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Keeping in Touch with a Student Abroad

The Study Abroad Office is happy to work with family and friends who wish to be involved in a student's study abroad experience. The following section provides you with specific information that you need to ensure that your student is successful and enjoys their time abroad while still remaining connected to you and to their home.

Keeping in Touch

Electronic Communication

Unlike at home, direct communication by cell phone can be very costly. Before making this the primary method of communication check rates with your service provider. Your student may also need to use a different SIM card for the region they are going to in order for the device work.

The internet has made communication much easier, and much more cost effective. You can always use e-mail, social networking sites, and instant messenger to communicate with your student. While it is not as personable, it is an easy way to get information to your student, and it is a more lengthy correspondence, may allow them to respond at a more appropriate time for them if there are issues such as time differences.

Skype is a great tool to communicate directly. It has many options such as instant messaging and international calling. If you and your student both have accounts on Skype, you are able to call each other using microphones, or even video chat using a web cam for free! If you would like to call a normal phone, such as a landline at home, you are able to do so for just cents a minute. For more information see www.skype.com.

Snail Mail

While it is a less direct method of communication, many students still appreciate physical mail from home. A card or letter can be a great way to let your student know you are still thinking of them. In addition, sending a care package is a great way to surprise with small items they may be missing from home, such as candy, in an international priority mail envelope or box. See www.usps.com for more details on international mailing.

PicCell

Taking a home cellular device would most likely be costly. Many students choose to purchase a track type phone in-country when they arrive, but that presents a lot of problems should they choose to use it at home. It may also be difficult to navigate through contracts, especially if they are not in English. PicCell Wireless offers international wireless phone packages specifically designed for international students. These are great alternatives for those who would like to be able to make in-country calls as well as reach their family at home, for example upon arrival to let their family know they are safe. They can provide your student with the appropriate equipment, SIM card, and offer other services geared toward students on study abroad programs. See their website for information on rates, and how to get set-up. www.piccellwireless.com/uwm

FERPA & Power of Attorney

FERPA

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records and it applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. This act gives parents specified rights over their child's education records. Once the child turns 18 or continues education beyond high school, the rights transfer to the child and therefore only they are granted those specific rights over their own records. FERPA protects the right of privacy regarding grades, enrollment, and even billing information, unless the school has been given specific permission from the student that they are able to share that specific type of information.

This means that the Study Abroad Office requires students who are going abroad to sign a FERPA Release Form in order to allow anyone (including parents) access to their records and any other information while abroad.

Power of Attorney

The Power of Attorney is a written authorization which allows another person to act on someone's behalf in private, business, or other legal affairs. Many students choose to give a parent or legal guardian power of attorney so that they are able to legally take care of any matters that may arise, be it with the university (such as financial aid), banking, or anything else that would normally require the student to deal with directly. This form must be notarized in order to be considered valid.

Other Suggestions

It is highly recommended that your student obtain multiple notarized (if necessary) copies of these documents. The office may keep a copy, but it is important for the person who is designated as a Power of Attorney, for example, to have a copy so that they have proof of their legal authorization. In addition it is a great idea to keep a data file of all of the information and documents your student may need while away including:

  • Contact information for your student, on-site residence director, home Study Abroad Office, and citizen assistance section of the US embassy abroad
  • Insurance policy number and how to submit claims
  • Emergency and communication plan
  • Student's bank, credit card & contact information
  • Passport number & duplicate passport kit (two passport photos, official copy of birth certificate, copy of passport information and visa pages)
  • Program calendar
  • Name of local physician abroad