process, and your child will have copies of the
suggested budgeting amounts per program. Please understand that we
cannot guarantee the costs of travel and daily expenses, and that
the amounts suggested will vary on a case-by-case basis and on
spending habits of the student.
What about orientation?
The Office of International Programs conducts a pre-departure
orientation which parents are invited to attend. The date, time,
and location will be emailed to your student. Please contact your
student for details.
What about health and safety abroad?
Mount Saint Mary College believes the safety and security of
your student is of the upmost importance, and parents can request
any and all copies of our emergency and safety protocols. Students
have dedicated professionals at their host sites who are committed
to ensuring the safety of our programs and of our students.
Students travelling with third-party institutions or with other
universities will have professionals from those programs as point
persons for any security or safety issues. The names and contact
information for those persons is available through the Office of
How much will study abroad cost?
The cost depends on the type of program that is chosen, the
length of stay, the sponsoring school, etc. If the program is
through your student's home university, fees will vary from
$5,000-6,500 for a 4-week session including credits, housing, all
travel both domestic and international, and some excursions. For
many Mount Saint Mary College programs, students will pay tuition
to their home university, and any additional fees noted on the
budget sheets provided by the programs. A program fee may be due
depending on the student's program. It covers the tuition
differential which accounts for the difference in Mount Saint Mary
College tuition and higher instructional costs at the abroad site,
as well as other expenses included in the program (i.e. housing and
on-site support from Resident Directors). For program-specific cost
information, please see the budget sheets for each program of
interest. Other fees, which are often due prior to departure, may
include costs such as airfare, meals, additional travel, etc. In
order to evaluate the overall cost of the program, it will be
necessary to contact the program department of the sponsoring
institution to find out exactly what is included.
Will all grades/credits be accepted by the home
Generally, the courses/classes the student plans to take abroad
must be pre-approved by their study abroad advisor, the registrar,
faculty advisor, dean, or admissions officer to ensure that the
maximum amount of credit for the courses taken will be received. If
the course information is not available until arrival at the study
abroad location, be sure to find out what specific information is
needed upon return to make sure the courses are accepted by the
home institution. In general, all courses must be approved by the
Office of International Programs prior to the student’s departure
with the understanding that once in the country the students may
have to change courses due to unforeseen circumstances.
Questions for the student's advisor should include:
- Will all of the classes my child plans to take fulfill his/her
graduation requirements and count towards his/her academic
major/minor where applicable?
- Does my child's current institution require that he/she enroll
in a defined number of courses/credits in order for transfer
credits to be accepted?
- What is the minimum course grade that will be accepted for
- Is it required that course related information such as a
syllabus, notes, exams, papers, fieldwork, etc. be furnished upon
- Will the grade points from classes taken abroad be included in
the GPA at his/her home institution, or will only the credits be
How long is a study abroad program?
The program duration depends on the program chosen. Study abroad
programs generally range from one month for summer sessions and
three months to one year for school year programs. The amount of
time the student is able to spend abroad and the time of year
he/she chooses to go abroad can be determined by answering a few
- How much time will the home institution approve for travel
abroad and still accept the credits?
- Will he/she be focused enough to fulfill a specific curriculum
and still fully experience the culture if the stay is only a few
weeks? Will there be enough time for independent travel within this
- Will he/she be disciplined enough to follow through on their
courses if too much time is spent abroad? Will he/she have enough
spending money to stay for a long period of time and still be able
to eat, travel independently, etc.?
- Will the weather be comfortable enough in the country of choice
at this time of the year?
Why does one need study abroad insurance?
Most universities and exchange organizations require that all
students have a good health insurance plan while studying outside
of their home country. During an international educational
experience or exchange program, the student may need to see a
doctor, have a prescription filled, receive care at a hospital, or
deal with an unexpected medical emergency. The Medical Benefits
provided under Health Care Global 2000 can help protect your child
against these unforeseeable circumstances. Should you and your
student choose to use a different health care provider, the Office
of International Programs will require proof of insurance coverage,
details of that coverage, as well as a waiver of MSMC coverage.
How much spending money is needed?
The amount of money that will be needed for the trip depends on
the expenses that the student may be required to pay while abroad.
It is a good idea to create a budget prior to departure that
separates any known living and school expenses such as food,
housing, transportation, and text books from general spending money
that can be used for independent travel, tourist attraction
entrance fees, and souvenirs. Keep in mind that having a budget
does not mean that the student needs to have to carry cash around
for each of these expenses - just know about how much is allotted
to each so money for meals is not spent carelessly on
"Traveling with large amounts of cash is not
recommended." - 'It's Your World' handbook.
The student should consider using several different forms of
payment for expenses. Traveler's checks, credit cards, ATM cards,
and cash are accepted almost everywhere. Although U.S. dollars are
also widely accepted throughout the world, the student should make
every attempt to use the local currency. ATMs are readily available
in all the countries to which students travel and students will
need to notify their banks prior to their departure of their
intention to use cash points while abroad as many banks need to
authorize those transactions prior to departure. Credit cards with
Visa and MasterCard logos are also widely accepted.
Where can the student exchange money?
To obtain foreign currency, any of the following can be
AIRPORT EXCHANGE BUREAU
Currency exchange offices are
available at almost all international airports. Although the rates
may not be the lowest, it is probably the most convenient location
to exchange money when the student first arrives. Note: because the
destination airport is certain to have a large supply of the local
currency, its rates for exchange may be lower than the rates at the
student's home airport, which may only have a limited supply of the
After the student has had a chance to
get accustomed to his/her new surroundings, a national bank or an
ATM machine can be found, which are known to offer the lowest
exchange rates. Using a credit card can also secure a decent
exchange rate and is often safer than carrying around a lot of
cash. American Express, Visa, and Master Card are all widely
accepted around the world. Keep in mind, however, that using an
ATM/debit card may incur additional bank/commission
LOCAL STORES / RESTAURANTS
Travelers checks can be used for
payment at a variety of stores or restaurants. If U.S. dollar
travelers checks are being used instead of foreign currency
traveler’s checks, make sure the student knows the merchant's
exchange rate and is aware of how much change should be returned to
With all the money changing options available, the best thing
the student can do is to be an educated traveler. Know what the
current exchange rate is and be able to calculate how much should
be received in return for each transaction. Also, be safe when
carrying money and do not carry all of it at once. See the tips
below from the 'It's Your World' guide:
"To keep your money as safe as possible, take the following
precautions: Exchange money only in banks or other authorized
exchange bureaus. Never exchange it on the black market. Carry only
as much money as you need for a day. Use the same precautions when
using ATMs (automated teller machines) as you would at home. The
safest units to use are those inside banks or other buildings.
Don't leave your purse unattended, even for a moment. Tuck it
firmly under your arm; if it has a long strap, wear it across your
chest rather than let it dangle off your shoulder. In some areas, a
waist pouch or money belt may be the safest way to carry money,
especially if it is worn under your clothing."
What are Travelers Checks and where can they be
Travelers checks can be purchased at a bank or local travel
agency (American Express, AAA, etc.) in a variety of denominations
and currencies. They can be used for payment at many local
establishments or can be exchanged for cash at any bank or exchange
agency. Traveler’s checks come in both US Dollars and in many
foreign currencies and can be replaced if lost or stolen. Make sure
to keep a list of the serial numbers from each check in a safe
place so it can be given to the bank representative for
Please be aware that the use of traveler’s checks may not be
accepted in certain areas of the world. For example, do not expect
to use traveler’s checks if traveling to rural parts of South
America or to rural hill stations in Africa or India.
What are the housing options?
The housing options depend entirely upon the program that is
being offered. Many students are expected to live on campus in
either single or double occupancy dorm rooms. Others may have the
option to live off campus in apartments or participate in a home
stay and live in the home of a nearby family. If the student is
expected to arrange his/her own housing, ask for recommendations
from the sponsoring institution because student housing in foreign
countries is not always easy to come by and may be expensive. It is
also a good idea to find out what is included in the housing
package (meals, linens, etc.) so your child will not be caught off
guard with any unexpected expenses.
Please be aware that all housing options will be similar to the
accommodations that students in the host country would have. These
accommodations may not be to the same standards as MSMC students
are used to and there may be some culture shock when adapting to
your new environment. Please try to be respectful and open to these
changes in lifestyle.
Who is responsible for making travel arrangements?
Students participating in MSMC summer study abroad will have all
of their flights arranged for them and the cost of these flights is
included in their program fee. The students are responsible for
arranging their own transport to and from the airport prior to and
after International departure.
Some study abroad program fees include air and land
transportation if the travel falls within specified program dates.
This may include transfers to and from the airport and even local
transportation if the student's housing is not near the host
campus. If airfare is not part of the program fee, still check with
the program sponsors because some schools can secure a group rate
if several students will be departing from the same location. It is
also a good idea to make flight arrangements well in advance,
especially during busy travel months.
Any additional travel plans that the student chooses to make are
generally not included in the program fee; however, there may be
optional tours that are available for an additional cost through
the sponsoring institution. If the student plans to travel between
different countries while abroad, be sure he/she applies for the
appropriate visas and clearances in advance.
Below are some tips for purchasing airline tickets from the
'It's Your World' handbook:
"Many countries list a round-trip ticket as one of their
entry requirements. Even though you may not know when you want to
return home and you may have to pay a surcharge to change your
return ticket, it is still cheaper to buy the round-trip ticket
instead of buying two one-way tickets. Shop carefully to find a
flight that best suits your needs. Compare the price of open-ended
tickets, in which you return at any point within a specified length
of time, with the price of a ticket bearing a stated return date.
If you are planning to travel on your own after your program ends,
you might want to investigate "open jaw" fares, which let you
return from a different location from your point of arrival. STA
Travel is an excellent source of information about student travel.
With your International Student Identity Card, you can sometimes
get up to 50% off of commercial airfares through STA Travel. More
information about STA Travel and its travel services is available
on-line at www.statravel.com."
What are the common means of transportation while abroad?
The chosen program may have an orientation package or session,
which will explain the various means of transportation available in
that particular location. In Europe, train or subway are popular
options. In other countries, taxis or mopeds may be the cheapest
and most direct choice. Wherever the student goes, it is a good
idea to know the local taxi rates and to negotiate a fair deal
prior to departing. Also, make sure the student is informed about
local driving laws for car and moped rentals, and check to see if
his/her current car insurance will cover international rentals. For
independent travel in Europe, check out the Rail Europe for information on
rail passes and car rentals. All information about travel and
transportation can also be found at your travel agency.
What documents are needed to travel abroad?
Please note: This is only a sample list of documents that may be
required for International travel. The actual documents your
student will need vary depending on the location of the program. Be
sure to contact the hosting institution for official pre-departure
information. In all cases, fill out any applications and make all
necessary appointments for each document well in advance as it can
take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to complete the
The most widely used form of identification for international
travel is a passport. Almost all foreign countries require that
visitors have a passport. For more information regarding the
application/renewal process, visit www.travel.state.gov or call
the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778.
A visa is a permit from an international country that allows
visitors to enter and leave their borders, and may be required for
the chosen program or by any countries that the student plans to
visit while traveling independently. Visas often list planned
travel dates and do expire, so be sure to have these dates
available when applying. For more information about visas and how
to apply, visit www.travel.state.gov.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT IDENTITY CARD (ISIC)
Although not usually required, the ISIC may be a valuable
document for which to apply. In addition to identifying your child
as a student, it may help him/her qualify for discounts on airfare,
travel insurance, medical and health assistance, and entrance fees
to museums and other cultural sites around the world. This card can
be purchased through various websites, travel agencies, or from
many US colleges and universities. Visit www.internationalstudentidcard.com
for more information about how to obtain a card.
INTERNATIONAL CERTIFICATE OF VACCINATIONS
The student may be required to obtain a number of different
vaccinations prior to entering a foreign country. The list of
required vaccinations and facilities that can provide these
vaccinations should be obtained from the study abroad department of
the hosting university. When traveling to developing countries, the
following vaccinations are usually required: typhoid fever,
hepatitis A and B, cholera, and yellow fever. Anti-malarial
medication may also be recommended. It is also suggested that a
list of childhood immunizations be obtained from your family
physician (these may include: tetanus, polio, diphtheria, etc.) and
update these immunizations if needed.
Will the student be able to communicate without having a firm
grasp of the language?
It is possible that wherever the student goes, he/she will be
able to find someone that speaks even a little English, but it is
always beneficial for the student to make every effort to learn the
local language, or at least some key phrases, as it will enable
him/her to make the most out of the study abroad experience. If
your child is not comfortable with the language, a program should
be selected where the courses are taught in English. Another option
is to enroll in an intensive language class prior to departure.
What will the food be like?
Chances are, the food in the country abroad is not going to be
like the food many of us are used to eating at home. Although this
can be a wonderful part of the experience, it may be difficult or
even painful for some. Be sure to follow the host school or host
family's guidelines about what precautions to take when sampling
local foods and drinks. (Note: in areas where it is not safe to
drink the water, remember that ice, fruit juices and even
vegetables and fruits washed in the water should be avoided if at
all possible.) Your student will be surprised, however, to find
that many popular fast food chain restaurants from the United
States can also be found all over the world!
How can we keep in touch with the student while they are
Postal mail, telephone, fax, and email are all available means by
which to communicate with students abroad. While rates may be
higher to connect overseas, the services work very similar to those
here in the United States. Many students choose to purchase
international mobile phones either prior to departure or once in
the host country. These are an excellent way of staying in touch
with family and friends but can be pricey. You may also want to
check with your current service provider to see if international
service is available on your current calling plan and mobile phone.
Another popular option used by many students is to obtain a phone
card/calling card from your current long-distance carrier. Be sure
to find out the appropriate access numbers for the United States as
they vary from country to country. Here is another tip from the
'It's Your World' handbook:
"Remember to remind the people at home that you may not have
a phone immediately available. As a result you may not be able to
phone them as soon as you arrive. Agree on a time by which you
definitely will have called home."
Is there anything else I should know?
Your student will be going through some life-changing
experiences. Generally, when students land on foreign soil, they
experience a phenomenon called "Culture Shock." They may feel
disorientated or experience discomfort in trying to adjust to
another culture. Don't be alarmed if you receive a phone call after
24 hours of his/her arrival. The best thing to do is to remain calm
and be positive. Culture Shock does not affect everyone the same,
some students have it longer than others, some not at all. This
difficult time in your child's life will be temporary; however, the
reward of studying abroad will outweigh the initial discomfort that
the student might feel.
Staying in touch will be important. It is usually not a good
idea to encourage your son or daughter to call home every day or
every week. (It will save both of you money.) A good suggestion is
to call at regular intervals, planned in advanced to avoid missed
phone calls and confusion (e.g. Sunday nights at 10:00 Central
time). Realize that there is probably a significant amount of time
difference and it might be bedtime where your son or daughter is
staying when you call from the U.S. It may be wise to check out
options with your phone company for adding an international long
distance plan to your phone service. While students are abroad,
they have the option of using the ISI Connect card they purchased
in the U.S. or buying local phone cards to call home. In home-stay
situations, discourage students from calling from the host family's
phone. The family is usually charged for each minute, even if it is
a local call. Email is another great and inexpensive option to keep
SAFETY IS A PRIMARY CONCERN
It is impossible to guarantee absolute safety of your daughter
or son while he or she is miles away. The Office of International
Programs takes steps to provide a safe environment while the
student is abroad. It is the student's responsibility to use common
sense to avoid possible issues. Students are required to read
country-specific pre-departure information (including the
applicable Consular Information Sheet) and to be familiar with the
customs and culture of the country to be visited. Women are
strongly cautioned about traveling alone in certain countries. It
is a good idea for students to leave a travel itinerary with
contact information for parents and for host university personnel,
just in case.
RE-ENTRY: THE TIME YOUR SON/DAUGHTER COMES HOME FROM
It is quite possible that he/she will be suffering from jet-leg
and or reverse culture shock. Reverse culture shock can be a real
problem for some, especially those who have spent an academic year
abroad. Your help will be of great assistance during this time of
confusion and disorientation. If students have grown accustomed to
the culture of the host country, they might be bored to be back
home or feel a lack of direction. During the period of
re-adjustment, students will try to get back into the normal
routine and may find it difficult due to experiences and things
they have learned. It is important to remember that students are
normally excited about coming back and being on their native turf.
They want to tell you all about the exciting experiences they had.
When you ask "How was your trip?", do not expect a 15-word sentence
to describe their entire journey. It is important to remember that
your child has changed in many ways: personally, culturally,
academically, and professionally. Your child has matured, in many
ways, to a new individual. It is important that you take time to
listen to his/her stories and experiences, and look at his/her
pictures. Please take an interest in your child's experience abroad
and be understanding to their needs.
POST-TRAVEL HEALTH RECOMMENDATIONS
If your son or daughter feels ill within 12 months after a trip
abroad, he/she should mention to the physician the countries he/she
has visited. The Center for International Programs advises students
to avoid unprotected and unsafe sexual encounters while abroad.
Upon return, it might be a good idea to schedule an appointment
with a healthcare provider to have a complete physical.