The security and well-being of our students has been of paramount concern throughout the 40 year history of Spanish Studies Abroad programs. We understand your concerns as parents and faculty about safety and communication when students are so far away. That is why Spanish Studies maintains a comprehensive set of Safety Guidelines to promote health and safety on all of our programs. Spanish Studies Abroad also arranges and requires health insurance in the host country for all participants to ensure they are adequately protected if medical needs arise.
An important part of the study abroad experience is to learn how to be independent, and students on Spanish Studies Abroad programs are expected to make good decisions to promote their own safety. At orientation, Resident Directors and staff review important safety tips with students to help guide students to make smart decisions while exploring their host city.
The Resident Director and support staff of each program monitors all aspects of students’ well-being throughout their stay abroad. All participants are made fully aware of the services Spanish Studies Abroad provides so that they know what to do in the event of a problem. Spanish Studies is also in regular communication with Spanish, Argentine, and Cuban civil authorities and with U.S. Embassy officials abroad. In the unlikely event of a severe emergency in the host city, appropriate steps will be taken to arranged the safe return home of all Spanish Studies Abroad students.
If your student encounters a serious problem while abroad, the first people he/she should contact are the members of the Spanish Studies Abroad staff in the host city. Spanish Studies personnel abroad are best-equipped to handle any major issue. If he/she does call home with a problem, parents should encourage him/her to get in touch with the Resident Director of their specific program for assistance. All students are provided with a 24-hour emergency number so that they can always contact a member of the staff in their host city.
Although everyone's experience studying abroad is different, most students find that they face many challenges and rewards from studying abroad. Immersion into another culture requires students to step away from their comfort zones. Thus, there will most likely be days when your student will be "so happy to be living abroad" and other days when they will be unhappy or frustrated with the experience. This a normal reaction to culture shock and it often passes as students become accustomed to living in a new place. If you are concerned about your student, encourage them to talk to a Spanish Studies Abroad staff member or Resident Director. They have been trained to help students to get through this process.
Check out the Handbook for your student's program and review the Resources sections in the left menu for cultural and practical information. (Handbooks are available by mail upon request.) Also, encourage your student to read their student handbook and do research on their host country before leaving. Learning about cultural norms before departure can help to ease the transition to a new place.
If you are sending any regular USPS mail to your student, you should send it to the local Spanish Studies Abroad Address. If there is an emergency, you can contact the appropriate Emergency Contact Number. In each program location, students have both email and internet access. Computer labs at the host universities and at the Center in Seville maintain regular computer lab hours.
When making telephone calls from the U.S. to your student's host country, please bear in mind any time changes. Your student's host family will have a home telephone. However, the home's telephone is restricted to receiving calls of short duration. Placing calls from the home phone is not permitted unless absolutely necessary. Please do not call the student's home before 10am and after 10pm (local time for your student).
Your student may opt to get a cell phone while abroad. If he/she is on a Spanish Studies Abroad Spain Program, he/she will have the option of leasing a cell phone through Spanish Studies. Under this plan it is free for your student to receive calls on his/her phone, while the student's phone is in Spain. However, you would still be charged for making a phone call from the United States to Spain. You may want to look for calling cards or contact your telephone provider to find the most economical option.
Please note that international calls, including calls to the United States, can become expensive very quickly. It is often a good idea to talk to your student before they go abroad on limiting the amount of contact home. In addition to saving money, limiting the contact home will help him/her to spend more time experiencing his/her host country.
Parents can certainly visit their students while they are abroad, just as long as any visit does not interfere with the student’s class attendance and academics. Family members may visit their student independently, in which case they will be responsible for their own individual travel and accommodation arrangements. Please note that it is the policy at Spanish Studies Abroad that visiting friends and family members may not stay with the host family or at the student residence. Families are encouraged to communicate with their students to decide the best time to visit.
Again, while every student's experience is different, most students find that they experience "reverse culture shock" when they return from their time abroad. After the initial euphoria of returning home, your student may experience feelings of frustration, anger, alienation, loneliness, disorientation, and helplessness and not understand exactly why. As with all transitions, your student will gradually readjust, often with a new understanding of the world and self. To help your student with this adjustment, learn more about reverse culture shock and encourage your student to find ways to integrate their experience into their life back home.