Sending your child to study abroad goes beyond simply finding the right school. Here are 5 things parents should consider.
Sending your children for overseas study can be a nerve-wracking experience. As a parent, you will need to consider many things, such as your children’s safety, financial accessibility and their general well-being, no matter how old they are.
For a start, here are a few simple steps you can take, to ensure your children will be safe and comfortable when studying abroad.
1. Have a Set Plan for Communications, Especially for Emergencies
Establish a set pattern for communications, so you’ll know if something is out of the norm. For example, you could agree that your children will call over Skype or Facetime every Tuesday and Thursday. If they miss the session, you’ll know something is amiss.
Have an established procedure for emergencies. For example, you should familiarise your children with ways to contact your country’s embassy. You should also introduce them to responsible go-betweens and contacts, who can act on your behalf (e.g. a colleague stationed there, who can help you transfer money to them or provide them with temporary accommodations in an emergency).
Your children should always know:
- The first people they can turn to, in the same city as them
- The contact number and location of your local embassy
- The contact details of their insurer (which may be your financial adviser)
- The process by which they will receive funds from you, during an emergency
Establish a verification system, for monetary requests via email or text messages. It’s a good defence against scammers – if someone hacks into your child’s Facebook account, for instance, they might message you and ask for money.
A simple way around this is to tell your child to always call you in person, to verify requests for money – don’t send any cash until that happens.
2. Set Up a Global Bank Account, to Facilitate Easy Transfers
Transferring funds from your local bank account, to an overseas bank account may be a little easier these days, but it’s still an expensive and tiresome process.
For example, you’ll have to convert to the required currency every time you send money to your children. This can translate to significant Forex losses over time. In some cases, both you and your children may be inconvenienced – some banks require multiple signatures from both parties, which means standing in line at bank branches.
With a global account, such as Citibank International Personal Bank (IPB) Singapore, you can easily transfer money online, without any hassle – it just takes a few taps of your smartphone.
You can hold up to 10 different currencies in your IPB account to prevent Forex losses, allowing you to convert only when rates are favourable. You can also enjoy free funds transfer between Citibank accounts globally. And perhaps best of all, you can manage your funds 24/7 with a single online login.
There’s also 24/7 support from the CitiPhone Banking Hotline, in case there are complications getting the money to your children.
3. Set Aside an Emergency Fund
Set aside an emergency fund, for your children studying abroad. At minimum, this fund should include:
- Cost of flight tickets to and from home
- Cost of school fees for a single term (in some cases, such as long disruptions due to illness, you may have to pay for your child to redo a module or subject)
- Cost of accommodations for at least one month (also handy if for some reason, your child needs to live off-campus and rent elsewhere)
- Provisions for loss of key items such as laptops and smartphones
This will ensure you will be well-prepared, in the event of an emergency.
4. Ensure Your Children’s Insurance Applies Abroad
Ensure your children have an appropriate insurance plan. It is important that their insurance coverage spans overseas. There’s no point in them having an insurance plan that doesn’t apply abroad.
Likewise, remember that payouts for hospitalisation may not be possible, if they’re treated overseas. Never assume they can be brought home for treatment, as some critical illnesses or injuries may make it impossible to move them. There may also be no provision for medically evacuating them out of the country.
Your children should also be briefed in what their insurance plans cover, and who to contact to make a claim. Check with your insurance agent to make sure.
5. Choose Appropriate Accommodation for Your Children
Another consideration is where your children should stay while abroad. Generally speaking, there are two main choices here, each with their own pros and cons.
If you choose to put your children up in the dormitory on campus, they would be experiencing a more structured lifestyle. Things like mealtimes and lights-off time will be regimented, which will impart a sense of order that some children might find comforting.
Staying on campus also means increased opportunities to interact with their peers, which could benefit your children with a more nuanced and pluralistic worldview.
That being said, staying in a rented house or apartment that is near campus hones different skills, such as independence and discipline. By staying alone, your children will have to manage their own household chores, and learn to budget their living expenses.
Just be aware of the traffic situation if you choose to house your children off campus. Less-than-ideal transport options can make your children’s daily commute an unnecessary source of stress.
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By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.