For Parents & Guardians
What is Off-Campus Study?
Off-Campus study is an opportunity for students to have valuable academic experiences away from Swarthmore, either abroad or by participating in a domestic program. There is a range of available programs to fit every student’s interests. Off-campus study is required only by a few academic departments, though it is highly recommended by most. Approximately 40% of all Swarthmore students participate in an OCS program.
Swarthmore education is different for each student. For many students, international study plays a key role in their education, however, for each student it can offer something slightly different and take a different form. For this reason, at the Off-Campus Study Office we work with a high degree of flexibility and support a wide range of off-campus study programs. We also work closely with students at every phase of the process. Prior to departure, we hold mandatory information sessions and require several one-on-one meetings with students, preparing them first for selecting and applying to a program and then for living abroad.
We offer online resources for students during their time abroad and are available via email, phone and zoom to offer any additional support if needed. Upon the students' return, we meet with students individually to debrief, gather feedback, welcome students back and give students the opportunity to share stories.
As your student's parent of guardian, you may have some practical questions about their plans to study abroad:
On their study abroad semester, your student will be charged for regular Swarthmore tuition, room and board, and any awarded financial aid applies normally.
It can be very helpful to talk to your student about the budgets they receive from OCS (available to them in their OCS portal), any additional costs, how these expenses will be met, and how much pocket money the students will have to spend on discretionary expenses. Some common expenses include vaccinations and other medicine, small gifts for host families and new friends, toiletries (we advice students to bring enough from home to get them started but plan to buy more after arrival), local cell phone, adapters and other technology, and souvenirs.
Click here for detailed information about the cost of study abroad, as well as tips for managing money abroad.
- Room and Board
Depending on the program, students have a variety of options for housing. These options may include homestays, dorms and/or apartments, as well as individually arranged housing. In a homestay, students live with a local host family. It provides them with the opportunity to more fully immerse themselves in the culture and language of their host country. It is often a very positive experience where students create lifelong relationships.
Individual programs have different policies for student meals. Homestays often include most meals, if not all, and dorms may include a meal plan. If there is no established meal plan run by the student’s program, OCS includes a food stipends in the student's study abroad budget. These stipends are based on the cost of living for students in that particular country.
Students are required to take a course load that corresponds to at least 4 credits per semester at Swarthmore. Before going abroad, each student must obtain pre-estimation of credit from the appropriate academic department. Final approval of credit occurs when the student returns to Swarthmore, at which point they submit syllabi and assignments to the relevant departments in order to get final credit approval.
Click here for detailed information on OCS credits.
- Culture Shock
You may wonder what your student's transition into a new culture may be like. Will they have a hard time adjusting? Will they be able to freely practice their religion? These and many other questions may be on your mind. We invite you to read the Diversity & Identity section of our website, which includes practical information, as well as many external resources to explore.
We suggest that you encourage your student to learn as much as possible about where they are going and to engage them in conversation. Everyone adjusts differently to immersion in a new environment and culture (and some adjustment periods are longer than others), but it is not uncommon for students to experience some discomfort as well as ups and downs in their moods, especially in the first few weeks. If your student seems to be having a difficult time during this initial adjustment period, it is important to remember – and to remind your student – to be patient. If it seems that your student is having a very hard time for an extended period of time, however, particularly if it is getting in the way of their studies and/or involvement in the surrounding community, you should encourage them to talk to a program director or counselor. You can read our advice to students about cultural adjustment here.
Keep in mind that after study abroad, transitioning back to life at home can also be challenging, sometimes unexpectedly so.
Click here for our advice to students about readjustment to Swarthmore and life in the U.S.
Health and Safety
Some students will need immunizations before they travel abroad, depending on their study abroad location. All students attend an information session with the Worth Student Health and Wellness Center. The Off-Campus Study Office does not cover vaccines, and you should review whether your health insurance plan will cover the cost of any of these immunizations. Students should be aware of vaccines that must be administered over a period of weeks and make sure to make these appointments in time for the student’s departure date. If a vaccine is not available at The Worth Student Health and Wellness Center, the student will be directed to a facility that does offer that immunization. Information about vaccines for travel to specific countries is available on the CDC’s website.
Swarthmore has an insurance plan through CISI (Cultural Insurance International) that covers students on semester/year abroad program that includes medical coverage, as well as emergency assistance. All students are covered by this policy, unless the policy provided by their study abroad program offers equal or better coverage.
The type of medical assistance available varies a lot on the host country and the different study abroad programs. If your student anticipates needing care while abroad, this can be set up in advance - and in fact, it is recommended to do so. Once the student's CISI account has been activated, they can work with CISI to identify local providers.
Programs may also offer medical services in addition to what the host country offers. For example, many programs have English-speaking mental health professionals either on their staff, or in their network.Your student will be informed well in advance of all the services available, and all programs offer on-site orientations that cover medical assistance and whom to call in an emergency and how to access any services if needed.
medical conditions abroad
If your student has a medical condition, they can participate in study abroad. However, students should always contact their program in order to ensure they will have access to the kinds of medications and/or medical care that they will need while they are abroad. Hosting programs and universities will do all they can to provide for medical needs, but there is always a possibility they may not be able to provide what is required. Students with medical conditions should bring with them copies of pertinent medical records, and all prescription medications should be in the original containers with a copy of the prescription. Note that some medications that are legal in the US may be illegal in other countries - your student can contact CISI to find out if the prescription medication they take is available (in case of loss or theft) and legal in their host country.
In case of an emergency at home or abroad, the first number to call at Swarthmore is Public Safety (610-328-8333). They will then contact the appropriate staff at the College. You may be able to contact your student directly depending on their circumstances abroad (i.e. internet, phone service), however, you can also get in touch with your student through their study abroad program. Before your student leaves, you should compile a list of phone numbers and email addresses for important contacts at their program.
We strongly recommend that at least one parent or guardian have a valid passport so that in the case of an emergency you would be prepared to travel to the abroad site.
Safety concerns vary depending on the student’s location. The Off-Campus Study Office covers general safety issues with all students in its mandatory pre-departure gathering. We are also always available to offer additional safety advice and to brief students on what to expect and be aware of while abroad. Students should read all the materials provided to them by the Off-Campus Study Office about the safety conditions of their host country. In addition, individual study abroad programs will generally include further safety information specific to the particular program, which students should also read carefully.
In study abroad as in other settings, parents, guardians and families can play an important role in the health and safety of their student by helping them make decisions and by influencing their behavior overseas. When appropriate, parents and guardians should:
- Obtain and carefully evaluate health and safety information related to the program, as provided by the sponsor and other sources.
- Be involved in the decision of their student to enroll in a particular program.
- Engage the student in a thorough discussion of safety and behavior issues, insurance needs, and emergency procedures related to living abroad.
- Be responsive to requests from program providers for information needed regarding their student.
- Keep in touch with their student.
- Be aware that some information may most appropriately be provided by the student rather than the program.
- Obtain/update their own passport(s) so that they can travel quickly in the case of an emergency.