A Parent's Guide to Preparing for QERC

Pointers for preparing together
Your student’s time at QERC will almost certainly be a defining period of your student’s education-- an academic challenge that will put them a step ahead of the competition in the eyes of acceptance committees and potential explorers. It will also be a psychological transformation for them into a global critical and analytical thinkers. In spite of this, you—and your son or daughter—may have a range of feelings about the upcoming experience, from excitement at its potential to stress at the ideal of being far apart.

Understanding each other’s feelings and supporting decisions before, during, and after the QERC semester, you can help maximize this incredible opportunity. Here’s some advice on what to expect.

Encourage, don’t push

Before your student leaves, offer them your full support. Let them know that you will be there throughout the experience if needed, including that you can still be reached while they are at QERC.

Time abroad often begins with a honeymoon period where students are excited to finally be in Costa Rica at QERC- something they’ve dreamed of. After facing realities like unfamiliar course schedules, unexpected difficulty with learning Spanish, research woes, and the absence of usual support groups, culture shock can set in. Expect to hear some tales of frustration, though your student will be experiencing many wonderful things as well, even if you aren’t the first person to hear about them. Is most cases, they won’t be expecting you to solve these problems—as much as you may want to—and is just looking for an understanding ear.

Maintain a level of distance

Through overcoming difficulties your student may experience, they will quickly rise to a new level of independence, so avoid the temptation to become too involved. Ultimately, this is their learning experience.


Keep in mind that your son or daughter is not on an extended vacation. Attending classes with them, or taking them out of class to sightsee will interrupt the educational process and immersion experience. If you want to visit, it’s best to do so when the semester has finished so you can travel together.

Prepare for the transformation

After living abroad for as long as QERC students do, they can’t help but be changed by the experience. This change can take many forms, from a change in career direction to cravings for different kinds of foods to new political perspectives. Don’t worry too much: negative feelings usually last for a very short time, while a realistic view of the US and it’s place in the world remains with most students for life.

Be prepared for them to experience some degree of reverse culture shock—most do—and need some time to fully adjust to living at home again. In some cases, students may even experience a period of depression or longing to return abroad. Once again, your support, interest, and understanding will help your son or daughter during this life altering experience. Observing and discussing changes like these is an excellent way to share in your son or daughter’s experience at QERC, and you’ll probably want to hear more than most people, which will be satisfying to them. Most study abroad participants report years later that the time they spent overseas was the best part of their college years—and that it changed them for life.

Practical Preparations

It’s a delicate balance: making sure your student is prepared for their time abroad, and letting them take the lead at the beginning of this new experience. Here is a list of things that should be resolved before departure, and our suggestions for ways to do so.

Travel documents

Check that your child’s passport is in order. Their passport should be valid until June 1st of the spring semester they will be at QERC. Make several photo copies of these documents- keep some at home, and send several with your student.


Before departure, make sure that your student has had a general check-up, that their inoculations are up to date and dental exam; women should also have a gynecological checkup. Make sure they bring a complete supply of any prescriptions needed, and a kit that contains over the counter medicines for colds, Tylenol, constipation, diarrhea, motion sickness etc. If they are vegetarian or vegan, iron supplements are strongly recommended.


Decide with your son or daughter how to access money for both everyday financial needs and emergencies. US Dollars can be exchanged at banks in Costa Rica, and debit / credit cards are widely accepted. It is important to ask your bank how (or if) its ATM card will function abroad and what extra fees there might be. A mix of cash and a debit / credit card make the most sense. Then, make arrangements for any monthly bills to be paid, and if necessary, file your son or daughter’s income taxes.


Continue carrying your students as a dependent on your health insurance policy, or keep their individual policy active, even if they will have other coverage while at QERC. Make ABSOLUTELY sure that their health insurance that covers them while they are in Latin America. This may entail purchasing an overseas coverage add-on to your current policy. Be aware that in Costa Rica, the cost of medical experience must be paid at the time of service by the patient, and then you’ll need to submit a claim to your insurance company. Advise them not to bring irreplaceable objects such as family jewelry or engagement rings.

Travel planning

Research travel costs and help book flights. Learn regulations regarding the type and size of luggage that can be carried on the carrier; then help your student pack lightly. We strongly advise only 1 piece of luggage, as storage space is limited. Be aware of any restrictions the tickets your purchase may have (such as a change policy). A money belt can help keep valuables safe during the trip.

Contact planning

Make sure you and your child have discussed how you will keep in touch. We recommend using iMessage, FaceTime, FaceBook or an app called, WhatsApp where you all can message and talk over the internet. Minimize the cost of staying in touch by establishing methods in advance.


Make sure you will be informed if your student runs into difficulty overseas. Since students are almost always adults (over age 18), you will not receive that information unless you are designated as their emergency contact.

Discuss how you will handle any family emergencies that may arise. To contact your students in an emergency, contact QERC Director Dr. Jeff Griffitts at jefgriff@mail.snu.edu or 405-491-6640.

Data file

Gather all the information you and your student might need while they are away, including:

  • Insurance policy numbers and how to submit claims
  • Your student’s credit card information
    • Bank contact information
  • Your student’s passport information
  • QERC Semester Program Calendar