Parent and Family Guide

This guide is designed to answer the questions we receive most frequently from parents and family members.


Dear Parents and Family Members,

We are thrilled that your student has chosen to study abroad. The importance of an international education in our increasingly globally connected world cannot be understated. Studying abroad is often one of the most rewarding and transformative experiences a student will have during their college years and a high impact way to gain intercultural competencies, and develop confidence and independence. Students who participate in study abroad programs acquire skills and new perspectives that make them more competitive in achieving their professional goals. The Education Abroad staff at Penn State is here to assist and support your student throughout the entire study abroad process so that they receive the maximum benefit.

While we encourage students to take ownership of the preparations for their international experience*, we understand that support from parents and family members is an important part of ensuring success. With that in mind, we have created this Parent and Family Guide which you can access on the Global Programs website to address some of the most frequent questions we receive.

We thank you for being a part of your student’s journey. If you have questions or concerns that are not addressed here, please do not hesitate to contact us.

The Penn State Education Abroad Office

*The Education Abroad staff are here to assist and support your student, but advisers must adhere to federal student-privacy regulations and therefore when possible, questions from parents should be communicated to Education Abroad staff through the student. An important part of the study abroad process is establishing independence and personal accountability. Ultimately, it is each student's responsibility to adhere to deadlines, attend pre-departure meetings, and to read all communications regarding their program.

Quick Facts

  • In 2016-2017 2,787 Penn State students took part in Education Abroad programs in 54 countries.
  • Study abroad alumni earn, on average, $7,000 more in starting salaries compared to recent U.S. college graduates from the general population.
  • 84% of study abroad alumni felt that studying abroad helped them build valuable job skills, such as language proficiency, cultural training, tolerance for ambiguity, adaptability, and communication.

Why Should My Student Study Abroad?

Every student who hopes to succeed in the global economy should study abroad. Studying abroad offers students competitive advantages and cross-cultural competence that open up a wealth of immediate personal and long-term professional opportunities.

The Study Abroad Experience:

  • Helps students gain in-depth exposure to foreign cultures in a way that cannot be accomplished in the classroom or on a vacation.
  • Exposes students to new ways of thinking about the world and their home country.
  • Promotes intercultural competency skills and promotes greater confidence, independence, and self-sufficiency.
  • Develops or improves foreign language skills.
  • Brings a unique intercultural perspective to a student's chosen major or academic study.

What Should My Student and I Do to Prepare?


Before students board the plane and travel to their host country, there are several items that will require attention:

  • Students must complete an application and post-acceptance materials in a timely fashion
  • Students must meet with their academic adviser to determine how study abroad fulfills their degree requirements.
  • The pre-departure process is important in 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, and blogs of current study abroad students).

Parents and Families

Here's how you can assist your student:

  • Ask your student about any forms they need to complete for their specific program.
  • Ensure that your student is sharing information with you about financial aid and costs of the program.
  • Most importantly, students need your support! This can be a very daunting process for some students and most, if not all, items are solely the responsibility of the student.

Guidance from Education Abroad

The Education Abroad staff members understand that preparing for and participating on an Education Abroad program can be both 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.
  • Discuss program-specific details such as cost, housing, and available courses.
  • Assist with the application process.
  • Discuss financial aid and scholarship opportunities.
  • Discuss health insurance and other safety concerns.

After Acceptance

  • All students are required to complete a mandatory pre-departure orientation process facilitated by the Education Abroad advisers.
  • Besides the mandatory orientation sessions, advisers are available by appointment, email, or phone to discuss any questions or concerns the student may have about their upcoming time abroad.

"We were so excited for our student to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity! We were even more thrilled to learn that she could go abroad through a Penn State program. Studying abroad truly heightens awareness of the world. And by immersing herself in different cultures, our student has an outlook on her future that she otherwise would not have had. It is incredible that so many students have the opportunity to have international experience and travel opportunities at such a young age." - Marc and Nancy G., parents of student who attended the Dept HM: Florence, Florence University of the Arts Program

While Abroad

  • Education Abroad advisers work closely with the on-site staff for all Penn State-approved 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 with on-site colleagues and our international health insurance provider to ensure our students are safe and, if need be, evacuate them from the country.

Back at Penn State

  • Once the student completes their study abroad program, the Education Abroad staff will facilitate the course equivalency process (issuing Penn State credit and grades for coursework taken abroad).
  • Visit the Returnees and Alumni section of our website for more information about how to stay connected with our office and the global community at Penn State. We also provide career development resources and advice if you are thinking about going abroad again.

"When my student expressed interest in studying abroad early on at Penn State I was excited for her. For two years, we would faithfully attend the Parents Weekend Study Abroad Information Session together and hear the different students from all walks of life sharing their experiences. As a parent, I always supported her desire and encouraged her to follow her dream. I believe experience is a great teacher and that our student has broadened her thinking about her future through this study abroad program. This was a wonderful learning experience that every student should aspire to do." - Antoinette H., mother of student who attended the Besancon, France: French Language Studies Program

Costs and Financial Aid


  • The programs offered through Penn State 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.
  • It is absolutely possible to find a program that will work in just about any budget by considering a variety of factors when researching programs including program duration and location, program type, cost of living in the host country, and student's personal spending habits.

"We had a lot of questions about programs, cost, safety, etc. but she had access to all the information we had questions about through the Global Penn State website. Regardless of the country, studying abroad is a way for students to broaden their horizons unlike any other. Thanks to the many opportunities Penn State has to offer, our student has been fortunate enough to travel abroad prior to this trip and is also pursuing career options that would allow her to continue traveling internationally." - Steve and Lory K., parents of student who attended the Arcadia: Perugia, Umbra Institute Program

Financial Aid

  • Financial aid and scholarships are definitely options! Penn State students studying through the Penn State Education Abroad Office can use most components of their existing financial aid packages toward the cost of studying abroad. Exceptions are work-study awards and some athletic scholarships.
  • There are many, many scholarship and funding opportunities available to students both at Penn State and externally.

Health and Safety

Penn State Education Abroad considers the health and safety of our students a top priority.

  • Students should meet with a doctor prior to going abroad for a general health check-up and to ensure all routine vaccinations are up-to-date. They should also discuss with a doctor any chronic health concerns and discuss treatment/health maintenance abroad.
  • Mandatory international health insurance is provided to all students who are enrolled in a Penn State Education Abroad program. This is a comprehensive insurance plan that provides a wide variety of services for students abroad, including 24/7 emergency assistance.
  • Though it is not likely, a student may experience a personal emergency while studying abroad. Penn State Education Abroad staff offer orientation sessions and provide country-specific information to students that should help them to prepare for possible in-country scenarios, but it is impossible to predict and prevent every possible situation. In the event of an emergency, it is important to remain as calm as possible so that the student can communicate the issue to the proper authorities, medical professionals, host institution representatives, their families, and/or Penn State.

"Because our student is a student athlete the only time she could study abroad was in the summer due to her athletic schedule the rest of the year. Our biggest concern was that she needed to have a safe environment that was conducive to practicing daily while abroad. So, she asked if she could at least apply to the program and then we could go from there. We agreed. She applied, was accepted, and she was able to take two sessions abroad that would fit in with her sport commitment!" - Anthony and Wendy U., parents of student who attended the CIEE: Seville, Language and Culture Program

"Our daughter's time spent abroad has been immensely rewarding and beneficial in her majors, and helping to narrow down specific interests in her fields of study. She has grown from her experiences abroad and is eager to apply her knowledge." - Jennifer S., mother of student who attended the CIC-SPA: Nairobi, Kenya, Studies in International Development Program

"I have told so many people how wonderful I thought the program was. I am so happy that our student had the initiative to apply for this CIEE study abroad program and that Penn State chooses to be involved with such a well-organized and reputable program." - Anthony and Wendy U., parents of student who attended the CIEE: Seville, Language and Culture Program

More Resources for Parents and Families

From Penn State Education Abroad

Contact the Education Abroad Office

Penn State Education Abroad 
422 Boucke Building, University Park
(814) 863-9327