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Family and Friends
Helping Your Student

Family and Friends FAQs

Q:  What is ISEP and who is involved?

A:  ISEP is a worldwide network for international education, consisting of 300 member universities in the United States and 50 other countries. ISEP is a nonprofit membership organization providing affordable study abroad and exchange options for over 1,800 students each year.

ISEP focuses on immersion programs. This means that students will enroll in a local university and study and live similarly to students of the host country. Students will have access to all the services and most courses at the university, but they should be prepared for a more independent type of experience.

Each ISEP member university designates a staff member to be the ISEP Coordinator. Your student’s on-campus ISEP Coordinator will advise and help your student through the application and placement process. There will also be ISEP Coordinator at the host university who will help with academic and housing arrangements, provide an on-site orientation, and serve as a local resource.

The ISEP Staff in Washington, DC evaluates students’ applications, make placements, and facilitates the exchange process by serving as the communication link between the ISEP Coordinators in the USA and around the world. ISEP also sends the transcript from the host to home university.

Q:  Will my student graduate on time?

A:  If your student carefully plans ahead for a semester or year abroad, there should be no problem with graduating on schedule.  When your student applies to ISEP, your student will list the classes he/she wishes to take. Upon acceptance to the program, your student will follow the procedures at his/her university to have the classes conditionally pre-approved before departure. After returning, ISEP will send an official transcript to your student’s home institution, and the credits will be transferred according to procedures set by the home university.

Q:  How much does it cost?  How do I make payments?

A:  ISEP is one of the most affordable ways to study abroad. Federal financial aid is usually applicable to all ISEP programs for US students; institutional scholarships and other aid are sometimes also awarded. Your student should contact the home university’s study abroad and financial aid offices for details. ISEP has two types of programs with different fee structures:

ISEP-Exchange allows your student to pay the regular home university tuition, housing and meal fees, and then take the place of a university student abroad; an international student will take your student’s place in the USA. A non-refundable $395 placement fee is required with the application.  Tuition, housing and meal payments are made directly to the home university as if your student had remained on campus.

ISEP-Direct programs are only available for certain ISEP destinations, and students pay an affordable, established program fee directly to ISEP instead of exchanging places with an international student. A non-refundable deposit of $395 is required with the application which counts towards the ISEP Direct program fee. The program fee (ranging from $5,000-11,000 per semester) is invoiced to the home university ISEP Coordinator approximately one month before departure. Please see the ISEP-Direct section for complete details.

Additional costs include transportation, required ISEP health insurance (purchased online for approximately $240/semester), visa fees, books, and personal expenses.

Q:  Why does my student have to purchase ISEP health insurance?

A:  As the J-1 exchange visitor sponsor for incoming international students, ISEP is required by law to ensure that participants coming to the United States have sufficient health insurance coverage. Although there is no such legal requirement for U.S. participants, the ISEP Advisory Committee voted in 1987 to make enrollment mandatory for U.S. participants to ensure their coverage abroad as well.

Students who believe they are adequately covered through personal, parental or university policies sometimes ask to be exempted from the requirement. Since ISEP lacks the resources and expertise to evaluate case-by-case whether a policy is adequate, ISEP must make enrollment in its insurance program an across-the-board policy.  Enrollment in this policy is a condition of placement, which will not be waived even if a student is covered under another policy.

Q:  Is it safe for my student to go abroad?

A:  ISEP guidelines for student health and safety are based on the principles of trust and responsibility. Established since 1979, ISEP has built a network of member institutions in over 50 countries, including the United States, which agree to the same Terms of Participation relating to student exchanges. These institutions and the ISEP central office share responsibility for monitoring local and national conditions affecting student safety and providing relevant information to ISEP participants. Participants themselves are responsible for becoming familiar with all materials provided and for following safety guidelines given by ISEP and by host institutions.

ISEP cannot guarantee student safety or eliminate all risks associated with a stay abroad. However, ISEP will not send students to countries where, based on information available to ISEP, conditions pose a risk that ISEP deems unreasonable. ISEP makes every effort to provide students the information that they need to make responsible decisions about their participation in and conduct during an exchange.

For individual country information, visit

Q:  What happens if there is an emergency?

A:  The vast majority of ISEP programs are immersion programs. Students are integrated into the local university student population. All member institutions have a designated ISEP Coordinator on-campus to assist ISEP participants during their program and to act as ISEP's main on-site contact in the case of an emergency.

Family members are encouraged to get the local contact information for the student's residence and the university as soon as the student arrives. Contacting the student or host ISEP Coordinator abroad in an emergency is going to be more efficient than calling ISEP or the home university.

Whether an emergency is individual or general, ISEP's primary function is to keep all parties informed and maintain good communication. If an ISEP student is involved in a serious accident or illness, the most important thing is to get immediate medical assistance.

In the case of non-medical emergencies such as civil disorder or unrest, campus strikes, or major civil or international unrest, ISEP Coordinators will give students accurate information and advise them about what they should do and not do. As soon as possible, they will inform ISEP Central of the situation, and let us know how it may affect students. ISEP will monitor the situation and try to determine if and when normal conditions will be restored or whether the situation requires that a program be suspended or cancelled.

Q:  How do I contact my student while he/she is abroad?

A:  Many students purchase cell phones with prepaid calling plans upon arrival.  Students will have access to their host university’s computer labs and internet connection.  Many students use cyber cafes to make low-cost international calls through internet programs such as Skype.

Q:  Should I visit my student while he/she is abroad?

A:  Studying abroad is a unique and important part of your student's educational and life experiences. Please do not make the trip abroad with your student. Although it may be difficult to let them go, it is important that they make the journey, and settle in to the new environment and culture on their own. This will help the student to develop the skills needed to adapt to their new life abroad. Please do not visit your student while classes are in session; this will distract them from their studies. Consider meeting up with your student after their academic program ends or during a break between semesters.

Q:  How does my student get a visa?

A:  Students will be given the necessary letters and documents from ISEP and the host university to use to obtain their visa. It is the responsibility of the student to research visa requirements and procedures and obtain a visa. Students should start this process early as it can take several months. More information can be found in the ISEP Country Handbooks and from the appropriate Embassy.

Q:  Who do I contact for more information?

A:  Since each university has a designated on-campus ISEP Coordinator, they will serve as the point of contact for advising and information throughout the process. Your student will have contact information for both home and host university.  Upon acceptance into the program, your student will receive an Institutional Information Sheet (IIS) which outlines all the important information for the host university.  Ask your student to leave you a copy of this prior to departure and you will have all the contact information for your student’s host ISEP coordinator.  Information about specific programs, how to apply, and student resources can be found on the ISEP website. The ISEP Central Office in Washington, DC serves as a resource to the ISEP Coordinators at each university.