College Bound Kids?: The Practical Stuff for Heading Overseas

Part 2 in a series of 4

It was a pretty big can of worms I opened with my first post on college bound kids.

I had no idea all those cool, calm and collected mom’s packing their kids up for college were as emotionally fragile as I’ve been in the same situation in the past.

As comments were posted and emails arrived, it became obvious I’d have to write more than one post on this subject – it’s such a multi-faceted topic. The project started as an item about expat parents sending children overseas to college and I’ve written from that perspective, although much of it can be applied to any child leaving home.

After due thought there’ll will be posts to come on –

●Practical Tips: creating a framework to help you and your child work together to adapt to the changes. Change doesn’t have to be bad – it can be empowering and invigorating for the whole family

●Communication and keeping in contact across time zones: the pros and cons of keeping connected via Skype, Facebook, messenger, SMS email and phone

●How to be the perfect parent for your college student: or how not to be clingy, dependent and drive your child away. Handling your emotions through the transition. The impact of your reaction on younger children and the change in family dynamics when the eldest leaves home

●Pastoral care: what you can do to help them settle and cope with homesickness. How to spot the signs of a struggling child and what to do if it happens

Here’s today’s, so grab a coffee and get comfortable.


PASSPORTS: If your child is heading back to your home country this is not an issue. However, if they are studying in a country where they are considered a foreigner, register them immediately with the embassy/ consulate of their passport country. Should bad things happen you’ll be glad you did. (Think the evacuation of Saigon.) If your child has dual nationality, register all passports with the appropriate embassy.


Banking: Wherever your child is, you/ they will be setting up a new bank account in their name.

One thing we did in the US, which none of us regret, is opened a new account for our daughter with me being a signatory/ name on that account. I could sign-in online and see my accounts and hers, she could only see her own. I could transfer funds directly to her regularly or when needed. Instead of transferring funds from overseas (which can take days even doing it yourself online) being named on her account meant funds could be transferred immediately.

If you or your child are uncomfortable with this arrangement for privacy reasons then your child can set up another account for their sole use. Even post-college, our daughter is reluctant to close that linked college account. It served it’s purpose on numerous occasions and she still likes to have that security in place. The system has been a god send for us when emergencies happened – an empty airport in the middle of the night without a credit card, stranded somewhere without cash.

The advantage of doing this is your child will never have large amounts of money in their account at any one time, so will budget better. In theory. You can can stalk their account if you want but that really isn’t playing the trust game.

Credit Cards: This is a tough one. Most parents, including us, have given our kids use of our credit card for emergencies only. Make sure you define ’emergency’ before handing the card over. Even if you do this, there are many grey areas to navigate and there will be arguments – because the first time you are aware there has been an emergency will be when it appears on your credit card statement.

Buying a keg of beer because the first two are empty is not an emergency, although it may seem like it at the time. Paying for a Caribbean holiday for themselves and their housemates – the booking required someone’s credit card – is not an emergency. Nor are those adorable shoes/ jeans/ computer gadgets. On a serious note if irrational spending does start to happen it could be a sign of deeper problems.

They will need a credit card and I recommend you get one in their name (not yours) with a small limit ($500ish) so when they lose it or feel the need to spend the damage is limited. Most banks will do this, although few advertise it, especially if you act as guarantor – less expensive than them using your card believe me – and they will be able to build up their own good credit. Hopefully.

LEGAL DOCUMENTS: Do not, under any circumstances, send your child off with originals of anything, although they may need documentation while they’re away including  birth certificates, passport details, visa documents etc.

Those of you who are regular readers know I am obsessive at scanning family documents. It saves so much time and stress. Scan all documents you think your child might need – the afore mentioned birth certificates, passport, visa documents, medical card, social security/ national insurance card, essential college paperwork, family contact details (including grandparents, close family friends etc) documents for car insurance, renters insurance, anything at YOU think they might need.

Burn it to a disk and make sure they get that information on their computers before they leave – if they don’t have a lap-top give them photo copies and make sure you have everything on your computer to email to them when they’ve lost the photocopies. Which they will.

Kindle for downloading documents I’d like to add something which wasn’t included when this post was first published. It was sent by Martha Gonzalez for which I’d like to extend my grateful thanks. It’s something I know about because I’ve used it for work related PDFs but never thought to appy to students. In her own words,

‘This summer when my daughter went to South Africa alone, she took my Kindle. I converted her travel documents to pdf (flight documents, travel insurance and copy of passport) then sent it to my kindle at my address If you have 3G and want to avoid charges and force the Kindle to use the wireless connection use or just transfer by USB. The Kindle had a folder with all her important travel documents. I had her password protect the Kindle for extra security. It made for a neat backup beyond the folded paper copies.’

This is brilliant for Kindle users, thanks Martha.

RENTERS INSURANCE: Get it. It’s relatively inexpensive and worth it should the worst happen. Take photos of anything valuable they will be taking with them – lap tops, cameras, expensive items required for course study. Add photos to the  ‘Legal Documents’ disc. If the worst happens you have proof of ownership and the exact model etc.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: this will probably be more relevant to parents of girls but increasingly boys need to be aware of their security.

You will have talked ad infinitum about the dangers of alcohol, not leaving a drink unattended, drinking beer from a bottle and keeping your thumb on the top to avoid it being drugged – do you want your daughter to be ladylike or safe? – never leaving a girlfriend to get home on her own, always having a designated member of the group sober to make sure they all get home safe and unmolested, having a signal between them so if one is getting unwarranted attention from a member of the opposite/ same sex someone else can politely intervene.

Talk about safe sex – again. This should have been on your radar way before now. Whatever your family attitude to pre-marital sex and sexual behaviour, your child is going to be living and breathing intense hormones for the next 3/4 years. How do you ensure they’re protected without them feeling you think they have no morals, self-respect or self control? Give them condoms, tell them someone has to be sexually responsible and if their friends ever need to use protection it will be there. Talk to them adult to adult. Do you want to be a grandparent yet?

Get the contact details of at least two of their new friends so in an emergency when your child’s phone is switched off/ no battery you can get hold of them. Another good tip our family have used since high school is to have a series of code words to use on the phone or via email so if they are in a potentially risky situation they can let us know.

‘If Bethany calls tell her I can’t make the party Saturday’ can translate as ‘I’m being held at knifepoint and about to be raped’. They may be in a situation with friends they want to get away from, ‘ Did I leave my black jacket at home, I really need it?’ could be your cue to think of a reason for him/ her to get out of a situation where they feel uncomfortable.

Enough to absorb for one day. You’ve had information from all sides – school, college, friends and probably your own parents, all of it useful and valid.

How you apply that knowledge depends on the relationship between you and your child. Trust your instincts. What worked for another family may not work for yours. Read everything you can, take what works for you and ignore the rest – including this.

If you feel up to it the next topic will be ‘Communication and keeping in contact across time zones: the pros and cons of keeping connected via Skype, Facebook, messenger, SMS email and phone.’

And boy do we have some stories on that one…

Other articles in this series:

Part 4  College Bound Kids?: After They’ve Gone

Part 3  College Bound Kids?: Changing Family Dynamics

Part 1  College Bound Kids?: You’re Not on Your Own

Just for fun  College Bound Kids?: So You Think They’re Smart?


About wordgeyser

Our anglo/american family used to live in four countries (USA, Canada, UK and the Netherlands) on two continents, separated by distance, time zones, circumstance and cultures. It has been a scary, enriching, challenging place to be. The only things guaranteed to get us through were a sense of humour and the amazing people met along the way. . . This year everything changed with a move for us from the Netherlands, – and a move along with us for our son and his wife from the UK – to Houston, Texas, the same city as our daughter. With our youngest in Vancouver, Canada, we are now all living on the same continent. How this happened, and more importantly why, will be the subject of this ongoing blog...
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5 Responses to College Bound Kids?: The Practical Stuff for Heading Overseas

  1. Thanks for this post with lots of helpful information! Do remember to put the book “A Global Nomad’s Guide to University” by Tina Quick somewhere in their luggage. It is a very good source of information especially for students coming from overseas. Another tip is to see if there is family or friends where the college student can spend the weekend or holidays if going back to the parents is too far away, I’m speaking from experience. I was studying here in the Netherlands and my parents were in Zimbabwe.

  2. As one of the C3 moms, this series is greatly appreciated. I can see I’ll be running an extra errand tomorrow. Seriously, thanks for having the presence of mind to pull this all together. I’ve thought of some/much of this but missed a few things. Thank goodness someone’s thinking straight!

  3. Jane says:

    Great stuff…. thanks!

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