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Staying Strong: Supporting Independent Student Wellbeing in the International University Experience

Guidance for Global Families
By Natasha Winnard
Staying Strong: Supporting Independent Student Wellbeing in the International University Experience

This is the final article focusing on strategies that parents around the world have successfully used to support their children’s wellbeing at universities overseas. The first article, Getting Prepared, focused on the year before our children leave for university overseas. The second article, Starting Strong, focused on wellbeing tips for the first few days and weeks of a new overseas university experience. This article focuses on tips for parents to achieve what we all want for our children, independent wellbeing.


If your child is attending a northern hemisphere university it can be hard to return in January, especially if they have enjoyed a family holiday in a warmer home location. This is the time when, as parents, we may need to step up our frequency of contact just to check they are coping with the shorter days or greyer skies. The climate can have more of an impact on our mood than we think.

Work Experience

Many international students may want to apply for a part-time job once they know their academic workload. This is a great opportunity to encourage your child to build a wider network of connections and social relationships. Stepping out of the university bubble can add a positive dynamic and enhance elements of independent wellbeing.

Old and New Friends

Try to encourage your child to invite school and university friends home for the holidays. This can be a good way to thank new host country families for inviting your child to enjoy weekends at their homes. It also helps affirm the importance of committing time to sustaining international school friendships.


Be proactive in encouraging your child to secure their second-year accommodation with their new friends as soon as possible. This may mean providing an international transfer for an accommodation deposit earlier than you budgeted for. We all know from our own international transitions that where we live can greatly determine our wellbeing. 


Be open to reviewing and renegotiating your child’s monthly allowance. Money concerns in the first year of an overseas university experience can cause real anxiety for our children. Check the cost of living and adjust as needed so that added pressure in the second or third year is kept to a minimum.

The Basics

Be sure to find ways to check in on the basics on a regular basis (e.g., sleep, healthy eating, exercise, and friendships). There is a very good chance that if these basic wellbeing strategies are in place, your child will succeed at university. Finally, always remember to ask about wellbeing before you ask about grades! 

There are many ways we can help our children thrive rather than just survive when they leave home for an international university experience. 



Natasha Winnard has come across many amazing young people in more than 20 years as an international educator, guidance and college counselor, and mentor in schools in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. She is a facilitator for the Counselor Training Center, currently teaching the course Mental Health and Wellbeing in International Schools. Natasha Winnard Consultancy provides holistic, personalized guidance for young people and their families looking for support in the world of international education.

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