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Q & A for Parents/Family Members


Why should my student study abroad?

Studying abroad provides your student the opportunity to experience life in another culture.  Students completing a study abroad program return with a more mature perspective of themselves and a better understanding of the United States’ role in the world today.  They are able to adapt to unfamiliar circumstances and interact with a more diverse group of people.  In addition, studying abroad is an appealing application to each students resume and will help greatly when they enter the job market. On top of that, study abroad alumni make new friends from many countries and also have the opportunity to learn a foreign language or improve existing language skills.

How long is a study abroad program?

The duration depends on the program chosen. Group programs can last as short as a week to as long as three months and some are available during university breaks.  Students also have the opportunity to study abroad for the fall, spring or summer semesters through our affiliate and exchange programs. Many programs also offer a full academic year abroad. To learn more, please visit the Programs section.

When can/should my student study abroad?

Students are allowed to study abroad once they have completed 12 credit hours.  We encourage students to start planning a year to a year and a half in advance for their semester abroad.  Many students study abroad in their sophomore or junior year; however, if the appropriate planning is done, students are able to study abroad any semester, summer or during a university break.

How much will studying abroad cost?

Studying abroad can be surprisingly affordable!  The cost of the program varies depending on the type, length, and location of the program.  A short-term program will typically cost the least, because of the short duration, although costs for faculty-led programs do vary depending on the number of students participating, duration and location.  The cost of our semester programs can be comparable to or even less than a traditional semester on campus, however, there will be extra fees to account for like airfare and extra travel in country.  It is important to know what is included in the total program cost (Airfare? Housing? Meals? Tuition? Insurance? Etc.). 

Can my student use financial aid to study abroad?

Most forms of financial aid can be applied to WIU programs.  A budget will be submitted by the Study Abroad advisor to the Financial Aid Office.  The amount of financial aid awarded is based on the actual cost of the program, including travel, living expenses, passport, etc. For more information, see the Financial Aid Office website.

Are program fees refundable?

The deposit for faculty-led group programs is non-refundable.  The possibility of refunds for other program costs vary between programs.  Please see the information for your student’s specific program for more details. 

Does my student need to speak a foreign language?

We strongly encourage students to learn a foreign language, but it is possible to take courses that are taught in English, even in countries where English is not the first language.

Is it safe to study abroad?

Much of the safety of the student depends on his/her ability to use good judgment and to make mature decisions.  There are always risks with studying abroad, just like there are risks traveling within the United States.  Western Illinois University will not allow students to study abroad in places with increased risks or travel warnings. 

What documents are needed for international travel?

A passport is required for almost all of our programs.  It is recommended that your student apply for a passport several months before his/her departure date. For more information on passports, click here. Other travel documents needed will vary depending on the program length and location. Each country has specific requirements to enter into the country.  Check which documents are needed with the country’s embassy.

Are students able to travel to other countries througout the duration of their program?

Traveling depends on the student and the program.  Many affiliate programs offer excursions within the country which are included in the program cost.  Students on an exchange program may have the option to participate in excursions or travel independently.  

What types of courses are available?

Courses vary among universities.  Most classes can be used to fulfill general education requirements or major-specific courses and will count as WIU credit.  Students should speak with their Academic Advisor as well as their Study Abroad Advisor to determine appropriate courses. Faculty-led programs will offer specific course credit and will vary year to year.

How much spending money is needed?

The amount of money needed depends on the length of the program as well as the currency and exchange rate for the destination.  Your student’s Study Abroad Advisor will prepare a budget as an estimate of what to expect.  It is very important to know what is included and excluded from the program cost.

How are finances handled?

Students are able to use an ATM in most places of the world.  It is best to check with your bank ahead of time to see, if current ATM card can be used abroad, what charges may apply, etc..  Please discuss how you will handle finances with your student before she/he goes abroad.  Traveler’s checks are decreasing in popularity and electronic banking is becoming increasingly desirable.  Opening an account abroad is strongly recommended for students studying for a semester or longer, but in some countries may not be allowed.

How is learning abroad different from learning in the U.S.?

Many countries use different teaching systems of teaching than the United States.  Classes are frequently more independent with fewer assignments, quizzes and/or exams.  Students must take more responsibility for obtaining, retaining, and processing the course material.

Will there be an on-site academic mentor or adviser available?

Students participating in a faculty-led program will have a WIU professor leading the group.  Most affiliates and exchange programs will have an on-site advisor/mentor as well.  

What type of insurance is required for studying abroad?

All students must have health insurance for the entire duration of their program. Students may either purchase insurance through International Medical Group (IMG) or use the health insurance through Western Illinois University.  Additional health insurance may be needed depending on the affiliate or program.

What are the housing options?

Housing depends on the program chosen.  Students studying for the summer, semester or year usually reside in a dormitory, apartment, or homestay.  For faculty-led programs, students usually stay in a hotel or hostel.

Are scholarships available?

Yes.  Please refer to the scholarships page.

How can I help my student prepare for his/her trip abroad?

Reviewing the Family and Student Guides for Study Abroad is an excellent way to help your student prepare.  It is important to discuss issues such as finances, emergency situations, and culture shock, among many others, before he/she departs.  Advance planning for various situations that might arise makes studying abroad less stressful for both you and your student. 

For additional information to help your student with his/her study abroad experience, please view the Family Guide for Study Abroad.