Parents Guide to Student Safety and Wellbeing
How can you help your child stay safe and well while studying abroad? Take a look at the key bases you need to cover, and the student support services that will be there to help throughout your child’s time away from home.
Before waving your child off, you’ll want to be sure that s/he is headed for a safe destination. Two quick points of call here are the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the US Department of State, both of which provide up-to-date guidance on any safety concerns in regions all around the world.
It’s highly unlikely that there will be any problems in the location your child is headed for, but if you do have concerns, contact the University Directly for Advice.
In many countries, it’s compulsory for international students to purchase health insurance while studying abroad.
Even if not a set requirement, you’ll still want to ensure that your child is covered, so you know that s/he will be able to immediately access health services if necessary.
Depending on the country, you may not need to purchase insurance. For example, in the UK, all international students on courses lasting longer than six months have free access to the country’s National Health System.
If in doubt, check with the university, and also make sure your child knows where to go in case of a medical problem or emergency.
Mental and emotional wellbeing
Perhaps the toughest challenge is supporting your child when they’re feeling under pressure or unhappy, when you’re unable to be there with them.
Most students are likely to experience stress at some point, and for those studying abroad, this can be exacerbated by the additional challenges of adapting to life in an unfamiliar environment.
Of course you can help by staying in touch via phone and email, and by sending packages in the post, and also by encouraging your child to take advantage of the support systems within the university – both staff- and student-led.
Joining an international student organization could be a good way for your child to meet others who understand how s/he feels – and have some fun! Meanwhile staff and student advisors will be able to help out with pretty much any problem s/he is facing – from finding accommodation to coping with revision.
While it’s unlikely that your child will be a victim of crime, you of course want to make sure s/he is aware of the risks and keeps safe.
This may be more of an issue if the place where s/he is studying has higher risks than the environment they’ve been used to. For example, s/he may never had to think about the possibility of pickpockets before, or the prospect of bike theft.
Before s/he leaves, you may want to find time to run through the possible risks together, and agree on strategies for minimising them – such as always keeping valuables out of sight and in a secure place, or using a registered taxi to get home at night rather than walking alone. Again, universities are generally very good at advising students about possible risks, and helping them stay safe.