Parent & Family Resources
Health and Safety Information
International Health Insurance
WCU requires that all students have international health, medical evacuation, political evacuation, and natural disaster evacuation insurance for the entire duration of their international travel. This insurance is often included in the program for all of our affiliate program providers.
For faculty-led and exchange programs, all students will be required to purchase GeoBlue insurance. Students can log into the GeoBlue portal with WCU’s group code provided to them and purchase their insurance.
Information for Parents
Congratulations! Your student has decided to participate in an education abroad program, an experience that we hope will be fulfilling and life-changing. WCU strives to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and tools that foster success and independence, and an education abroad program can be an integral part of that personal and academic growth process.
Throughout an education abroad experience, the safety, health, and well-being of our students are our highest priorities. Coordinators with regional expertise are available to offer advice before, during, and after programs. We offer an informative Student Handbook and an online pre-departure orientation that is embedded within the student's application.
Once a student arrives at a program destination, he or she may experience stress and a period of adjustment related to being in a new and different location. Culture Shock is a topic we discuss in our pre-departure orientation, and it is important that parents understand it, too. A section on culture shock can be found here. Our website offers tips on how you can support your student through what can be both a challenging and exciting time.
Parents are encouraged to communicate with their students about the education abroad experience, to use the resources available on our website, and to contact the Global Engagement Office and program coordinators directly if you have any questions or concerns.
Navigating the Process
FERPA: The Federal Education Right to Privacy Act
Federal privacy regulations restrict the Global Engagement Office (GEO) from discussing student records and education abroad information. A student may sign a form to allow named individuals access to such information. While we encourage family support and involvement, we ask that the student be the primary spokesperson for asking questions, seeking answers, and general inquiries. If there are extenuating circumstances, we certainly welcome the chance to meet those supporting the participant!
- As the world becomes smaller, each country is tightening its security efforts. What does that mean for travel? All U.S. citizens are now required to have a valid passport as a means of official identification for any travel outside the U.S., including Canada and Mexico.
- Your student may need to obtain a visa or residence permit, especially if they are participating in a semester or year-long program. A visa is permission from the host government to travel and reside for a certain time period in that country. It is usually a stamp or sticker that is placed directly in the passport. In order to obtain a visa, a student must first be accepted into a program. Please have the student contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information regarding immigration requirements for the host country.
- If you plan to visit your student, or even consider it an option, getting your own passport early is a good idea. This could take up to eight weeks. For more information regarding passports and renewals, visit the U.S. Department of State's travel site for the latest information.
Please be aware that, even in this age of advanced technology, students may not have the opportunity to call or e-mail as soon as they arrive in their host country. It is not unusual for the student to call or e-mail two to three days after arriving. Please be patient.
Reasons might include the following:
- Delayed flights
- They are too tired
- They have to check in with their university
- They have a scheduled itinerary from the host institution
- They cannot get a phone card immediately
- They cannot access the Internet yet (new passwords, student accounts, etc.)
About Internet Phone Services and Apps
These are an inexpensive way for you to communicate with your student. Please talk with your student and set up appropriate “accounts” before they leave. Many students have found the following to be helpful:
- Vonage (virtual phone number in home area code)
- ooVoo (video chat and text messaging)
- Skype (free!)
- Facetime (iPhone users)
- Facebook messenger app now has a video chat feature as well
It seems that many more apps are being created daily, so if you find one that works for you and your student, use that one. As long as you both have wi-fi on the device you are using, no data rates will be applied.
Culture Shock and Adjustment
Your student, no matter how prepared he or she may be, will encounter the four stages of culture shock. Please speak with your student about culture shock. More extensive descriptions can be found here.
These are the four stages of culture shock:
- Euphoria: Everything is new and exciting.
- Irritation and Hostility: It is no longer exciting living in a foreign place.
- Gradual Adjustment: Student begins to adjust, and attitude toward local country and people improves.
- Adaptation: Complete recovery once he or she can approach the overseas culture with confidence. Attitude has changed, and student accepts new environment as another way of living.
It is extremely important for you to understand these stages of culture shock, so that when your student shows symptoms you will be able to provide assistance if necessary. Parents and close friends are strong influences on a student's experiences. When students are homesick, it is sometimes up to you to provide a comforting ear and offer suggestions.
What can you do to help?
- Mail: Send mail (real mail). Everyone likes to get mail.
- Letters, cards, and packages: Some parents send out the address of their student to family members and friends. That way, your student can keep connected.
- Packages: They can get expensive. You don't have to mail Mountain Dew; however, small packages with a pack of chewing gum or pictures of the dog, etc., are a great little reminder that you're thinking of them.
- Be sure to check in with them using an app like WhatsApp to talk from time to time.