Parents & Families

The Benefits of Study Abroad

A semester living and learning abroad is often one of the most meaningful and memorable experiences of a student’s academic career. Students return with a deeper appreciation both of the world around them and their life at home. Students can also gain a number of skills from study abroad which can be useful in their personal and professional lives. These include adaptability, flexibility, cultural sensitivity, open-mindedness, self-confidence, and communication skills. These and other skills gained from study abroad are among the most sought-after by employers, making study abroad a smart move for career development. (Pro tip: Encourage your student to work with a Career Center coach on strategies for talking about their study abroad experiences with employers.) See here for more information and links about the potential benefits of studying abroad.

One of the potential benefits for students who study abroad is an increased level of resilience. As with any impactful experience that results in personal growth, uncertainties and challenges are to be expected for even the most accomplished students and seasoned travelers. These challenges and setbacks are catalysts for growth, and students will learn best when they can confront issues on their own and find their own creative solutions to the difficulties they face. Unless you believe the safety and security of your student is threatened, we recommend that you encourage your student to solve problems on their own, while providing appropriate emotional support.

Practical Information

Your student’s study abroad experience will unfold through several key phases beginning up to 6 months prior to their intended term abroad:

  1. Planning
  2. Application
  3. Program commitment and conditions for withdrawal
  4. Pre-departure orientation
  5. Arrival on site
  6. Time abroad
  7. Returning home

The Global Education Office is here to provide information, guidance, appropriate support, and resources during every phase of your student’s study abroad journey. Please encourage them to communicate with us.

Information will be communicated directly to students, so we encourage you to maintain open dialogue with your student about your questions and expectations. The links below may be particularly pertinent to parents and families:

Frequently Asked Questions from Parents

How GEO Communicates with Families

Fees and Billing

Safety and Security

Academic, Withdrawal, and Other Policies

International Health Insurance

Travel Health Considerations

Parents are an excellent resource to encourage students to take care of vaccinations and to address any additional medical concerns earlier in the process versus closer to deadlines.

GEO encourages students to disclose health information/conditions to their program staff. Disclosure ensures that program staff are prepared in advance to support the student, both day-to-day and in the event the student is incapacitated.

International Health Insurance is required for students traveling abroad.

All Vanderbilt travelers should seek out a travel health consultation. The Vanderbilt Student Health Center provides students with Travel Consultation appointments to ensure that students understand any health risks of their travel destination, as well as providing vaccinations and the potential to discuss a care plan for ongoing conditions. Students should plan to book their appointment at Student Health as soon as possible. There is a rush on appointments toward the middle and latter part of each semester].

How GEO Communicates with Families

GEO recognizes the important roles parents and families play in students’ lives and education. We are happy to speak to parents and family to answer questions pertaining to the study abroad process. GEO always places students at the center of our resources and services, and we view students’ ownership of the logistical preparation for study abroad as an important part of their growth experience. To maintain a student-centered approach, our communication with parents and families will be guided by the following principles:

  • The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) limits Vanderbilt and GEO staff in our ability to give out private information regarding students, including grades, program participation, student status, health details, and other information. While we cannot reveal information about students, we can of course discuss our programs and logistics in detail.
  • We believe that the student has a right to know of any discussions about their study abroad. Unless the student’s safety is in jeopardy, GEO cannot honor requests to conceal the content of conversations with family members from the student.
  • Except in cases where it might jeopardize a student’s health or well-being, the student will always be copied on email responses addressed to family members, including email follow-up to phone calls from family members.
  • GEO does not engage in extended discussions with anonymous callers.

When a student opens an application to study abroad, they may provide GEO with a family contact. GEO will email the family contact in the weeks following the application deadline to let them know about their student’s interest in study abroad and to provide some resources. We also email contacts later, after most students have selected a program, to draw attention to billing and other logistics. Students can opt out of providing a family contact, in which case we respect the student’s wishes and do not reach out to family members.

Once a student has been accepted into a program, we ask that they designate an emergency contact. This contact may or may not be the same as the family contact. GEO will notify the emergency contact in the following cases:

  • The student is unable to speak for themselves
  • The student has been missing for more than 24 hours
  • The student is perceived to be a danger to themselves or others
  • There is a significant health, safety, or security incident affecting the study abroad program (e.g. civil unrest, mass violence, extreme weather, etc.)

Frequently Asked Questions

What and how will my student be billed for their study abroad?

Your student will be billed for Vanderbilt tuition, a program fee, and an administrative fee, which covers health insurance. You can see the estimated costs on our Budget Sheets page. Note that the Program Fee charged by Vanderbilt is always exactly what is billed to us by our partners, and so the fee highlighted on our Budget Sheets page is always an estimate. Most program budget sheets include a link to the partner’s most recently published costs which can be used to double-check costs.

Students are billed through the Vanderbilt student account at the same time they are usually billed each semester. Billing delays can occasionally take place if a student has not completed requirements in their GEO application, or if there is a hold preventing their registration.

More information on study abroad finances

Will my student’s financial aid apply to their program abroad?

Yes! All standard need- and merit-based financial aid will be automatically applied to a student’s semester abroad, with the exception of work study. If the total estimated cost of a program abroad (see the program’s budget sheet) is greater than the cost of staying at Vanderbilt, aid can usually be augmented to compensate. Students can request a review of their aid through the Office of Student Financial Aid.

Students who do not currently receive aid are also welcome to request a review from the Office of Student Financial Aid to discuss options.

More about funding for study abroad

Where will my student live?

Most programs, with the exception of exchange programs, include housing arranged for your student. To simplify payment and the application of need- and merit-based aid, Vanderbilt bills this housing as the Vanderbilt Program Fee. The type of housing (homestay, dormitory, apartment) will depend on the program. Please refer to the program partner’s website for this information, as well as program dates and other helpful details.

Some programs offer multiple housing options, and certain options may involve an upcharge. Vanderbilt’s estimated cost for the program always reflects the lowest-cost housing option. If your student is placed in housing that is more expensive, our partner will bill you directly.

Vanderbilt policy requires that students live in program housing wherever available.

Will my student be covered by health insurance?

Without exception, students traveling on GEO programs will be covered by Vanderbilt’s international health insurance between the start and end dates of their program. GEO will enroll your student, so there is no need for any action on their part. Students will receive their insurance card via their Vanderbilt email account.

Students need to maintain their domestic health coverage while they are abroad, to prevent lapse in coverage and to ensure that they can access care should they need to return home.

More information on Vanderbilt’s international health insurance

Does my student need a travel visa?

Depending on the country your student is traveling to and the agreements between that country and your student’s home country, a visa may or may not be required. If a visa is required for entry, students will receive detailed visa instructions from Vanderbilt’s program partner or from a GEO advisor. Visa applications often request financial information, a copy of roundtrip flight ticketed itinerary, and may also require an in-person interview at the relevant consulate. Students should read through all provided instructions carefully before beginning the application process. International students should also plan to meet with their ISSS advisor during the application process. While program partners and GEO may help students come to grips with the visa process, students are ultimately responsible for procuring their own visa in order to study abroad.

It is important to note that in some cases, students may need to secure a residence permit to live in their host country. This generally happens after the student arrives in country.

What about my student’s safety?

Vanderbilt offers comprehensive safety support for students abroad, including 24/7 assistance in times of crisis or emergency. Find more information on our Safety and Security page.

Photo: Gabriela Darmon.