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Parent and Guardian Resource Page
…not your ordinary study abroad.
As our daughter continues to share with us the details of her recent study abroad experience [with SIT], our appreciation of how significant, valuable, and rewarding this opportunity was for her keeps growing beyond our original expectations.
Luis E. Navarro-Serment
Your student is about to embark on a life-defining adventure. But what about you? You may go through a journey, too, as you both prepare for this transformational experience. This page is for you – if you have questions, we have answers, and plenty of useful resources.
Welcome to the SIT family.
- The Student Handbook with policies and procedures.
- For information about a specific program, visit the Pre-departure Program Listing page and select your program.
- Please visit our program-specific pages to learn more about the semester or summer programs your child is considering for their study abroad experience.
- For information about health and safety, please visit the Student Health, Safety, and Support page.
SIT boasts a rich, 50-year history of providing experiential education to undergraduate students in more than 30 countries around the world. Two hundred and fifty-plus colleges and universities have approved SIT programs. Our programs in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East examine critical global issues such as climate change, sustainable development, human rights, and migration. As the global economy, international politics, and the environment pose new challenges, study abroad with SIT helps your student understand and address these issues while gaining a host of personal and academic benefits.
Our programs draw students who are intellectually curious and motivated to tackle big challenges. They embrace experiential learning and want to be immersed in the culture, language, and program themes outside of the classroom through:
- carefully selected homestays that enhance each student’s sense of inclusion and build language skills quickly;
- excursions led by world-class professors and other experts to places and people far off the beaten path; and
- Internships and Independent Study Projects that build on these life-changing experiences.
As a result of their SIT experiences, many students pursue graduate degrees related to their study abroad theme or careers that incorporate the knowledge and skills they acquired through SIT. Some of them continue the adventure through SIT Graduate Institute in Vermont.
- Can I visit my student while they are on the program?
Visits from family and friends during the program are not possible. Instead, we recommend that families schedule a visit after the formal close of the program. SIT semesters are very full and intentionally immersive with homestays, a heavy travel schedule, and independent research and internship opportunities. Unless your student is on an IHP program, there are no breaks or vacations, and we want all students to be fully engaged in their experience. If your student is on an IHP program, there is a one-week vacation when you could plan a visit.
- Can my student travel to other countries during the program?
We encourage students to travel before or after, but not during their SIT Study Abroad program. Some programs have built in international excursions. Otherwise, travel is restricted during the semester.
- Can I send mail to my student? Will it get there?
You will find mailing instructions and addresses in the Pre-departure Materials. To find them, visit the Pre-departure Program Listing page and find your student’s program. Some mail systems are not reliable, and it could take longer than expected for mail to arrive. Additionally, we ask families to note that some items such as medications and phones can be restricted and may not pass through customs.
- How do you know the homestay family is safe? Do you do background checks?
We go to great lengths to ensure each student is with a safe and caring family, and for most students the homestay is one of the most memorable experiences of their semester. We work with many families who have hosted SIT students for years. Families are selected, screened and trained by our homestay coordinators, and receive several visits from the homestay coordinator and/or program director.
SIT Study Abroad intentionally selects families from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds to provide valuable gateways into the community. Our host families care for our students as if they were family members. This role differs culturally throughout our portfolio of programs, and no two homestay experiences are exactly alike. Our homestay coordinators are in regular contact with families and are prepared to address any issues that may arise. If an irreconcilable issue arises, we move the student to a new host family – although this very rarely happens.
- Do students live alone with the homestay family? Do the families speak English?
Students are placed individually in each family so they have a more culturally immersive experience. This also allows each student to develop greater independence, bond more with the family, and develop their language skills. In IHP programs, two to four students are placed in each homestay because of different expectations around cultural immersion. Households often do not include an English speaker.
- How do students get from their homestay to their classes each day?
Students commute from their homestay in the same manner the local community does. This means they may walk (usually 10-20 minutes), or for longer distances, ride a bus or train. The daily commute offers students an excellent opportunity to engage with the people, customs, and language where they are living. It is also a way for students to further develop independence and self-confidence.
- How safe is the area where the program is located? What does SIT do to ensure the safety of the students?
Student safety is SIT’s top priority, and we constantly re-evaluate the safety of all of our program locations. SIT staff are trained in risk assessment and crisis management, and prepared to respond to emergency situations. We maintain an up-to-date analysis of security conditions at all our sites by monitoring information from the US State Department, in-country embassies, our partnership with International SOS, and our local networks. Most of our local staff are from the places where we run programs, and have a deep understanding of any safety or security risks our students might be exposed to. You can read about the various measures we take on our Student Health, Safety, and Support page.
- Does SIT register the students with the US Embassy?
Yes, SIT registers all students in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) through the U.S. State Department.
- Which vaccinations does my student need? Do they need visas? What should they pack?
You and your student can find the answers to most of your preparation questions by visiting the Pre-departure Program Listing page, then locating your program. You will find up-to-date, program-specific information about visas, passports, health guidelines, safety, readings, assignments, and the Student Handbook.
- What happens if there is a political crisis or natural disaster?
Every program has an emergency action plan as well as academic contingency plans in place. Students are instructed specifically around who to contact (and how) in an emergency. We also have an emergency response team that reviews all situations that arise. In some cases, the group may move to a new location and continue with the curriculum as planned. In other cases, such as a major earthquake like the one in Nepal in 2015, SIT will use its partnership with International SOS to evacuate the students back to the US at no cost to the students. If any major crisis or natural disaster occurs in the country where your student is studying, SIT will verify the condition of the group and communicate directly with families if there is any threat to the health and safety of students.
- What happens if my student needs to see a doctor or go to the hospital?
SIT has identified medical clinics, hospitals, and doctors in every location on the program itinerary. If your student becomes ill or suffers an injury, a member of the local SIT staff or the homestay will accompany them to the clinic or hospital. SIT does not reach out to family at home each time a student visits the clinic or hospital. Instead, we encourage students to communicate their health status to family directly. However, in the case of a serious emergency, the SIT Student Affairs team will reach out to the emergency contact listed by the student.
- What insurance coverage does my student have, and what does it cover?
SIT Study Abroad partners with International SOS to provide medical and security services. Your student’s coverage includes all acute medical and mental health services, emergency repatriation and group evacuation services in the case of political or natural disaster. Please note that routine care and dental coverage are not included. The services of International SOS are meant to complement the risk management and health recommendations of the SIT Study Abroad Student Affairs team as well as the support of our local, field-based staff.
- What is an appropriate amount of communication with my student during the program?
We encourage families to establish a modest communication plan with their student prior to departure. In the digital age, the pressure of connecting with family and friends at home can distract from engaging locally with the cohort, staff, homestay family, and larger community. Students also experience periods within the itinerary in which they do not have cellular service or wi-fi access. We ask families to be conscientious about the frequency of communication and the expectations that they set for their student.
- What if we have an emergency and need to reach our student during the program?
SIT’s safety policies require your student to have a smartphone with a local number, and you can call them directly if necessary. The SIT Student Affairs team facilitates all communication in the case of an emergency. You are welcome to call our 24/7 on-call number at (802) 258-3212 to be connected with the Student Affairs team.
- If I am unable to reach my student, how do I know they are safe?
If you are ever concerned about the well-being of your student you can call Student Affairs at (802) 258-3212. The staff would know if anything of concern has occurred, and would be able to find out how the group is doing. SIT will always communicate with families if there is an emergency.
- My student has a family wedding to attend back in the US during the program. Can they leave the program to attend?
If something of this nature applies to you, your student should talk with their Admissions Counselor as early as possible in the application process. Authorization for an absence from the program would have to be granted prior to departure, and the request may be denied should there be a conflict with important programing or group travel within the itinerary. Should a family emergency arise while your student is on an SIT program, we ask students to communicate directly with their academic or program director. We then evaluate these requests on a case-by-case basis.
- If there is an Independent Study Project or Internship at the end of the semester, where will my student be, and how do you know it is safe?
Students stay in the program center region or return to locations they have visited on excursion. Occasionally, outside locations may be approved if vetted for safety and security and formally approved by the Academic Director. Students are required to check in with staff weekly, and sometimes twice weekly, during the ISP/Internship period. They are also required to keep phones charged and on their person at all times so that staff may reach them at any time. Students stay with an approved homestay family or in a recommended hostel or hotel during this phase. This varies from program to program.
- What school will my student be enrolling with?
The School for International Training is an accredited institution with approximately 80 undergraduate semester programs around the world and a graduate campus in Vermont. Students enroll in SIT Study Abroad and take courses with SIT Study Abroad faculty in SIT facilities. Likewise, students enrolled with SIT are bound by SIT policies.
If you would like to connect with a parent of a student who participated in an SIT program, please write to: email@example.com.
Our child was deeply influenced by her SIT immersion program in Madagascar. Shenna was recently accepted into an osteopathic medical school, a trajectory almost completely driven by her SIT experience. The holistic approach to patient care she witnessed there and her desire to reach out and learn from diversity helped her to focus and persevere toward a medical career. Funding the program was a bit of a stretch for us, yet the money we allocated was well worth the effort. As a college public health sophomore, the timeliness of it was remarkable and the worldliness of the adventure instilled a confidence that has remained with Shenna. As parents, we were also enriched.
Your student’s experience with SIT may mark the beginning of a new chapter in their life. It’s likely the transition back home will offer new opportunities and challenges. Some students become deeply engaged through the immersive nature of SIT programs and experience a sort of “reverse culture shock” when they return home. After her daughter studied abroad, one of our Academic Directors wrote a Readjustment Manual for Parents where you can learn about what your student might experience during this transition. Please take some time to read this manual as you prepare to welcome your student home.
There are many ways for your student to incorporate their experiences after the program ends, including thesis or other academic writing based on research done with SIT; building on internship experience with new employment or internship opportunities; adding SIT experience to applications for graduate school; and discussing the program and its themes in their home communities and schools.
Your student will become part of SIT’s worldwide network of over 125,000 alumni, in addition to other individuals and organizations committed to responsible global citizenship. You and your student can stay connected through SIT social networks, program newsletters, events, and the online alumni community.
Alumni Resources – Find valuable information about future opportunities, such as the following:
- Travel with new study abroad students as an Experiment group leader or SIT/IHP Trustees' Fellow.
- Apply for alumni fellowships and put your SIT Study Abroad experience and skills to work:
- The Alice Rowan Swanson Fellowship supports SIT Study Abroad alumni seeking to return to the country they studied in to implement a development project benefiting human rights.
- The Advancing Leadership Fellowship includes three months of leadership development and social innovation training and an award to implement a six-month social innovation project.
- Use alumni career services to find job opportunities and learn about resume writing, interviewing, and networking.
- As your child enters the workforce, they can look at employment opportunities available at SIT and World Learning, Inc.
SIT and World Learning often hold events around the country that are open to all alumni and parents. Please make sure we know where you are and update your contact information so we can invite you to events in your area.
Love what we do? Want to help make a life-changing SIT semester accessible to anyone?
As an SIT [Graduate Institute] alumna, I helped [my daughter] pick an [Experiment in International Living] summer program in France a few years ago and now am thrilled that she chose to study abroad with SIT, as I have great confidence in your approach, rigor, and comprehensive care.
Gay Rosenblum-Kumar, 2017
Gay attributes her success in a 25-year career with the United Nations to her training in the Peace and Conflict program at SIT Graduate Institute in 1985.
SIT Study Abroad alumni have pursued master’s degrees with students from around the world at the SIT Graduate Institute in Vermont and Washington, DC. The Institute offers degrees and certificates in:
- Climate Change and Global Sustainability
- Global Leadership and Social Innovation
- Global Youth Development and Leadership
- Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management
- International Education
- Peace and Justice Leadership
- Sustainable Development
- Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)