Most parents go through the same worries (well, my own mother definitely did!), so we've compiled a simple list of things that you can do to help your child plan their year abroad so that hopefully you will have only the smallest of hiccups to contend with!
The best way for you to help your child with this is to try and take a back seat. They will be bombarded with planning forms and deadlines at university so don't think that they are about to forget to plan their year abroad! However, the choice available to them can be fairly overwhelming, so if you do want to help it is always good to keep an eye on the 'Travel' sections in newspapers or magazines which sometimes have reviews from people who have already done similar placements. Of course, you should also keep an eye out for up to date information on this website!
Always make sure that you have photocopies of your child's documents, just in case they get stolen (passport, tickets, visas, travel insurance documents, details of any organisations/universities they are working with, accommodation details). You may also like to note down any emergency contact numbers of the embassies in the country they are visiting.
Make sure that your child is culturally aware of the country that they are visiting. Most incidents arise through a lack of understanding and are easily avoidable. Good guidebooks are always useful, and check the Foreign Office website regularly for up to date country specific information.
Staying in touch
Don't panic if you don't hear from your child every day; communication methods are often not as widespread as in the UK. Useful tools include Skype, the online messaging and calling service, and Telesavers (telephone service for cheap calls abroad). Niftylist is also worth taking a note of, offering the cheapest deals for international calls from landlines and mobiles.
Your child can find out about any vaccinations or medicines that they might need to take through their GP. Taking multi-vitamin tablets is also an excellent way to avoid any stomach upsets that may arise from new foods on their travels. Check out our shop for suggestions of travel kits and much more!
The best way to make sure that your child is getting on OK is to visit (plus you get a great holiday and an experienced guide to take you to all the best spots!). Obviously, this might not always be possible, but it is generally an excellent way to get peace of mind about their living situation. My parents had watched some documentaries about Russia before I left, and were convinced that I was going to be harassed by the police on a daily basis, forced to pay outlandish bribes at every corner, and eventually kidnapped by the Mafia (they have very vivid imaginations!). When they came out to visit me, they saw for themselves that I was perfectly safe and entirely capable of getting myself around without falling prey to any rogue Mafioso, and could go home happy about my safety.
See our Parent section for more information about the year abroad, hear from our very own Proud Parents, have a look at our Country Profiles, read up on FAQs or ask a question yourself in the ThirdYearAbroad forum!