Parent and Family FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions from parents and families of study abroad students.

Why Should My Student Study Abroad?

Studying abroad helps students gain in-depth exposure to foreign cultures in a way that cannot be accomplished in the classroom or on a vacation. Students are exposed to new ways of thinking about the world and their own countries. Studying abroad promotes great intercultural competency skills and promotes greater confidence, independence, and self-sufficiency.

Successfully completing an Education Abroad program can enhance a resume and help students stand out in the job market. Less than 10 percent of all U.S. undergraduate students study abroad, according to the most recent "Open Doors" report from IIE, and many employers and graduate schools seek out candidates who have the unique skills that studying abroad can provide. 

By participating in a Penn State Education Abroad program, students receive Penn State credits and grades. Students are encouraged to work closely with their academic advisers to choose a program that complements their study here at Penn State. Students can meet major, minor, and/or general education requirements while abroad as determined by their academic college or department. Additionally, education abroad brings a unique intercultural perspective to a student's chosen major or academic study. Studying abroad can help students develop or improve foreign language skills as well.

How Much is This Going to Cost?

Affordability is an important factor when selecting an education abroad program. The programs offered through Education Abroad vary in cost, depending on the features of the program, geographic location, length, inclusions in the program such as excursions and cultural activities, and the level of on-site support. Program cost estimates are provided on the budget sheet links on each program information page.  Information on cost, scholarships and funding resources can be found on the funding study abroad page.

What Costs are Included on the Bursar Bill?

EA programs vary in cost depending on the features of the program, geographic location, program length, special excursions and cultural activities, and other on-site services. Detailed information about what to expect to appear on a bursar bill can be found in the Billing section of this website.

What Types of Financial Aid or Scholarships are Available for My Student?

Education Abroad has created an Easy Guide to Study Abroad Scholarships to help students get started. This guide should not be considered an exhaustive list of all scholarships. Education Abroad encourages students to independently search for additional sources of financial aid, starting on the scholarships page of this site.

Information about Penn State student aid and study abroad can be found in the Office of Student Aid section of this site. 

What Happens if My Student Needs to Withdraw From His or Her Program?

Education Abroad makes every attempt at keeping program and administrative costs to a minimum. However, when a student commits to participating in a program, Education Abroad begins to make financial commitments on their behalf. Regardless of the reason and effective date of withdrawal, it is the responsibility of students to immediately notify their Education Abroad Adviser in writing (email is preferred) and to understand the implications of their withdrawal actions. More information is available in the Education Abroad Withdrawal Policy

What Kind of Support Does Education Abroad Provide for My Student?

The Education Abroad staff members understand that preparing for and participating on an Education Abroad program can be at once exciting and overwhelming, so we provide support and guidance to students in all stages of preparation. However, we also require that students take an active role in preparing for their experience abroad, and we expect them to be responsible and complete all necessary steps prior to departure.

Initial Search Phase

Education Abroad advisers are available to meet with students to help identify programs that will meet their particular academic and personal needs, to discuss program-specific details such as cost, housing and available courses, and assist with the application process. Education Abroad advisers are also able to discuss financial aid and scholarship opportunities, health insurance and other safety concerns. Additionally, students are encouraged to meet with Peer Advisers (returned study abroad students) to explore program options and to think about how to make the most out of their experiences abroad.

After Acceptance

All students are required to attend two pre-departure orientations (one online and one in-person) facilitated by the Education Abroad advisers. These sessions will cover details about the host country and host university, as well as information about Penn State policies, academics, financial information, health and safety, cultural differences and culture shock. Often, fellow students who have participated on the program will attend these sessions to answer questions. Besides the mandatory orientation sessions, advisers are available by appointment to discuss any questions or concerns the student may have about their upcoming time abroad. For more information, go to the "I'm Accepted ... What's Next?" page of our website.

While Abroad

Education Abroad advisers work closely with the on-site staff for all Penn State-sponsored programs, and they are in direct communication regarding any issue or emergency occurring abroad. Advising staff also keep in touch with students via email, and encourage them to be in contact with any questions or concerns. In the unlikely case that there is a natural disaster, political upheaval or other dangerous situation, Education Abroad will coordinate on-site colleagues and international health insurance {LINK} to ensure our students are safe and, if need be, evacuate them from the country.

Back at Penn State

Once the student completes his or her study abroad program, the Education Abroad staff will facilitate the course equivalency process (issuing Penn State credit and grades for coursework taken abroad). A Return Rally is held at the beginning of each semester to help students adjust to life back at Penn State, connect with fellow study abroad students, learn how to translate study abroad experiences onto a resume, and learn of other helpful resources. Returned students can also stay involved with Education Abroad by becoming a Peer Adviser or Global Ambassador.

What Can Students Do to Be Prepared for Their Program?

Before students board the plane and travel to their host country, there are several items that will require their attention. The pre-departure process is important to assuring that students understand the academic nature of the study abroad program and are also prepared for the cultural differences they will encounter.  All students must attend orientation at Penn State, submit required documents available through their accepted application, and read pre-departure information and guides.  We also encourage students to read additional materials of their choice to prepare for life in their host country (examples include online newspapers, historical novels, blogs of current study abroad students).

How Can I Learn More About the Program in Which My Student is Participating?

Students are encouraged to share information they receive from Education Abroad or their host program with parents and family. Please ask your student to share this information with you.

Explore our website for more information about our programs. Each program has a brochure page that provides more information, including individualized budget sheets. Search for a program within our database to find the brochure pages.

Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), staff are not permitted to release private student information - even to parents - without prior (written) student consent. Penn State is authorized to inform parents of violation of laws regarding alcohol, controlled substances, or general discipline involving students less than 21 years of age. Visit the Office of Student Conduct page for more information.

Who Should I Contact in Case of an Emergency?

Please visit the Emergencies Abroad section of our website for information about how to contact Penn State should a serious problem arise while your student is studying overseas.

How Can My Student Stay Safe and Healthy Abroad?

Penn State Education Abroad considers the health and safety of our students a top priority. Please review the resources in this section for information about specific topics: