Dear Parents/Guardians of Converge Students:
Converge is delighted that your student has accepted the challenge and opportunity of studying and serving abroad. We hope that you are excited about the decision as well! This letter is designed to give you an overview of the planning and decision making needed to make the Converge experience work as smoothly as possible. The Converge site has a lot of information, and the Converge course is a compilation of important lessons for any cross-cultural serving and learning experience. We hope your student will share this information with you, and we urge you to read through the materials carefully.
The Converge staff does its best to ensure that all major program details are in place before your student departs. We assist each student as much as possible, but the responsibility for preparation ultimately belongs to the student. If you would like to assist your child with preparations, we suggest you do the following:
Choosing a Mentor: Once your child is accepted, he/she must choose a Mentor before being allowed to enroll in the Converge course. You could help by pointing out a few mature and experienced Christ-followers from your home church or community.
Securing Travel & Health Insurance: Please review the Travel Tips page and links.
Prescriptions: Students who need prescription medications should take along an adequate supply with written instructions from a physician. The instructions are in case of emergency. Students should contact their personal health insurance agents in order to determine coverage for prescriptions and payment options while abroad.
Insurance: Converge requires students to purchase health insurance, and we have an affiliation with the Volunteer Card, which has as comprehensive and affordable a travel insurance policy as possible. The Volunteer Card plan may also includes travel cancellation insurance. This insurance is NOT included in the program cost. Please note: Overseas hospitals and clinics will normally expect payment upon receipt of services. Your student will need to keep all receipts and medical notes given to them overseas as these will be needed for completion of claim forms and reimbursement. The Volunteer Card is not required. Please feel free to purchase any other policy if you prefer.
Passports: It is the student’s responsibility to obtain a passport that must be presented at the airport when departing from and returning from most international travel. We strongly recommend that students obtain passports as soon as possible to avoid delays, complications, and extra fees.
Visas: Some countries also require visas. Visa applications can be expensive and can typically take six to eight weeks to process and must be submitted with a passport. Students who already have a passport should check the expiration date to make sure their passport is valid for at least six months after their Converge Session’s return date. If it is not, they will need to renew their passport before departure.
Academic Enrollment & Transfer of Credits: Course credits will be determined by the Student’s college/faculty. See Academic Credit for our instructions for credit transfer.
Payment for Converge: Converge payment schedule is simple. To be enrolled in the Converge Course, which begins 60 days before the Field Project Session, the Student must pay the $25USD registration fee and enter the name of his/her chosen Mentor. It is the student’s responsibility to complete all payments for participation before departing for the Field Project location. No billing reminders will be sent. If you will be making the payments, make checks payable to “YWAM” and send them directly to the Converge office. Please include on the check the student’s name and the Project Session name.
Travel Expenses: It is the responsibility of the Student to pay for all travel expenses. We advise that your student obtain travel cancellation insurance.
Money Abroad: During the time abroad, parents often transfer funds to students’ bank accounts that are accessible through ATM’s and can be monitored via the internet. Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards are all widely accepted—but much of Europe is moving to a “chip and PIN” card rather than the magnetic strip card. Sometimes local store clerks will refuse to accept a magnetic strip card. Prior to departure, you may want to obtain a supplementary credit card for your student or co-apply for a credit card with your student. Credit cards can be used to obtain cash advances while abroad. To avoid interest charges, credit the account before departure with the amount you and your student have agreed upon. ATM debit cards can be used for cash withdrawals in most destinations. Check with your banking institution for any fees or restrictions—AND PROVIDE THE BANK WITH THE DATES AND COUNTRIES IN WHICH THE CREDIT/DEBIT CARDS WILL BE USED. Also, by adding your name to your student’s debit/checking account or opening a joint account, you can deposit money as needed.
Travel Information: Because there are so many restrictions and regulations to international travel, students should carefully consider all options before making their own arrangements. Finding a trustworthy travel agent is often the best way to avoid problems. The Student will be met at the airport by the Host or someone arranged by the Host.
Packing: Students should use lightweight, sturdy luggage and pack lightly enough to be able to carry all of their luggage for several city blocks. Students should take a small number of versatile clothing items and a small supply of toiletries that can be replenished abroad. Students with contact lenses, however, must bring enough lenses and solution to last the duration of their stay. In most locations bedding is supplied, but it’s a good idea to bring at least one towel.
Calling home: Students may not be able to call home immediately upon arrival in the host country. They may be guided through arrival/orientation formalities or move into a housing situation where access to a phone is limited. We advise asking your student to call within three-four days of arrival. Students often purchase cell phones in their site countries. This appears to be a good option but there is often a charge on the cell account for incoming calls. Past program participants and parents have recommended this type of arrangement as a means of guaranteeing regular family contact and controlling expenses.
Computers: Many students take their laptops or notebook computers. We find that they rarely regret having done so— but we remind everyone NOT to leave such valuable items unattended, even in their place of residence!
Visits from Family/Friends: We encourage family and friends to visit students while abroad, but each student’s first priority is to attend to their assigned schedule at the field location. Students are not excused to spend time with guests instead of attending to field project duties. Guests are welcome to visit with the host’s permission, and students are free to entertain guests when not on duty.
Emotional Matters: All students experience some degree of culture shock when traveling abroad. You are more likely to hear from your student during low periods and to hear more bad news than good. A brief period of disappointment, homesickness or depression is a normal part of the the cross-cultural experience. Call the Converge office if you are concerned about the welfare of your student. We can contact on-site program representatives to determine if any action should be taken or to give you additional information.
Alcohol: Eighteen is the drinking age in most foreign countries. Hosts often tell students they may not drink. If the behavior of any student becomes a detriment to the project or personnel or the reputation of Converge, students may be reprimanded and/or removed from the program.
Withdrawing from Converge: Please review the refund policies. There are non- refundable deposits and, because international travel often requires pre-departure payments, the closer we are to the date of departure the more difficult it is to secure refunds for international flights. If a student does withdraw from the program after departure, there is no refund.
PLEASE NOTE: Converge does NOT provide travel cancellation insurance for its programs. We encourage you to purchase a policy, such as the Volunteer Card. If you want to purchase some other travel insurance, please inquire with a qualified travel agent.If your student is expressing a desire to return home, they must speak to their Host and contact Converge. Many problems can be resolved without returning home. Although withdrawal is in rare cases the best option for the student, we ask you to consider carefully all aspects of the situation (personal, academic and financial) before advising your student to return home. Before a withdrawal is considered official, the student must inform Converge in writing. Be aware that the withdrawal may be recorded on your student’s transcript if they have arranged for credit with their institution and it occurs after the program has begun.
If you have questions, please call the Converge office to speak with a member of our staff. We hope that you and your student truly have a great experience with Converge!