Parent Info

Welcome Letter

Dear Parents, Family Members, and Friends:

Through more than three hundred approved program opportunities on six continents, offering coursework across all academic disciplines, the Study Abroad Office seeks to engage the UIC student as an intentional learner with enhanced global awareness. In partnership with faculty and academic professionals, our goal is to provide international academic programming for UIC credit for as many students as possible to compliment their academic career and prepare them for a workplace eagerly searching for those with international experience and the skills that it brings.

So I’d like to start by thanking you for supporting your son’s and/or daughter’s motivation to study abroad. This kind of experience could be one of the most exciting and influential parts of their undergraduate career. It is also an opportunity to learn about another country, its language and culture, and will provide a unique environment to learn more about oneself and reflect on the role of our home community in the wider world.

The Study Abroad Office staff work with each student on an individual basis in preparation for their term abroad. From the initial information and consultation sessions, to helping choose the right program, select appropriate academic courses, and complete the application, we are focused on what the student needs to succeed. During our pre-departure orientation we review academic requirements, issues around health and safety, and answer any lingering questions. Most importantly, we reaffirm that the Study Abroad Office staff will continue to support them while they are abroad and we make sure every student knows how to contact us.

The information below is divided sectionally for your convenience. Of course, if you have questions, concerns, or suggestions about our programs, please feel free to contact us. In the meantime, we hope you will join us in continuing to support this very important decision your student has made to study abroad.


Study Abroad Office Staff

Emergency Phone System
If there is an emergency at home during business hours (8:30am – 4:30pm Central Time), and you would like our office to help you get in touch with your student, please call 312-413-7662 and an SAO staff member will assist you.

If there is an emergency during non-business hours, parents and students can reach a member of the SAO staff by calling our 24-hour cell phone: (312) 636-4150. This is for EMERGENCIES ONLY, where the health/safety of the student is an issue.

What will students learn by being abroad?
A growing number of studies are showing what study abroad administrators have known anecdotally for a long time … that students who study abroad develop enhanced skill sets in four main areas: academic, professional, inter-cultural, and personal.

Academically, students develop skills in problem solving, have a terrific opportunity to improve their foreign language capability, gain geographical knowledge and be exposed to people who process information differently than they do. In some instances they are able to take coursework not available at home, or with scholars they would otherwise not have access to. While some programs have a foreign language requirement, there are many opportunities for English-speaking study abroad experiences. In some locations, students may study the local language at a beginner level and have the perfect chance to practice their new skills outside the classroom. Whatever language level your student has achieved, where better could he or she practice the proper usage and pronunciation than surrounded by native speakers? The ability to speak a foreign language remains a vital talent in any field or career.

Students can also make professional contacts and gain a sense of direction for their future career. The Study Abroad office considers the University of Illinois at Chicago campus as one which extends across borders and around the globe. In today’s global economy, study abroad can be a defining element to every student’s undergraduate degree. Many companies increasingly desire leaders with the ability to live successfully in a variety of countries and work with people of various cultural backgrounds. Study abroad can provide the structure for students to acquire these skills and give them an edge over the competition. The distinction of having studied in a foreign country for a session, semester, or year can be invaluable to your student’s future career in today’s competitive job market.

Students also gain an appreciation about what we have here in the U.S.; they often develop confidence, a strengthened sense of personal identity, flexibility, and creativity.

During the students’ time overseas, they will undoubtedly encounter unexpected situations that will allow them to develop self-sufficiency and independence. The more times participants successfully navigate such situations, the more confident they will become in their ability to fend for themselves. It is also important for students to learn what it means to be a member of their own culture. They may find themselves challenging long-held beliefs. They will discover many surprising differences and similarities between their own culture and that of the program site. Students should be prepared to encounter criticism of American foreign policy and consider what their response will be. Finally, by living and learning abroad students will increase their interest in other cultures,  become less ethnocentric as they become aware of cultural difference, develop language skills within a cultural context, become more culturally sensitive and accepting.

Should I be concerned about health and safety?
UIC takes participant safety with the utmost seriousness. Today’s world is increasingly unpredictable, with local conditions which can rapidly change. Study Abroad relies on a variety of sources of information to help assess levels of program risk in advising and support of students. It is important to note, however, that neither UIC nor the Study Abroad Office:

  • can guarantee or assure the safety of participants or eliminate all risks from the study abroad environments.
  • can monitor or control all of the daily personal decisions, choices, and activities of individual participants.
  • can assure that U.S. standards of due process apply in overseas legal proceedings or provide or pay for legal representation for participants.
  • can assume responsibility for the actions of persons not employed or otherwise engaged by the program sponsor for events that are not part of the program or that are beyond the control of the sponsor, or for situations that may arise due to the failure of a participant to disclose pertinent information.
  • can assure that home-country cultural values and norms will apply in the host country.
We expect that every student on a study abroad program will act responsibly, ethically, and as the best representative of their family, university, and nation as possible. The SAO retains the right to not accept applications from students who do not demonstrate they are capable of good academic and personal behavior. We will also recommend dismissal from a program should a student not meet the expectations of the program partner abroad.

All students have signed the “Conditions of Participation and Student Rights and Responsibilities” which clearly outlines these expectations. Please refer to the complete document which is posted on our website under Forms.

Although we understand that occasionally a parent will want to discuss their student’s academic, health, or other personal information, the Study Abroad Office cannot do this. Students are protected by The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) which was enacted to give students access to their records and to protect their privacy. Unless the student is a dependent, the school cannot release student financial information to a parent or third party without the written consent of the student. If the student is a dependent, a tax return showing the student as a dependent would be considered sufficient documentation to show dependency for purposes of FERPA, and the school may release this information to the parent. The school may also release information to a parent or third party if the school has written consent from the student. (If parents are divorced or separated, the school may release information about a dependent student to either or both parents. Release of information to one parent does not guarantee release to both.)

Remember, FERPA is designed to protect students. The best way to make sure that you have access to information regarding your child is to get his or her written consent.

How will students get credit?
International academic programs are not vacations in foreign countries. Students are expected to attend class and meet all courses requirements during the time abroad. Grades in courses taken abroad are earned, not automatically assigned, and will be on your student’s transcripts as if the student had taken the courses here in Chicago. All grades received abroad will be reported to the Registrar’s Office regardless of whether the student needs the course for graduation.

All Study Abroad Office (SAO) program participants earn UIC residence credits for the pre-approved work they complete abroad. This means the credits they earn while on an SAO approved program will appear on their UIC transcript with a course title and grade. Credits earned on SAO programs are counted towards the graduation requirement the same as if the students were physically in Chicago. For this reason, in most cases, studying abroad does not delay the student’s graduation (depending on specific degree requirements in the major).

During the application process, students are required to look for course equivalencies for their specific program site and to meet with their academic advisor. Doing so helps them anticipate what UIC course credits they may be able to receive for the courses they take abroad and how those courses will work into their degree requirements. Before students depart for their program overseas, they are required to attend a pre-departure orientation where academic regulations about course approval, adding, and dropping are repeated.

How much does it cost?
Every program has a separate cost structure depending on the program provider, country, and length of program. All inclusive costs range from approximately $5,000 for a six week / six credit summer program, to $18,000 for a twelve credit semester program. In comparing study abroad costs to those for studying on-campus, there is not as large a difference as one might think once travel, housing, food, and incidentals are taken into consideration. Studying abroad on average the same as if a student was registered full time, living on campus, with a meal plan.

Some key points to remember about cost are:

  • There is no UIC tuition and fees paid while studying abroad. Students only pay their direct program costs.
  • Students are responsible for paying the program fee directly to their program provider.
  • Students are assessed a $65 administrative fee charged by the UIC Study Abroad Office.
  • Financial aid ‘travels’ with the student and is available for study abroad as it is for on-campus study.
  • There are many generous scholarships available specifically for study abroad.
What can parents do to stay informed?
A large part of enjoying your student’s experience is to stay informed about current events in the country or region where their student is studying. The internet is one place where information can be readily gathered or monitored. Many countries now have a variety of information online, ranging from official government statements and statistics to unofficial web-guides and online newspapers. In addition, many English-language newspapers publish in-depth articles about events in international areas. The Study Abroad Office website has active links to hundreds of English and local language newspapers around the world.
What is culture shock?
When abroad, students are often challenged by a barrage of new things: language, food, dress, daily routine, etc. The elements of ‘culture’ once so familiar at home become unfamiliar. The reaction some have has been called ‘culture shock’. All students, regardless of maturity, disposition, previous experience abroad, or knowledge of the country in which they will be living, experience some degree of culture shock. Culture shock is a term used to describe some of these more pronounced reactions to spending an extended period of time in a culture very different from your own. Culture shock can be characterized by periods of frustration, adjustment, and even depression.

The worst homesickness often occurs two to three months after students leave home, frequently arriving just in time for the holidays. It is common for students to call or write home during moments of low morale, but not when they are busy and things are going well. Consequently, families often picture a more negative situation than actually exists.

Not everyone will experience culture shock. However if your student does, it is helpful to be able to recognize when it occurs so you will understand what is really happening.

What is reverse culture shock?
Although it may seem like a long way off, we suggest that you start thinking now about your student’s return to the United States after the program ends. Students often go through a phase of “reverse” or “re-entry” culture shock when they come back home, sometimes more challenging than what they went through overseas. They expect to go through adjustments in foreign countries, but do not always realize that life has continued on without them at home and there may be changes for which they were not prepared.

As with culture shock, one way to alleviate the difficulty of re-entry shock is to keep your student aware of what is going on at home through consistent communication. Students often go through periods of mild depression once they return home because of feelings that no one is interested in what they experienced in their time overseas.

Faced with questions such as “How was your time in xxxx?” a student often can only answer “Great!” before conversation moves on to another subject. Encourage friends and family members to ask more specific questions like “What were the best things about living abroad? The most difficult? What places did you visit? Are people’s daily lives the same as in the United States ? Do you have any pictures? Etc., etc.” Have a party where your student can show off food, customs and souvenirs from his or her travels. Not only will such questions and activities remind students they had a worthwhile experience and help them to readjust, it will help others in your community or family learn more about the world around us.

Communication with your student while s/he is abroad
One way to get a more complete picture and help reduce feelings of homesickness is to write to your student regularly, and encourage him or her to do the same. A letter that a student can read and reread in quiet moments is always appreciated.

Communication should be easy if you and your student have access to e-mail. At the same time, please understand that access to e-mail overseas is not always as readily available as it is in the U.S., even in parts of Western Europe where you would expect access to be comparable. In addition, daily e-mail contact is not always desirable. Students need to separate themselves a bit from their home support networks as they build a local one, as they immerse themselves in the local culture.

If you want to visit your son or daughter overseas (and we hope some of you do), it would help if you could arrange your visit to coincide with vacation times or after the program has ended. Then your son or daughter does not have to make the difficult choice between academic work and having fun showing you how competent he or she has become in a new environment.
Staying Healthy
  • Dietary Needs for Vegetarians Vegetarians or students on a special diet should be aware that their dietary needs might not be easily met in some countries. Students should be sure to discuss this with their medical provider.
  • Alcohol As with many customs, cross-cultural differences exist in the consumption of alcohol. Depending on the host country, students may find the availability and public consumption of alcohol greatly increased or decreased. Often, rules about the acceptability of alcohol use in certain situations or contexts are very different than at home. Students are expected to maintain appropriate behavior at all times.
  • Food Although in many countries food safety is not an issue, students should still exercise caution, avoiding uncooked food purchased from street vendors and being sure about the quality of drinking water.
  • Illegal Drug Use Illegal drug use and possession are serious crimes. While drugs in some countries may seem easily available, this does not mean they are legal. Penalties for use or possession of illegal drugs can be extremely harsh for Americans abroad. If a student is arrested, he or she is subject to the host country’s laws and neither UIC, the Study Abroad Office, nor the U.S. Embassy can protect the student from the local legal consequences. In some places, even association with people possessing or using illegal drugs is considered the same as personal use or possession. If SAO hears reports that participants on its programs are using drugs or breaking other local laws, they will be confronted with the issue and may be asked to leave the program.
  • Eating Disorders There are many cross-cultural differences in the meanings of food and in standards of beauty. Students with eating disorders may find these differences create additional challenges for them. Students with eating disorders should be sure to discuss their plans to study abroad with health care providers before leaving.
Medical Insurance
Medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide for payment of medical services outside the United States . Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties. That is why the University of Illinois has mandated that all UIC students studying/traveling abroad under a UIC approved program must enroll in group health insurance through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) through the Study Abroad office website – or show proof of comparable coverage with another provider.
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