The Catholic University of America

Danika Coaplin & Michele Landers, Biomedical Engineering, Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong, China Ashley Hopper & Parents - Oxford, UK 2012 Ahad Khilji & Parents - London Parliamentary Internship, Summer 2012  

A Parent's Guide to Education Abroad


Your student's decision to study abroad can be one of the most important decisions of their college career. For many students, this will be the first time they spend a significant length of time overseas. However, for those parents and students who are willing to take up the challenge of a study-abroad program, the rewards are immense. Study abroad offers the ideal vehicle for parents to support their children in the growing up process. It offers the student a unique opportunity to learn in another culture, within the security of a host institution or program that is carefully chosen so that courses taken abroad will apply to CUA degree. Students studying a foreign language will perfect the accent and greatly expand their vocabulary--a skill retained for life. Making new friends, and travel and decision making, are also key parts of the study abroad experience.

Quick Links


In addition to a well-established Overseas Crisis Management Protocol, CUAbroad staff is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and may be reached through the Department of Public Safety (DPS).
If a student experiences an emergency abroad, they should first contact the on-site coordinator. Students and parents are also welcome to contact CUAbroad through the Department of Public Safety and request that the appropriate CUAbroad contact person be paged.


EMERGENCY PHONE NUMBER: +1 202-319-5111 TTY/TDD 319-5736


Why Should My Student Study Abroad?

Academic Benefits

  • Credit is earned towards your student's degree while overseas.
  • Students have the opportunity to take classes that are not offered at CUA, classes that are unique to a country and its culture.
  • Students receive a more well-rounded education that better prepares them for this increasingly global world as they experience the higher education systems of other countries, which are often very different. 
  • Academic inspiration is known to set in. The experiences students have while studying abroad often ignites their interest in academic pursuits, and they often return home with new research interests.
  • Education abroad break the monotony of regular university life and equips your student with the real-life, hands-on skills that no classroom can match. Plus, it gives them a great opportunity to travel overseas.
  • Taking classes in a foreign language helps students master a particular language as they are completely immersed in the language and its everyday use in a variety of situations.

Social and Cultural Benefits

  • Students also learn to depend on themselves, as well as how to ask questions and be proactive, and provide and solicit help.
  • Living and studying overseas fosters a sense of teamwork in students, as the group they travel with gets tighter as they experience the challenges of a multicultural situation together.
  • Spending extended time in a foreign country tends to open students' eyes wider when they look at the world. They tend to be more reflective about their own culture and what that culture has instilled in them.
  • Your student is likely to have increased respect for other cultures and appreciate the differences between cultures.
  • This openness to different approaches makes them better problem solvers and team players.
  • Increased self confidence
  • More independence and maturity

Professional Benefits

  • Employers often seek employees with the ability to speak other languages or understand other cultures.
  • Studying abroad is imperative for students who wish to enter international business, and employers look for the skills study abroad students have, such as communication, analytical abilities, teamwork and flexibility
  • In order to stand out, your student needs to offer something different, and studying abroad achieves that. 

The information above is provided by IIE Passport's Parent Resource Center.

Learning More

Students have numerous opportunities to learn about education abroad thorough activities, information sessions, and fairs organized by CUAbroad

Annual Education Abroad Fair

Weekly Information Sessions

Individual Advising

Program Options

Your student wants to study abroad, and now he/she faces the challenge of selecting the right program that will provide the best possible cultural and educational experience.

Questions your student should ask:

Types of Programs

  • Academic Year: The student spends both the fall & spring semester on the same program.
  • Semester: Fall or spring Semester
  • Spring Break: Usually a one week faculty-led program
  • Summer: These programs can be short-term faculty-led programs or full summer programs ranging from 1-8 weeks.

The decision of when to study abroad may be influenced by required courses that must be taken during certain semesters at CUA.

The Curriculum
Your student must decide what program provides the type of curriculum he or she would like to study. Some programs are foreign language-based, while others give choices of different majors. While most students tend to choose a program that is in alignment with the rest of their college studies, your student may want to take electives or classes that count toward other distribution requirements.

CUAbroad Programs by Academic Discipline

Credit Transfer Guidelines

The Language
Language skills are another element to take into consideration. If your student  is already fluent in the language of the country in which he or she will study, that student will have no problem taking classes that are taught in that language. Students with less proficiency in the foreign language also have options. These include programs that facilitate the enhancement of foreign language skills by incorporating them into the curriculum; or schools made for American students taught mostly in English.

Another factor to consider housing. All CUA affiliated programs include housing. Additional fees may be assessed by the program provider if a student chooses to live in the non-standard option. Please note that not all of the options below are provided on each program. Please consult the webpage for each program to learn about available housing options

Host Families- Students live in the home of a local family. Some meals are usually provided by the family. This experience can be beneficial because it allows the student to have first-hand contact with local residents and practice speaking a foreign language, if applicable. Students also learn about local traditions and customs.

Dormitories- Students may have the option to live in a dorm with local students and other international students. This experience may allow students to get to know other people their age from the city in which they are living.

Apartments- Students live independently and cook their own meals. The apartments may be shared with other American and international students.

Faculty-Led These programs are usually short-term (1-6 weeks) during spring break or the summer and are led by a CUA faculty member who organizes the trip and teaches a course related to the destination.
CUA Administered The CUA Rome Program is fully administered by CUA and provides students the opportunity to live and study in Rome while taking CUA courses.
CUA-Affiliated These programs are administered by by private companies and other universities that maintain study centers in the destination cities. Students have the option of taking their courses at the study center and/or directly enroll in local universities. These programs tend to have a Program Director and support staff on the ground, a tailored curriculum, excursions, and occasionally internships and service learning opportunities provided by the program.
Direct Enrollment & Exchange Students directly enroll in a foreign university and take a full course load. On-site support is provided by the foreign university's international office.
Internships These semester and summer programs allow students to participate in a for-credit internship while taking additional classes.

Finances & Scholarships

Education abroad is affordable! Most students find that the cost of education abroad can be surprisingly affordable, especially considering how much is included. In addition to regular CUA tuition, you will pay an education abroad program fee that covers accommodations, health and emergency evacuation insurance, and pre-departure and on-site orientations. Certain programs even cover additional costs like meals, a public transportation pass, or excursions. You do not pay for the CUA on-campus housing, meal plan, or student activities fee while abroad.


Cost Comparison - Education Abroad vs. Living On-Campus 

Program Costs

Financial Aid

Students are strongly encouraged to apply for scholarships to help fund the costs of education abroad. The key to receiving a CUA or national scholarship is to begin researching options early, as the most prestigious and lucrative scholarships can have application deadlines a year or more in advance. Fall semester CUA programs, non-traditional locations, and diverse student populations have better chances of obtaining funding.

Students interested in participating in the CUA Rome Program during the fall semester have a unique opportunity to save. The program fee is reduced, making a semester in Rome cost less than a semester in D.C.!

List of Scholarship & Grant Opportunities

CUA Autumn Advantage Scholarship


Before departure, parents and students should discuss the budget that the student will need to live within. Below are some of the most common expenses that students encounter while studying abroad.

General Costs

  • Application Fee
  • CUA tuition & Education Abroad Program Fee
  • Instructional materials & books
  • Extra field trips

Predeparture Costs

  • Passport fee
  • Visa (if required)
  • International Student Identity Card (optional)
  • Luggage
  • Medical exams
  • Medicines & vaccines

Travel Costs

  • International airfare
  • Transportation from the airport to the program site
  • Personal travel independent of the program

Living Expenses

  • Additional meals
  • Residence permit (if required)
  • Local transportation
  • Laundry, house cleaning, etc.

Credit Cards & Exchanging Money Abroad

ATM debit cards can be one of the most convenient ways of obtaining foreign currency. Students and parents should be mindful, however, that there are often considerable fees for using a foreign ATM or making purchases with an American debit card. Before departure, students should contact their bank in order to inform them of their planned trip and to understand the fees associated with using their debit/credit card abroad.

Currency Converter
How will my child access money in the host country? - U.S. Department of State

Canecllation & Withdrawal Sometimes unforeseen circumstances make it necessary for a student to withdraw from a program after the non-refundable deposit has been paid and the intent to participate has been confirmed. If this happens, accepted applicants in education abroad programs administered by or affiliated with CUAbroad must follow the cancellation and withdrawal policies and guidelines posted below. These guidelines apply to both CUA and non-CUA participants as well as all programs, regardless of length.

Cancellation & Withdrawal Policy



Application & Preparation

It's never too early to begin researching possible education abroad programs. Students may begin meeting with their academic advisors up to a year in advance in order to discuss degree progress, course equivalencies, and other academic matters. Some majors have particular course requirements that can only be fulfilled during a particular semester, so advanced planning is crucial. Taking courses to fulfill the language requirement in the first few semesters of study will open up even more education abroad options

Planning Steps

Application Process
Students should submit their application for education abroad the semester before they intend to study abroad, although planning should begin much farther in advance. The application process requires several steps, therefore students are encouraged to begin as soon as possible and allow themselves plenty of time in order gather the necessary forms, signatures, and supporting documentation.


Application Deadlines

All participants must have a signed passport that will remain valid for at least six months after the program end
date. All participants should make at least three extra copies of the identification page of the passport. One
should be left at home with a parent and the others brought overseas. Instructions for how to apply for a passport are available from the U.S. Department of State. The processing time after applying for a passport is usually 4-6 weeks. Expedited service of 2-3 weeks is also available for an additional charge.

Passport Application Instructions

Most host countries will require a visa for a semester or academic year program, as the length of the term
abroad is shorter than the time granted on a visitor or tourist visa. Students will be informed after acceptance to a program if it is necessary to acquire a visa. Any student requiring a visa should apply for one as soon as possible after acceptance. Additional fees may be charged by the consulate of each country to apply for a visa. These charges are not included in the program fee. Some visa applications may require additional documentation such as a police clearance letter and financial guarantee.

CUA Rome Program Visa Instructions

Power of Attorney
Setting up a power of attorney (POA) can be very helpful for students who have a commercial loan that requires a signature when checks arrive. By setting up a power of attorney, students can have a trusted person in the US sign on their behalf. POA can be useful if any other legal or billing situations arise while they are abroad.

Air Travel
The purchase of round-trip airline tickets is the responsibility of the student. The cost of the tickets are not included in the program fee. Students are expected to make travel arrangements that will ensure their arrival and departure on the dates suggested by each program. Students should submit their travel itinerary information to CUAbroad with the Travel Itinerary Form (in the application system) as soon as possible before departure.

Pre-Departure Orientations
All students are required to attend two pre-departure orientations the semester before beginning the education abroad program. The general pre-departure orientation provides students with information on health, safety, and credit transfer. Representatives from various campus offices, including housing, health services, and public safety, are also on hand in order to ensure a smooth transition for students. It also gives students an opportunity to hear from their peers who have already completed an education abroad program. Most of the information provided at this orientation is available online, including the student handbook and presentation notes. The program-specific pre-departure orientation provides individualized and detailed information on the specific, country, city, and educational institution that the student will be attending.


Department of State Preparation List

Department of State Packing List

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Health & Safety Abroad

Health & Emergency Evacuation Insurance
CUAbroad covers all students traveling abroad with a mandatory comprehensive foreign travel insurance coverage through FrontierMEDEX. CUAbroad collects all required information from students and submits the requests for the coverage to FrontierMEDEX. CUA students participating on education abroad programs have the FrontierMEDEX insurance automatically included in their CUAbroad program fee. Students are provided with their insurance card before departure.

Health & Safety Resources

International Student Identity Card
The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) offers a variety of discounts and benefits on travel-related services and products.  It also provides travel insurance and some limited emergency evacuation and repatriation benefits for student travelers. Students may purchase an ISIC card from CUAbroad for $25.

Medications & Prescriptions
A traveler going abroad with a preexisting medical problem should carry a letter from the attending physician, describing the medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic names of prescribed drugs. Any medications being carried overseas should be left in their original containers and be clearly labeled. Information on filling a prescription abroad and other health issues may be found at

Students who wear eyeglasses should take an extra pair with them. Medicines and and extra eyeglasses should be packed in hand luggage so they will be available in case the checked luggage is lost. To be extra secure, pack a backup supply of medicines and an additional pair of eyeglasses in the checked luggage.

Students with allergies, reactions to certain medications, foods, or insect bites, or other unique medical problems should consider wearing a “medical alert” bracelet. Students may also wish to carry a letter from their physician explaining required treatment should they become ill.

Students should ensure that their vaccinations are up to date and will remain so throughout the program. Visit the CDC website to learn about recommended immunizations by country.

Students with physical, health, or psychological accommodation needs due to a disability, are strongly encouraged to disclose this information to the CUAbroad office during the application process in order to ensure that their needs can be met.  Students registered with Disability Support Services who are eligible for on-campus accommodation are also eligible for overseas accommodation when it can be arranged. Students are encouraged to speak with their study abroad advisers and request a copy of their accommodation letter to determine if their particular education abroad program can provide them with reasonable academic accommodations. 

More information for students with disabilities  

While Abroad

Before departure, students and parents should develop an overseas communication plan. It is important to discuss how often you will communicate with each other and through what means.

Cell Phones
Students will need to have a cell phone in the country in which they are studying. This is their primary means of communication with program staff and other students while abroad. Even if students plan on bringing a US phone with international access, they should still plan on getting a local phone number.

Students will need a phone that works abroad and a local SIM card. Options include:

  • Purchase or rent a phone in abroad with an local SIM card
  • Bring a 4-band GSM phone from the US that is capable of having a new SIM card inserted and purchase or rent a local SIM card.

When buying a phone and SIM card abroad students will generally be set up with a pre-paid calling plan, where they can add money to their phone periodically to cover the calls that they will make.

Communicating with Your Student
We recommend that students contact you as soon as they can after arriving overseas. We also recommend that you maintain regular contact with your student. Familiarize yourself with the program dates and your student's travel itinerary. If you have not heard from your son/daughter, it may be because they are on an excursion.

Internet-based communication systems can be some of the the most cost-effective means of communicating with your student. Calls between the US and international phones can be expensive, therefore students and parents are urged to exercise caution when making international calls.

Skype- A free program that enables international voice and video communication. Skype is available for computers, smartphones and tablet devices.

Call Phones from Gmail- Discounted international calling rates are available when using the "call phone" feature in Gmail. Calls to U.S. numbers are free.

How can I communicate with my child while he or she is abroad? - U.S. Department of State

Culture Shock & Homesickness
Culture shock is a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment. Culture shock is a normal part of the experience of studying abroad. This feeling of uneasiness may be exacerbated when a student must use a foreign language to communicate.

What is culture shock and how can I help my child overcome it? - U.S. Department of State
Helping Your Child Deal with Culture Shock - Diversity Abroad
Cultural Difference - University of Wisconsin


  • If you would like to visit your son or daughter while he/she is overseas, we encourage you to travel to your son/daughter's host country only during university breaks or after the program ends.
  • Visiting your student at the beginning of of the program is not generally recommended because students need time to be independent and to transition to life in a new environment.
  • Keep in mind that students tend to have more work for their classes toward the end of the semester as projects, papers, and finals approach. It is important that your visit does not prevent your students from attending classes or completing work for class.
  • Also bear in mind that you will most likely not be able to stay with your student in program-provided accommodation.


Return & Re-Integration

Students are responsible for ensuring that the program in which they participate sends an official transcript with course grades directly to the CUAbroad office. Students will receive a notification when their transcript has been received by CUAbroad.

Reverse Culture Shock
When students return home, they may have difficulties readjusting to their environment, and resuming relationships with friends and family. This may be a period of varying emotions that can often be disruptive to the student and their family. Not all students experience reverse culture shock, and some experience very little reverse culture shock.
Understanding Your Own Change—the Experience of Return
Returning to Life Back Home - Spanish Studies Abroad
A Readjustment Manual for Parents - SIT Study Abroad
A turbulent re-entry: Helping your child through reverse culture shock - Focus on the Family
Return: Readying to Re-Enter, Reinvented

Academic & Career Development
Students often have a better idea of their career plans and interests after studying abroad. Students are encouraged to visit the Career Services office to learn how they can present their education abroad experience as a valuable career development opportunity on their resume, and when speaking to employers.

Program Evaluation
All students are asked to complete the Program Evaluation Form after returning from abroad. The completion of this form is vitally important because it allows CUAbroad to continuously evaluate the effectiveness of its education abroad programs, in order to ensure that students have the best experience possible.

Re-Entry Gathering
To assist with the transition period of getting used to living in the U.S. again, CUAbroad encourages students attend the annual re-entry gathering. Students have the opportunity to share their experiences and learn how to put their newly-gained cultural competence to use.  Representatives from Career Services may be on hand to talk with students about applying education abroad experience to future careers.

Get Involved & Give Back
Students have many opportunities to share their experiences with other students interested in studying abroad.

Peer Advisors
Global Ambassadors

More Returning Student Resources