Study Abroad

Frequently Asked Questions

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 travelling.

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 studyabroad@msmc.edu at any time.

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 International Programs.

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 university?

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 credit transfer?
  • Is it required that course related information such as a syllabus, notes, exams, papers, fieldwork, etc. be furnished upon return?
  • Will the grade points from classes taken abroad be included in the GPA at his/her home institution, or will only the credits be accepted?

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 simple questions:

  • 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 timeframe?
  • 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 souvenirs!

Always remember:

 "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 used:

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 foreign currency.

BANKS/ATM/CREDIT CARDS

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 charges.

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 them.

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 obtained/used?

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 replacement!

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 process.

PASSPORT

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.

VISA

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 abroad?

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.

COMMUNICATION

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 in touch.

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 STUDYING ABROAD

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.