Carnegie Mellon University

Resources for Parents

Although students are typically the primary decision-makers when it comes to study abroad, you 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. Each fall, Family Weekend includes an information session and a Study Abroad Fair. Program providers who attend the fair are a good resource for students and families. Also, this website and our Study Abroad Library (located in our office in Warner Hall, 3rd Floor) offer helpful information. Interested parents can support study abroad initiatives through the purchase of attractive study abroad notecards, featuring photographs taken by students, available for sale at the campus bookstore.

The primary concerns of many parents are (1) the cost of study abroad and (2) safety. You will be glad to know that pre-departure orientation sessions are required for all students prior to going abroad and provide fundamental health and safety guidance. 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 credits 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!

Each year 350-400 Carnegie Mellon students from all majors go abroad for study, work, an internship or research. About 70 percent of students study abroad for credit in a major, 30 percent for credit in their minor, and 50 percent for credit toward their general education requirements.   

Parents play an important, although varied, role in the study abroad process. Half of Carnegie Mellon students who go abroad suggest that their “family members or friends” provided them with information during their study abroad research. 

Students may begin to investigate study abroad as early as their first year. To begin, students will attend an information session, schedule an appointment with a study abroad advisor, visit the Study Abroad Library and use web-based search engines to understand the wide array of opportunities. 

CMU students may study, work or research abroad using one of many types of established programs, including: Established 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 son or daughter, and feel free to speak with a study abroad advisor.

Carnegie Mellon has made a commitment to ensuring that all students receive a standard set of 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.

Parents can support students by encouraging safe behavior and recommending that their sons and daughters 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 Before You Go webpage and Study Abroad Handbook (pdf) 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 the participant to enroll in a particular program.
  • Obtain and carefully evaluate participant program materials, as well as related health, safety, and security information.
  • Discuss with the participant any of his/her travel plans and activities that may be independent of the study abroad program.
  • Engage the participant 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 participant.
  • Keep in touch with the participant.
  • Be aware that the participant rather than the program may most appropriately provide some information.

We recommend reviewing “Advice for Parents: Frequently Asked Questions," an article located on the Center for Global Education SAFETI Clearinghouse website.

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

Parents sometimes wonder “how will we pay for study abroad” or “can we afford to send our son/daughter 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. 

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.

If a student selects to enroll directly through an external program (such as IES, CIEE, SIT, etc.) or at an overseas university, payment will be made directly to the program or overseas university, not to Carnegie Mellon. 

These examples may help illustrate the options:

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

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.   

SIT Study Abroad, a study abroad provider, offers advice to parents and family members. Their website includes information about what happens when study abroad students return to their familiar environments and experience “reverse culture shock,” sometimes very unexpectedly.

Of course, each student will experience study abroad differently depending on a variety of factors. Our advisors assist students 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.