Frequently Asked Questions - While Abroad
While we respond to emails and calls from parents/guardians, we do not initiate contact unless there is a critical health or safety incident abroad. OIE staff are accessible to assist after-hours in life-threatening emergencies - Campus Police will contact OIE staff as required. Additionally, staff in the international offices at our partner universities abroad are also available to assist students when they have a problem or question. Although FERPA does not pertain to universities abroad, it is highly unusual and often not culturally acceptable for parents/guardians to call and intervene on a student’s behalf as the student is considered to be a legal adult.
Another way in which Richmond students are immersed in the cultures of the countries where they study is that in most cases students reside in the same kinds of housing as local students. It is not uncommon for males and females to reside in the same residence hall or apartment (flat). Also, students may be placed with older, more mature students who are studying at the undergraduate, master's degree, or Ph.D. level.
Accommodations abroad will be different from the experience of living in a Richmond residence hall. For many students, the new experience of living more independently will be a time of growth and greater responsibility, which can be both rewarding and challenging.
Information about housing options available for each Richmond semester or year abroad program is provided on the program brochure page for that program.
Residences abroad will be different than at Richmond, particularly with regard to convenience or amenities. Housing abroad, is often in older buildings, and living spaces may be smaller and more sparsely furnished than student rooms at UR. Many student residence halls abroad include kitchen facilities and students are expected to cook their own meals. A meal plan is almost never available, although pay-as-you-go cafeterias are often available at student-friendly prices.
Although there are some exceptions, universities abroad rarely have a campus environment like one is accustomed to in the U.S., so students should not expect to live "on campus." Residence halls, apartment buildings, and home stays will be located throughout the host city and a commute (walking or public transportation) will likely be required to reach the academic buildings or the residences of other students. Residence halls and apartment buildings may not have card or key security at the front door, and there may not be 24-hour security provided at a front desk, even for residences located in urban areas. Repairs (except for emergencies) may take longer than what students are used to on Richmond's campus. Student housing, regardless of whether it is a residence hall, apartment, or home stay, may not be directly adjacent to public transportation, so students may need to walk 10 minutes or more to reach their residence after getting off the metro/bus/tram.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers may not be standard amenities; students who wish to purchase these items abroad can be reimbursed for the cost by the Office of International Education.
Students should be aware of all of these differences when choosing a study abroad program and when selecting their accommodations. Advising and information is available to help students choose the most suitable residence. If a student has a particular concern about housing on a particular program abroad, they should bring it to the attention of their Richmond study abroad advisor immediately.
Most Richmond semester and year abroad programs do not offer group flights; however, it is not uncommon for students going on the same program to coordinate their travel plans so that they can fly together.
In some cases, students will not be met at the airport and will need to take a taxi or public transportation to the place where they will be living. Some universities abroad do arrange for airport pick-up during specific dates and times; however, this is not always the case.
If the U.S. Department of State advises U.S. citizens to leave the host country, we will cancel the relevant program and recall students to the U.S. In such an instance, we will immediately notify students and parents, relying on the contact information provided by your student on the Emergency Contact Form. To date, Richmond has not had to recall students from abroad.
If the student voluntarily withdraws from the study abroad program, there is a penalty. Please see the withdrawal policy for details.
If the student purchases a tuition insurance plan prior to study abroad and withdraws from the study abroad program early due to an illness or injury, the student may be eligible for a full or partial tuition refund. The health costs may be covered through the ACE Travel Assistance (AXA) insurance policy if the student notifies the insurance company, files a claim and has an injury/illness that is not listed in the exclusions section of the policy.
Most parents and students communicate in two primary ways: Skype and telephone. Skype enables free communication between computers as long as both users have an active Skype account and Skype also can be used to call mobile and land lines abroad. Students also use WhatsApp and Google Talk and other web-based programs to communicate.
Using telephones abroad can be very expensive, especially if one takes a Blackberry, iPhone, or other U.S. mobile device abroad. The majority of Richmond students purchase a mobile phone while abroad because texting and incoming calls are less expensive in many other countries. However, some students and parents may prefer to rent an overseas mobile phone from the host university or program abroad (not available in all locations), or purchase a mobile phone prior to departure.
Students will have access to Internet at the university or program abroad. In some cases, but not all, Internet access may be available in the housing abroad. There may be an additional fee for this service or the student may have to set up wireless services at his or her expense.
In addition to email, your student may wish to start a blog to keep family and friends informed about their transformative experiences from abroad.
More information about communication can be found on the SAFETI website.
Unless it is an emergency, we generally advise against shipping items abroad. It is expensive and import taxes on packages sent from the U.S. to the student overseas can be VERY high. (For example, one mother sent packages to Europe with shipping fees of $50; the import tax, which the student had to pay, was $112). Your student should talk to someone in the host country to learn how import tax rates are calculated.
More information on this topic is located in the “Keeping in Touch” section of the Study Abroad Handbook.