Carnegie Mellon University

Resources for Parents & Families

Although students are typically the primary decision-makers when it comes to study abroad, parents and families are an important part of a network of support for Carnegie Mellon students who study abroad. 

We hope to meet you during one of several study abroad information sessions throughout the academic year, perhaps at a Turn Tartan Overnight event or during Family Weekend. Each fall, we host a Study Abroad Fair. Program providers who attend the fair are an excellent resource for students and families, as is this website.

The primary concerns of many parents are (1) the cost of study abroad and (2) safety. You will be glad to know that study abroad advisors address the financial logistics of study abroad during each student appointment, and that pre-departure orientation sessions providing fundamental health and safety guidance are required for all students prior to going abroad. Additionally, each student completes an emergency contact form to ensure ease of contact, if necessary. The study abroad staff is available to address these and other relevant questions. 

Most Carnegie Mellon students who study abroad do so for credit within their major or minor and report significant growth in the areas of personal, language, and cultural development. We hope that you will also take advantage of this formative experience in your student's life to learn something new and interesting along the way. Welcome to the study abroad family at Carnegie Mellon!


Overview of Study Abroad

Approximately 600 Carnegie Mellon students from all majors go abroad for study, work, an internship or research each year. A well-planned study abroad program will allow a student to receive credit for study abroad coursework for a semester, academic year or during the summer, and graduate on time. Additionally, there are opportunities for short-term, non-credit study abroad as well.  Learn more.

Health, Safety & Security

Carnegie Mellon has made a commitment to ensuring that all students receive information about health and safety prior to going abroad. Required pre-departure orientations are designed to provide all of our students with a common set of tools and advice about what to do to remain safe and healthy while overseas. In addition, parents and families can play an important role in helping their children make healthy, safe choices while abroad. Learn more.

Financial Information

Families sometimes wonder how will we pay for study abroad or can we afford to send our child overseas? There is no simple answer; some study abroad experiences cost less than a typical semester at Carnegie Mellon and some cost more. For study abroad during the academic year, students who are eligible may use federal and/or state aid. Federal, state, and Carnegie Mellon aid packages rarely, if ever, apply to summer overseas experiences. Specific scholarships to support study abroad are available to students who plan well in advance. Learn more.

Impact of Study Abroad

Research shows that study abroad impacts students in several important areas including academic, personal, professional, and cross-cultural. Many students comment that study abroad was the most memorable and most rewarding time of their college years. Some of the reasons are tangible and some less so, but overseas study, work, volunteer and research experiences impact Carnegie Mellon students in substantial ways. Learn more.

Students may begin to explore study abroad as early as their first year. To begin, students may attend an information session, schedule an appointment with a study abroad advisor, and browse the study abroad website to understand the wide array of opportunities. 

CMU students may study, work or research abroad using one of many types of established programs, including exchange partnerships with overseas universities, pre-approved sponsored study abroad programs, and external study abroad providers and universities. The university has an inclusive approach that allows for students from all majors and with varied financial resources to study abroad. 

To learn more about study abroad, peruse our comprehensive website, talk to your child, and feel free to speak with a study abroad advisor.

Parents and families can support students by encouraging safe behavior and recommending that their children follow the advice of the study abroad advisors, the overseas host program or university, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and US Department of State. In addition, our Health & Safety webpage will provide families with a good idea of the information that students have received from OIE. 

In study abroad, as in other settings, parents, guardians, and families can play an important role in the health and safety of participants by helping them make decisions and by influencing their behavior overseas. Parents/guardians/families should:

  • Be informed about and involved in the decision of their student to enroll in a particular program.
  • Obtain and carefully evaluate student's program materials, as well as related health, safety, and security information.
  • Discuss with the student any of their travel plans and activities that may be independent of the study abroad 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 the program sponsor for information regarding the student.
  • Keep in touch with the student.
  • Be aware that the student rather than the program may most appropriately provide some information.

Parents who have questions or concerns before, during or after their student's study abroad experience are invited to contact a study abroad advisor.

For fall, spring, or academic year programs, families and students have options regarding how to make payments based on the type of study abroad program selected.  If a student chooses an exchange program or sponsored study abroad program, payment will be made directly to Carnegie Mellon. Students who pay through Carnegie Mellon are eligible for scholarships, grants, financial aid and loans (except work study). To determine if a sponsored program is an appropriate financial choice for your student, please complete the Sponsored Financial Worksheet (xls).

If a student selects to enroll directly through an external program or at an overseas university, payment will be made directly to the program or overseas university, not to Carnegie Mellon. All summer and short-term programs are considered external programs for billing purposes.

These examples may help to illustrate the options:

  • Exchange: Morgan receives an undergraduate grant from Carnegie Mellon. Morgan chose the EPFL exchange in Switzerland because of the curricular fit in engineering and long-standing reputation of the program. Morgan and their parents will pay the current standard Carnegie Mellon tuition amount and maintain all financial aid. They will separately pay for room, board, travel and miscellaneous expenses, out of pocket. 
  • Sponsored Programs: Jamie receives a university grant and other scholarships that cover most of their tuition each semester. They chose a sponsored program in Spain because of the curricular fit, their interest in Spanish culture and their funding. Jamie and their family will pay the current standard tuition, room and board through Carnegie Mellon and maintain all funding. Carnegie Mellon distributes the tuition to the study abroad programs and allocates a fund to the students for room, board, travel, and educational expenses, where appropriate.
  • External Programs: Taylor receives a federal direct loan. Taylor chose an external program in China operated by a well-respected study abroad organization that offers many US-style services. In this case, Taylor does not pay Carnegie Mellon tuition, but can use their federal direct loan to study abroad. Taylor and their family will pay directly to the study abroad program which may or may not cover all of the room, board and travel expenses; this varies by program.
  • Summer: Dylan will study abroad in Peru during the summer because this plan fits best into their busy academic schedule. The expenses for Dylan's summer program are about $5,000. Dylan cannot use any of their federal, state or Carnegie Mellon aid for various reasons. By planning well in advance, Dylan was able to secure $2,000 in study abroad scholarships; all other costs will be paid by Dylan and their family, out of pocket.

Determining the best study abroad program option and understanding the financial implications can be complicated. Please contact a study abroad advisor to discuss your student’s individual needs.

Every year, returned students share stories about the impact of study abroad with the Carnegie Mellon community by participating in interviews, joining the e-peer advisory so that they can provide advice and insight to their fellow students, and entering the annual Study Abroad Photo Contest

Students who have recently returned from studying abroad may also go through a readjustment period. The Office of International Education maintains a webpage with information about readjustment and strategies for self-care.

Each student will experience study abroad differently, depending on a variety of factors. Our advisors assist students throughout the process so that they are better able to anticipate, process, and maximize the impacts of their study abroad experiences. Parents who have questions about the value and implications of study abroad may contact an advisor.