Why should students study abroad?
Students who study abroad will gain a new perspective on the world and develop skills that cannot be acquired while at home in one’s comfort zone. Students are able to learn more about themselves in the short time spent abroad than in many years at home. While abroad, new strengths will be found from overcoming the challenges of living in a new culture and speaking a new language.
Studying abroad provides an opportunity to break out of a routine, find excitement, and gain new skills. As a result, employment prospects are enhanced and more developed. Finally, the value of the student's degree increases and becomes more meaningful to those who travel abroad.
Who should I talk to about finding a study abroad program?
Come to an Interest Session or Advising Session to learn more about the different program options available. We also recommend that you keep your academic advisor informed of your progress at all times.
When should I start planning to study abroad?
It is never too early to start planning! The Office of Study Abroad (OSA) recommends that students begin planning their study abroad approximately six to nine months before studying abroad. However, OSA can work with students individually to develop a time frame that works best for each student.
How do I know if I am eligible to study abroad?
All MSU students are invited to join a study abroad program. There are many programs designed for specific majors or concentrations; however, some programs are general and open to everyone. While there are more programs for undergraduate students, graduate students are also encouraged to contact OSA to explore their options. Most programs have a minimum GPA, and some have more specific requirements or prerequisites as well.
What if I am an undeclared major, can I still study abroad?
Yes, many study abroad programs offer classes that can be used as general electives.
If I am an international student at MSU, may I study abroad? In my home country?
Yes. International students have the same access to study abroad programs and resources as domestic students. We encourage students to study abroad in a different location than their home country for a more authentic experience.
If I do not speak a foreign language, must I study in an English-speaking country?
While speaking the native language can be helpful in the transition process, it is not required to participate in most study abroad programs. We recommend programs throughout the world that offer classes in English and students need not speak the native language. If you are staying for an extended period of time, it may be helpful to take some language courses but it is not required.
When a student studies abroad does he/she remain a student at MSU?
All students who study abroad through Mississippi State University will maintain their student status while participating in all study abroad programs. Students will be enrolled in a Placeholder Course that indicates they are abroad for the semester. Once we receive the student’s transcript from their program, the Placeholder Course will be removed and the academic courses will be input. This placeholder course will allow students to maintain their fulltime enrollment status for scholarships, financial aid, and insurance purposes.
Can I receive academic credit for studying abroad?
Students can receive course credit while participating in all MSU affiliated study abroad programs, which can be transferred and applied to their MSU degree. OSA is not an academic unit and therefor is unable to provide guidance on credit transfer. Students will need to meet with their academic advisor to discuss degree applicability. Once courses are identified, the student will complete a Course Approval Form, ensuring credit transfer prior to studying abroad.
How do I apply?
Each program is different, but check out the program options on our website. If you are participating in a Faculty-led program, you will complete an online application through our website. If you are participating in a Provider Company program, you will complete an application through the provider company’s website and a corresponding application through our website. If you are participating in an Exchange program, you will need to contact our office so we can complete the nomination process for you. After you have been nominated you will complete an application through the exchange university and a corresponding application through our website.
How long will I be abroad?
The Office of Study Abroad offers a wide variety of program choices to students. Programs range from a week over Spring Break to a few weeks during the summer to a semester or academic year abroad. Students usually receive 3-6 hours of credit for shorter programs and 12-15 hours of credit for semester programs.
How can parents help their student have a great experience abroad?
The simple fact that you are already interested in your student’s experience will be beneficial to your student. Learn as much as you can about the culture and places that your student will be living and visiting and encourage your son or daughter to do the same. Stay informed and encourage your student to complete all the steps necessary to study abroad, but remember to step back and accept that your student must complete these steps, not you. If your student is not organized and prepared enough to complete the application materials, then he or she probably is not ready to study abroad. Also, remember that your student may experience culture shock upon arrival to a new country and reentry shock upon return home. Research the potential emotional roller coaster that your student might be going through during his or her study abroad experience.
Are there scholarships or financial aid available?
An MSU degree-seeking student who participates in an MSU affiliated study abroad program is eligible to apply for Financial Aid to help cover the required costs. Each program is handled on an individual program and student basis, and most costs associated with the study abroad program can typically be taken into consideration when determining Financial Aid eligibility. For more information refer to the Scholarships & Financial Aid page. The amount of aid received for study abroad is dependent upon the individual student’s eligibility at the time of application. Students who wish to receive Financial Aid to help pay for an MSU study abroad program should contact Student Financial Aid to discuss options and availability.
A student planning to participate in a study abroad program through an organization or school that has no affiliation agreement in place with MSU is not eligible to receive Financial Aid through MSU for the program. For additional information, please visit Student Financial Aid.
Some MSU Colleges and Departments have study abroad scholarships available for students of that college to apply for. The Office of Study Abroad encourages you to check with academic college and/or department to see about study abroad scholarship opportunities. Generally, scholarships range from $250- $2,000 per student, but award amounts vary by college, department, and funding. National and program-specific scholarship may also be available. Research applicable scholarships and apply for those in which you are eligible.
Why are students required to purchase additional health insurance?
Mississippi State University requires that ALL students studying abroad purchase sufficient health insurance for their stay abroad. This inexpensive insurance is designed to assist with specific needs that can develop while in another country. Even if you already have health insurance, additional coverage is important to cover situations that may not be covered by a domestic carrier.
Mississippi State University requires all students studying abroad to obtain insurance coverage that (at the minimum) meets the following:
- Accident coverage: This coverage should be at least $50,000
- Health/Illness coverage: If you have a chronic condition, be sure to check on coverage for pre-existing conditions. Coverage should be sufficient to cover an extended hospital stay. This coverage should be at least $50,000
- Repatriation: In the event of death, this benefit pays for remains to be transported home. This coverage should be at least $50,000
- Emergency Evacuation: This benefit pays for you to be airlifted in a medically equipped critical care, helicopter or plane to the closest medical facility that is equipped to handle your care. This coverage should be at least $125,000
All faculty-led programs include this cost in the program fee and most provider company programs, such as AIFS, API, CEA, ISA, Semester at Sea and SIT, provide sufficient coverage.
Other affiliated programs, including exchange and direct-enroll programs, do not always include sufficient health insurance in their program fee. Students studying abroad with these programs may need to purchase additional coverage.
Do I need a visa?
Although the Office of Study Abroad will guide students in this process, it is ultimately the responsibility of the student to research visa requirements and obtain a visa, if necessary. Visa requirements vary greatly from country to country and often change without warning. Make sure you have looked into this process and can confirm with certainty the visa requirements for your host country. Remember that visa requirements differ depending on the length of stay and purpose of travel.
A visa is a privilege and should not be thought of as an automatic right. Students need to be patient with the consulate staff. They are often understaffed and overworked and do not have much patience for students who have waited until the last moment.
Students who are traveling abroad with a provider program often receive a great deal of assistance with this process from the provider company.
How can parents communicate with their student while abroad?
Before your student goes abroad, set appropriate guidelines as to when and how you should communicate. Review all of the contact information that your student has received (address, phone number, program office, etc.). Understand that your student may not be able to contact you immediately upon arrival. It may take several hours or more than a day to reach his/her host city and to get settled enough to call or email you. Be patient. Your student will be dealing with all sorts of new circumstances.
Email and online services (such as Skype and FaceTime) make communicating increasingly easier and cheaper than ever. If your student has access to Internet, you may chat freely at no cost to either of you. If your student purchases or rents a phone while abroad, you will be able to reach him or her at a moment’s notice. Remember to watch out for high phone bills if you plan to rely on this form of communication.
If your student intends to travel with a U.S. smart phone, there are many free or inexpensive apps that can be used with a WiFi connection to call, text, or voice message friends and family in the U.S. These apps include, but are not limited to, HeyTell, Skype, Viber, Voxer, and WhatsApp.
Don’t expect to speak as frequently as you may speak when your student is stateside. You may be facing a time difference that could require you to set up appointments to speak with each other. Adequate expectations regarding communication will help to ease the transition. Your student will also be traveling within his or her host country and may not have a routine schedule. If your student does not respond to your email immediately, do not assume that there is a problem.
When should students book airfare?
Flights should be booked a month or two out from the student’s departure date. If participating in a faculty-led program, wait until the program director gives your student the information of which airport and when to arrive before booking tickets. For an exchange or provider program, adhere to what the school or company tells you is the required time to be there. If a visa is required for entry, you may be advised to wait for the visa before purchasing airfare.
Can parents visit their students?
Absolutely! Visiting your student can be an exciting role reversal for both of you to enjoy together. Your student will be eager to serve as your guide and to show off his or her new culture and language skills. However, it is important that you do not disrupt your student’s routine while abroad. After all, your student is studying abroad. Make sure that your student does not have prior commitments or upcoming exams before you purchase your flight. Your student should not be expected to skip classes in order to be your tour guide. Also, depending on accommodations, it may not be possible for you to stay with your student in his or her residence. Consider visiting your student during a holiday break or after the program is over. We do not recommend that you fly over with your student. Allow your student to take the first step alone, as it helps to set the tone for their entire stay!
Why do parents need a passport if they are not planning to visit their student abroad?
We recommend that at least one parent have a passport in case your student becomes sick or injured while abroad. If you do not have a passport, you will not be able to leave the country to visit your student. To look into this process, please visit The U.S. Department of State’s website.
What if a student is lonely or unhappy and wants to come home?
Upon arrival to the host country, you will begin to adjust to the food, time zone, climate, and language. This adjustment process can be overwhelming and frustrating, and oftentimes students can experience culture shock. Although it may not seem like it at the time, this is a necessary step and is part of the adjustment process. Everyone that is abroad for an extended period of time goes through it and usually comes out smiling on the other end. A way to help with this is to research your host country’s beliefs, foods, education, sports, etc. You can also look into cultural activities, museums, local concerts and parks that can help remind you of home but also teach you more about your host country. Remember to take some time to rest and be alone. There are so many new things to do and see while abroad that it can be easy to become overwhelmed when you don’t rest.
For parents: As your student’s host culture becomes routine and less exciting, your student may call or email sounding sad or lonely. Listen to your student vent, but don’t assume that you must find the solutions. Your student is abroad to learn how to overcome adverse situations. Encourage your student to stick it out. Returning early will not only result in a huge economic loss, but your student may also fail classes. The loss in confidence will be harmful as well. Also, remember that as a parent, you are the most sympathetic and compassionate ear available to your student. Simply listening and supporting your student will often be the key to success.
The inherent stress of living and traveling abroad is something all study abroad students will experience. Do not feel like what you are experiencing is out of the ordinary.
What happens if there is an emergency?
If your student contacts you during a potential emergency, remind him or her that the on-site staff is the best resource. Whether your student is ill, has been harmed, or was a victim of theft, the on-site staff has the resources and know-how to handle this situation far better than anyone stateside. The on-site staff will work to help your student immediately and will contact the Office of Study Abroad at Mississippi State University at the appropriate juncture.
As a parent, you will be your student’s emotional contact when times are tough (and they will be tough at some point if your student is abroad for an extended period of time). If you feel that your student’s distress is caused by something more than culture shock and normal issues with adjusting, have your student call or email the Office of Study Abroad to let us know what is happening. We can make contact with on-site staff and your student if necessary to try to resolve the problem.
Our primary concern is your student’s safety. If a crisis or natural disaster develops while your student is abroad we will work with on-site staff to locate your student and contact the U.S. Embassy if necessary. We collect each student’s emergency contact information prior to departure and will contact you with all updates related to your student’s wellbeing.
If there is a study abroad emergency after business hours or on the weekend, please call the University Police at 662.325.2121. They can put you in contact with the Office of Study Abroad or an appropriate school official.
How will students react to returning home?
Not only do students experience culture shock when traveling to another country, when returning home it is also normal for some students to experience a form of reentry shock after having been abroad for several months. Students will want to tell you endless stories of their experiences abroad and will often compare their host culture to U.S. culture. Some students will be excited to return, while others will see home as a strange place to which they initially do not relate.
Your student will most likely return with some new opinions and points of view that are perfectly acceptable in his or her host country, but that do not mesh with the views that your student once had. The better integrated in local society that your student becomes while abroad, the harder it is to return to life in the US. Learn as much as you can about culture shock and reentry shock in order to help your student through these phases.
What future opportunities may be available if I study abroad?
Once a student has returned to campus, we love to have them involved in our office and helping us recruit more students to study abroad!
More information on our Ambassador Program, Photo Contest, Leveraging Your Study Abroad Workshop and Internships Abroad can be found on the Alumni Resources page.