Information for Parents

Studying abroad provides students the opportunity for academic and personal growth, to challenge themselves and to experience the world from a new perspective. But a study abroad experience is not only a period of learning and growth for the students, it is so as well for the parents.

We encourage parents and families to support their child’s international experience. SiPN wants to ease any concerns and expectations for the more knowledge parents have, the more likely they will feel comfortable, and can support the students on this life-changing experience. Therefore, we have listed below a comprehensive guide to study abroad devoted to answering possible questions and providing key information regarding SiPN’s program. At any time feel free to reach out to us with any questions or suggestions you might have to assure your student’s success.

Importance of studying abroad

The benefits of studying abroad are numerous. Here’s a list of why studying abroad is an added plus to student’s lives:

  • Academic Benefits – Spending a semester or year in another country gives students a unique chance to expand academic horizons and develop the capacity to adapt to different educational settings. Plus, it greatly improves proficiency or the learning of a second language as experiencing daily life in another country means learning how its language is spoken “in real life”.
  • Professional Advantages – In today’s world, employers and graduate schools increasingly value an international experience. Studies show that students who study abroad are more employable, have higher starting salaries, and have more of the skills employers seek. In fact, many employers across various sectors are looking specifically for international experience when evaluating applicants.
  • Personal Growth – Studying abroad engages students in a life-changing experience that forever alters the way they view the world around them. umping out of your comfort zone and adapting to a new country and learning its customs and culture is a valuable experience that often makes the student more independent, mature and self-confident. In addition, studying abroad is the opportunity to meet a wide variety of people and build global friendships and connections, which is one of the most enriching parts of the experience.

Common Concerns & Solutions

Despite all that has been mentioned before, the thought of one’s child living in another country can rattle the nerves of even the most easygoing parents. However, it’s important not to jump ahead and go through some of the most common valid concerns regarding studying abroad.

 

Security and personal safety

According to the 2019 Global Peace Index, Portugal is recognized as the third most peaceful and secure country in the world.  Nevertheless, it’s important that parents talk with students prior to departure and alert for certain precautions to have in mind:  research the host country before hand so everyone can feel more comfortable about what can be found here; always be attentive to valuables and money as pickpocketing can happen anywhere; look out for scams, etc. In the end, common sense and good judgment are the best tips for staying safe anywhere in the world.

Student safety is SiPN’s priority and the program takes every precaution to ensure it. Upon arrival, students are given an orientation on safety issues in Portugal and are also taken on a tour around the living and university neighborhoods in order to help them become familiar with the new surroundings as quickly and conveniently as possible.  In case of a security and safety emergency, SiPN staff is within reach 24/7 to guarantee the necessary support in those cases. In case of an extreme situation, the local U.S. embassy will advise all citizens to leave the country and it may be able to offer some assistance in doing so.

SiPN students are covered with medical, accident and travel insurance.

 

Health & Emergencies

SiPN staff is well-trained and has established safety procedures for crisis management in order to ensure the best care in every situation.  Again, emergency staff support is available 24/7 to guarantee the necessary support for the students in case of a medical situation, which is also safeguarded in a comprehensive medical, accident and liability insurance all SiPN students have.

It is important to have in mind that medical practices vary widely throughout the world.  Students and parents should be informed of the basic healthcare system of Portugal, the 12th best performed health system in the world according to the World Health Report. In Portugal, official services for providing healthcare are organized as the National Health Service, a network of public hospitals and local health centers. In addition, there are available private health institutions where is common to find agreements with major international insurance companies and a medical service that has English as the language of communication.

Nevertheless, students and families should consider some practical things, such as bringing enough prescript medication for the entire time abroad, along with a copy of the prescription, or knowing how to cope with injury and sickness while abroad.

 

Communication

Language – Worries that students might have trouble adjusting to a foreign language environment are normal, but in Portugal, the English proficiency level has come a long way in the last decades and most people can easily speak or manage English to some extent. Portugal ranks 13th in the EF English Proficiency Index Worldwide, which is rather good. The exception might be found when leaving the urban centers or when engaging with older generations that usually have lower proficiency.

Connection – Going to live abroad with an international data plan can be quite expensive. To avoid this situation, SiPN offers SIM cards with affordable plans to fit for a study abroad period. Students will only need to swap the SIM cards into their own phones (in unlocked) to make local calls and have access to the internet while abroad. Because there are no roaming fees in the European Union, this plan works in every member country, meaning students can use their data when traveling in Europe without any extra costs. Additionally, Wi-Fi is offered in almost every spot of the city (cafes, schools, museums, hospitals, even in some public buses, etc.).  Communication at long-distance should no be a problem.

Please note that recently, given the new international data packages offered by all major US carriers, we have seen more and more students traveling with a solid international data plan on their phones, which allow them to maintain their US-based number and do all their communications online. This option has proven to be very capable and less costly.

Other resources and links

  • The S. Department of Education provides information about types of federal financial aid that can be applied to study abroad programs.
  • The S. Bureau of Consular Affairs offers detailed pre-travel information on any country, including Portugal, which lists country-specific health information, safety tips,  local laws, travel and visa advice, what to do in case of an emergency and any current travel warnings for your citizens abroad.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares health and safety information for travelers to Portugal.

If you need any further information about SiPN, feel free to contact us. SiPN is available to help, answer questions and provide support to students and their families at every step of the journey. SiPN’s team is happy to provide program-specific information and resources upon request.