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Parents and guardians play an important role in helping students prepare to go abroad. From packing to securing tickets to getting affairs in order, there is quite a bit to do! The following information should help with some of the questions especially pertinent for parents and guardians. There is also our Parent Handbook (PDF format), as well as a more comprehensive compendium of pre-departure information, available in the Accepted Students portion of the website.

Trinity College, Dublin

Early Arrivals and Late Stays

Most study abroad sites are unable to accommodate early arrivals for both logistical and legal reasons. Dorms and other residence facilities will be available only on the dates specified by the program provider, and students are advised that they are responsible for securing temporary housing elsewhere if they choose to arrive early or stay beyond the official end of a program. Local staff and program providers will likely be able to recommend local hotels or hostels in such cases. GEO is not in a position to broker such arrangements, although advisors can put students and/or parents in touch with local staff.

Immigration issues should also be considered when planning early arrivals or late stays. Certain countries will not admit travelers prior to dates stipulated in formal letters of invitation or visas. Students who plan to travel after the termination of their program should check to see whether their visas will be valid beyond the program’s end date.

Keeping in Touch

Computers and Internet

On all programs students have some access to the internet.

Internet cafes are also very common in the major cities. Generally, a pass can be purchased for a certain quantity of hours that makes using the computer and internet relatively inexpensive.

Bringing a laptop

While a laptop is by no means required to study abroad, many students find that bringing their own laptop is a great convenience. It is not advisable to purchase a brand new laptop directly before studying abroad, but bringing a slightly older model is a great idea. Invest in a lock to keep it secure.

Cell Phones

Most students will want to purchase a cell phone when they arrive in their host country to use for communication while abroad (cell phones are provided on IFSA-Butler programs). Unlike in the United States, the person who receives the call is not generally charged for the call.

It is possible in many cases to purchase an international SIM card so your American cell phone will work abroad. Contact your cell phone carrier for more information. This is likely to be very expensive.

Dialing international numbers

Placing an international phone call involves a few more digits than an average call. When calling from the U.S. you must first dial the code to get out of the U.S. (011), then you must dial the country code, and finally the local number. Local numbers often begin with a zero. You usually must drop this first zero when dialing from another country (the zero is used when dialing from within the same country).

Ways to save money

See if your telephone company offers an international calling plan for an additional fee which reduces the per-minute charge on international calls.

The cheapest rate possible is usually when a land line is dialing another land line. Your child may or may not have access to a landline in their housing, but it is often possible to call foreign phone booths. The next cheapest option is for a land line to call a foreign cell phone number. Next is for a U.S. cell phone to call a foreign land line and finally, the most expensive option is for a cell phone to dial another cell phone.

Both in the US and abroad, international calling cards are available that offer low rates.

VoIP and Skype

In recent years VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) has taken off as a great, cheap way to keep in touch. There are a number of companies which provide this service, the best-known of which is Skype. When two computers have the free Skype software downloaded, it is possible to call the other computer at a very low rate and talk via the internet. It is even now possible to buy phones that can communicate with WiFi using the same service. It is a good idea for students to purchase a headset compatible with their computer for ease of use prior to going abroad.


You are welcome to send mail to your student. In most cases, you should use the program center address rather the address of your student's actual housing. Contact information is provided to all students at their program-specific pre-departure orientation.

We advise that students not plan to receive items or large packages in the mail. These shipments are often held up in customs, resulting in the student needing to find the customs office and pay taxes on the enclosed items.

If you do decide to send items, when you declare the package's contents, it is better to send "used" items which are not apparently new (still in packaging) in order to lessen the amount of taxes paid upon receipt.


Visiting your student

Your child being overseas is an excellent reason to take a trip yourself! If you plan to visit your student, make sure your trip does not conflict with their courses or any mandatory excursions. Most programs have strict attendance policies which will not excuse students for family visits.

Study abroad tuition, fees, and billing

Students participating in approved Vanderbilt University Study Abroad programs pay the same tuition as if they were on campus, a study abroad administrative fee and, in some cases, a program fee. The study abroad administrative fee is charged to all students and covers administrative costs associated with study abroad.

All fees are billed through Vanderbilt Student Accounts to the same address and at the same time as if the student were studying in Nashville.

Financial aid (including HOPE scholarships) applies to Vanderbilt Global Education Office Programs during the academic school year. Consult with your financial aid officer to ensure transition of funds.

Payment plans may need to be adjusted, so check with Tuition Management Systems before billing occurs.