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Student and Family Guide

When you or your student has decided to study abroad and embark on an exciting life-changing adventure, there may still be a lot of questions on your mind. The Office of International Education is happy to talk to students and family members with concerns or questions about our programs of their students studying abroad and we hope that this guide provides some quick answers.

Please also review the other links on the left side menu in order to learn about our programs, health and safety abroad, grant and scholarship information, and much more. You may use the links below to jump to specific sections of interest in this guide.

The Value of Study Abroad

No matter what program a student participates in there will be inherent value in a study abroad program. Even in a few short weeks your student can develop valuable skills in cross-cultural competence, confidence, flexibility, and empathy along with learning in a different academic setting that may not be available at home.

Employers in almost every field are looking for "soft skills" like cross cultural awareness, strategic thinking, and confidence in their employees, all skills students who have studied abroad have reportedly gained.

Students studying any discipline can benefit from an experience abroad. For Example:

  • An Education student spends 9 weeks teaching at a school in Mexico, gaining insight to the Hispanic culture and the Mexican education system that they can bring back to their classroom in Green Bay. This experience helps connect them with future students of HIspanic background and experiences can be shared.
  • An introverted student spends a semester in Aberdeen, Scotland and over the course of their time abroad confidence is built due to the student having to reach out to make connections and find their way around an unfamiliar place. Once back on campus this student is now able to give classroom presentations and talk about their experience with ease.
  • A group of Biology students travel to Panama to work hands on with the Smithsonian Institution on a continuing research project, giving the group valuable experience in the field
  • A Business and Spanish student lives in Spain for a semester and polishes their language skills, allowing them to apply for international business positions back home with an international company.
  • A Pre-Med student takes a general education course abroad and they are able to meet and get to know people from another culture. The listening, empathy, and cross-cultural skills gained will benefit this student in their career as it will improve doctor-patient relations. In addition, this extra step to gain a different skill and experience can stand out on a medical school application.

There are many more success stories on our Student Testimonials site and our Student Blog page.

More information from other sources regarding the importance of study abroad can be found here:

U.S. Department of State

IIE (Institute of International Education)
Northeastern University

Types of Study Abroad Programs at UW-Green Bay

There are three major types of UW-Green Bay study abroad programs; Semester, Interim, and Faculty-led. Each type of program is very different and provides a different opportunity for students. All of our programs count for academic credit at UW-Green Bay, however it is up to the student to work with our office and their academic advisor to see where the courses on a program fit in their academic plans.

UW-Green Bay offers about 40 different programs every year, from two-week winter/summer options to academic year abroad. Programs cover most majors and minors as well as General Education requirements, so there is something for everyone! Most programs do not require any foreign language knowledge and academics are mainly in English (with the exception of specific language immersion programs). Learn more about the programs.

Choosing & Applying to a Program

Now that your student is interested in a study abroad program, it it now time to choose what is the best program for them. Encourage your student to schedule an advising appointment with a study abroad advisor and attend study abroad events on campus to learn more about what we have to offer. Our office can even try to connect your student with an alumni of the program they are interested in or an international student from that country! Students interested in faculty-led travel courses should also reach out to the program leader(s) for more information.

Below are some questions that you may want to ask your student to help them decide on a program:

1. Where do you want to go and why?
With so many options it can be hard to narrow it down! Ask your student about where they want to go and also make sure they can be open to other locations as well, depending on what may be a good fit academically. Some students make a location choice based on desire to travel that country or region, a family or cultural connection, academics available, or they have heard from other students about a certain program.

2. What do you want to study while abroad? Do you want to take courses in your major/minor or fulfill a general education requirement? 
As all UW-Green Bay study abroad programs count for academic credit it is important for your student to choose a program that helps fulfill academic requirements within their major or minor or that fulfills a general education requirement. This may require your student to have a conversation with their academic advisor in these areas and with a study abroad advisor to know all of their options and make a sound choice.

3. How long do you want to be abroad? What program options are offered in this timeframe?UW-Green Bay offers programs from 2 weeks to an academic year. Ask your student what they are comfortable with, but keep in mind that expanding one's comfort zones is one of the skills learned abroad! The longer the time spent abroad, the greater the learning experience. For first time or nervous travelers a shorter program is generally a good choice. Make sure your student talks to a study abroad advisor about all of their options.

4. What kind of accommodation are you comfortable with?
All of our programs offer different types of housing. Most partner schools offer on-campus housing in dormitories or apartments, however some locations do require students to find their own housing with assistance from the host housing office. A few programs offer host families and students on shorter programs tend to stay in hotels or hostels. Ask your student what type of housing they want to be in and what they are comfortable with if that is a major part of their decision to go abroad.

5. What is the program cost and are you eligible for financial aid or scholarships/grants?
All of our programs have a detailed budgets on the program website that explain charges. While cost is obviously a very important factor in choosing a program, keep in mind other reasons such as academic and personal fit. Refer to Grants and Scholarships for more information on funding options.

6. How will study abroad affect campus commitments such as a job, internship, or athletics?
Make sure your student talks to any employer or supervisor to make sure they are able to take leave and have not commitments during their time abroad. Review your family calendar as well, planning for a few "buffer days" on either side of the actual dates in case of delays and for jet lag recovery. Student athletes are generally able to go abroad as well. The Office of International Education can work with your student to find a program that works within their sport season and also recommend programs that are Exchange or Faculty-Led if your student receives an athletic academic scholarship.

7. How much freedom or independence do you want or need from this experience?
Different programs offer different options. Some are more structured with a strict itinerary, others are similar to going to school at your home university where your nights and weekends are free. Interim and semester programs allow for the most flexibility with pre and post program travel and less structured time. Faculty-led travel courses offer a group leader and a detailed daily itinerary, however students are unable to travel pre and post program. Some of these programs do offer free days to explore an area outside of the itinerary.

8. What do you want most out of this experience?
What does our student want to learn or experience in a program? Will the program they chose fit these desires?

9. Do you have any special needs and can they be met?
With our wide variety of programs the Office of International Education works with students to find the best option. A common concern is food allergies or a medical condition such as celiac disease or diabetes. The OIE works with students and our insurance company to make sure they are prepared to go abroad and help them choose the best program for their needs. Your student can also talk with alumni with similar concerns about how they adjusted abroad. 

Pre-Departure Details


It is important to know all of the costs of a particular program and to budget extra spending money while abroad. Encourage your student to start saving early, every little bit helps! Refer to our Grants & Scholarships page for information about financial aid, grants, and scholarships that can apply to study abroad programs.

Every program has a budget listed on our website and students receive either a final cost or additional information on the program budget in their acceptance letters. On the website budget any costs listed as billable will be charged to your students SIS account with a deadline specific to the program. Non-Billable expenses are either estimated expenses (i.e. airfare) and/or payments that are made directly to the host university like accommodation fees. These may have different deposit and deadline dates that students need to pay close attention to.

While abroad it is important for students to put together a budget for day-to-day expenses like transportation and meals as well as for travel around the area and other regions. Make sure your student also works with their bank to get a credit and debit card to use abroad, receive foreign currency, and let their bank know they are traveling. Our Resources page provides options for budgeting, exchange rate apps, etc.

Travel Logistics

Depending on the program your student chooses they may need to make their own travel arrangements to and from their host country. If this is the case, your student's study abroad advisor is able to help advise on airfare and some in-country travel. It is advised not to book airfare until your student has been accepted by both UW-Green Bay and the host university and has confirmed arrival and departure dates. Students will be made aware of pick-up and/or mandatory arrival dates once accepted by their host university. Resources for airfare, lodging abroad, and some in-country transportation is found on our Resources page.

Airfare for faculty-led travel courses is booked by the Office of International Education as a group reservation. Students and faculty leaders fly together from a home location (generally Green Bay or Chicago) or are bussed from UW-Green Bay to the departure airport. Some flexibility can be given on a case by case basis if a student's home city is far from Green Bay. Students will be given airfare confirmations about a month before departure and will be notified of any meeting places and times for the group. Passports are required to go abroad. Students should apply as soon as possible and make sure their passport arrives by the date stated on their study abroad application or acceptance letter. A Passport Guide is found on our website.

Health & Safety Abroad

Your student's safety is of upmost importance while abroad. We carefully review program itineraries and continuously monitor world events to ensure the safety of our programs. Students are provided with several resources about health and safety abroad, both on our website (Health & Safety) and in pre-departure meetings. Make sure you have a conversation with your student about:

  • Staying safe abroad (what is recommended, what resources were they given)
  • What medications will they need to take?  Is the prescription updated and does your student have enough to last during the time abroad?
  • Semester students are recommended to get a dental, vision, and physical check-up before departure, have these been scheduled?
  • Are any vaccinations required to enter their host country?

Students are also given access to our Alert Traveler app, which gives alerts and advice about situations happening in their area (i.e. airport strikes, sever weather, police incidents).  The Office of International Education can also use this app to track students in an emergency and reach out to check in if necessary.  


All UWGB study abroad students are required to have medical insurance while abroad and are booked through a UW-System policy (Cultural Insurance Services International). Please refer to Insurance webpage for more information. Insurance costs are built into the program budget and students are registered after they commit to a program. Keep in mind this insurance is NOT a travel or property insurance, it is recommended that students look into these options on their own to protect themselves against stolen property or lost luggage while abroad.

Pre-Departure Orientation Requirements

All students must complete an online pre-departure requirement. All students also have in-person orientation meeting requirements, either with a faculty leader or with the Office of International Education staff. In this meeting, topics such as safety abroad, culture shock and packing are covered. Parents and other guests are generally welcome at in-person meetings, for faculty-led travel courses have your student ask the leader to confirm.

Preparing Your Student for Success Abroad

In addition to the practical preparations of going abroad there are other ways you can help your student be successful.

  1. Encourage them to research the country and culture they will be traveling to and living in. Some materials may be assigned as part of a course, otherwise encourage personal research. Our Resources page has links to suggested travel guides and websites, look into other books, movies, music, etc. as well.
  2. Help your student think globally and cross culturally. Suggest they begin monitoring world events in the area they are studying in and elsewhere, meet with international students on campus, learn some of the local language before they leave, research differences between and among cultures, and pay attention to issues around the world that they care about.
  3. Be involved but promote independence. Especially for semester program students this is important as a lot of the communication from the host university will be directly to your student. Check in to see how planning is going, know when important deadlines are (ex. housing deposits), and encourage your student to stay organized and ask questions.
  4. Don't worry if not everything is arranged before your student leaves! Again, especially for longer programs this is the case. Universities abroad don't operate on the same schedules and process as UW-Green Bay. Students may not register for courses until they arrive. Housing information may not be confirmed until a few weeks before arrival. Check in with your student and see if they have talked to their study abroad advisor about the usual process and follow up if there are major concerns.

While Abroad: Staying in Touch, Support, Emergencies

Depending on the length of the program your student may need different levels of support and you may have different ways of keeping in touch.

Staying in Touch

While it IS important for your student to check in once they arrived safely and are settled, keep this advice in mind (we share this with students too):

  1. Depending on the location it may not be possible for your student to call/text/email right away.  They may need to set up their international phone plan, find a computer or place with Wi-Fi, or have a busy day planned once they are picked up by a host school or student buddy. We ask students to touch base with people back home as soon as they can to let everyone know they arrived safely.
  2. Less is more! Help your student disconnect a bit to allow them to full immerse themselves in their experience. Set a regular time to check in by email or phone (i.e. once a week).
  3. Practice new contact methods before they depart (like Facetime, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc.) to find the best option to keep in contact with your student.
  4. If your student is abroad for a semester consider sending them a package from home and asking for postcards!

Students on semester programs will have many options to use a phone while abroad, however it is up to your student to research the best option for them. Many students either get a SIM card abroad for their smartphone, use a prepaid phone abroad, or purchase an international plan from their phone provider in the U.S.

Students on faculty-led or interim programs also have these options but most tend to just turn data off on phones and connect to Wi-Fi where available.


Depending on your student and the program there may be different levels of support needed while abroad. Sometimes families and friends back home are sounding boards for frustrating days or when your student is experiencing culture shock. It's important to know that everyone adjusts to cultural changes abroad differently and it can be very stressful, especially the first few days when everything is new and unfamiliar.

It's important to talk to your student before they depart and remind them while abroad of how they can deal with stressors and encourage them to each out for help if necessary. Ask your student if they have been able to get involved and meet others, if they have found something stress relieving to do, and if necessary if they have connected with the international office abroad and counseling services. UW-Green Bay services such as the Wellness Center continue to be available for students abroad online.


The Office of International Education is prepared in case of emergencies abroad or if a student has an emergency back home while they are away. Most often it is the latter and our office will work to bring your student home as quickly as possible if necessary.

Students are provided with OIE contact information in case of emergencies, make sure this is shared with you before they depart. If you have an emergency at home and cannot reach your student please contact our office as soon as possible and we will reach out on your behalf.

Please read more about our mandatory Insurance policy and Emergency Procedures on our website and contact our office with any questions you have.

Helping Your Student Transition Back Home

Returning from any study abroad experience can leave a student with mixed feelings. There is the excitement of seeing loved ones after being apart but also missing the life and experience they had while abroad. Adjustment can take time and every student reacts differently. Here are are some suggestions to help your student transition back home:

  • Know that Reverse Cultur Shock is real.
  • Prepare for transformation! Your student will have changed (for the better!) so relationships may change as well.
  • Help your student find resources on how to apply their experience professionally and acedemically in future plans
  • Stay connected with the global community and show your support for new interests.

These two documents below will help give more information on how you can support your student:

12 Tips to Welcome Returnees
Top 10 Challenges for Study Abroad Returnees


Below are links to additional reading and resources provided to parents and families:

UWGB Study Abroad FAQ page
A Practial Parent's Guide to Study Abroad
A Parent Guide to Study Abroad
Study Abroad Parent Guide
University of Minnesota Parent Brochure