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The winter season in the United States is full of celebrations. There are numerous holidays and traditions observed by Americans, many of which will be recognized at your child’s school. 

Here’s what children studying abroad can expect with some of this seasons’ traditions.


Thanksgiving in the U.S. is observed on the fourth Thursday of November. The day is intended to be spent with family and usually features an afternoon meal of traditional foods, often featuring turkey as the main dish. 

The holiday’s purpose is to express gratitude. While the tradition of sitting down to share a meal is based on a myth about the country’s founding, most Americans focus less on the history and more on the spirit of the day. Many people watch American football games with their family or volunteer their time to help the less fortunate.


Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and takes place on December 25. Many non-Christian Americans celebrate Christmas by exchanging gifts with family members and friends, decorating a Christmas tree, and listening to Christmas music. 


Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated over the course of eight nights. Known as the “festival of lights,” it occurs in late November or December. The holiday celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago. In the households of people celebrating Hanukkah, you’ll find a menorah, an eight-branched candelabra that symbolizes the holiday.


Kwanzaa is an African-American cultural tradition celebrated from December 26 to January 1. The purpose of the holiday is to honor family, community, and African culture. Families might wear African kente cloth, participate in musical performances, and sit for karamu, a feast featuring foods from across the African continent. 

New Year’s Day

New Year’s is a holiday with two distinct parts: New Year’s Eve on December 31 and New Year’s Day on January 1. On New Year’s Eve, people often host parties that culminate with a countdown of the last seconds of the year. People will often make resolutions about things they hope to accomplish in the coming year. Cities and towns often hold fireworks displays that take place in the first few minutes of the new year.

On New Year’s Day, cities and towns host grand parades to bring in the new year. Families will gather to spend the holiday with one another, sometimes watching college football championship games.

When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care (offered by the Blue Cross Blue Shield® PPO network) no matter where they are in the U.S.
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Parenting has always been hard, but it’s only become more difficult in the internet age. Between social media, gaming, and an abundance of screens, most parents say raising a child is more difficult today than it was 20 years ago, according to a report from Pew Research Center. 

If your child attends school in another country, these challenges become even more difficult, especially because social norms around technology differ from country to country. 

Do you want to ensure your child is safe online while studying abroad? Follow these tips to help them develop a healthy relationship with technology. 

Make their digital life a recurring topic in your regular conversations.

All children engage in risky behavior and the internet often provides children with many opportunities to put themselves in dangerous situations. In the past few years, that’s only become more common. 

Helping young people develop healthy relationships with the internet begins with open and honest dialogue. Ask your child what they do online. Whom do they talk with? What apps do they use? What pictures are they sharing? If your child mention a particular app, account, or game you’re unfamiliar with, do some research. 

It’s important to remove judgment from these conversations. Try to prompt them to highlight risky behavior and dangerous situations by asking questions like, “What were you hoping to gain?” or “How might that look to someone who doesn’t know you?” If they’re regularly chatting with people they’ve never met in person, ask them questions about who those people are beyond their avatars. 

If you take their digital lives seriously and resist the temptation to only compare them against your own (much different) childhood, then they will be more responsive when you voice concerns.

Encourage healthy digital use of time and, when possible, limit their daily use.

Emphasize the positive aspects of the internet, like the videoconferencing service you’re using to chat with them or the online tools they use to complete homework assignments. Talk also about the downsides digital life can have on our health, such as its links to depression and sleep loss.

You might even consider creating what the American Academy of Pediatrics calls a Family Media Plan, which acts as a collaborative, practical guide for limiting screen time and internet use, even when you’re thousands of miles apart. 

Contact a school counselor or administrator if you’re concerned your child is at risk.

Sometimes open conversation and education aren’t enough. If you’re concerned your child might be at risk for more serious issues, like technology addiction or exposure to sexual predators, then you should notify their school counselors and administrators, who can begin an immediate intervention.

When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care (offered by the Blue Cross Blue Shield® PPO network) no matter where they are in the U.S.
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Americans are aware of “the winter blues”—when our moods are negatively affected by cold weather and shortened daylight hours. While this might sound like a form of melancholy or an excuse to stay in bed a little longer, the winter blues is just an informal term for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that’s related to the change of seasons.

While the change of seasons is unavoidable, treating the winter blues isn’t. Here are some tips for helping your child understand and ultimately overcome SAD.

Talk openly with your child about Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Knowledge is power. The winter blues can feel alienating if a child believes they’re the only person experiencing it. When children are given honest, objective information about SAD, they’ll recognize that gloomy and apathetic feelings are common during the winter months. As a result, they’ll know their problems are not insurmountable and will recognize there are other people with whom they can discuss their feelings.

Common symptoms of the winter blues are feeling sad and sluggish most of the day, having difficulty concentrating, sleeping too much, and overeating. If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, encourage them to follow the steps below to stave off the winter blues.

Help your child create a routine. 

Structure is the enemy of apathy. Children, especially teenagers, who establish consistent schedules and daily, achievable goals will find the winter months easier to navigate. Daily routines allow people to feel in control and help them gain perspective by helping them to objectively analyze everything they accomplish from one day to the next.

Encourage daily physical activity.

Exercise releases feel-good endorphins in the body that enhance a person’s well-being. The Mayo Clinic also notes that physical exercise often leads to increased self-confidence and social interactions, which are at odds with many of the more pervasive symptoms associated with the winter blues.

Make sure they schedule a regular day and time to check-in.

Living away from home is difficult, even for children who might feel otherwise. Establish a regular check-in so your child can spend casual time with you and other family members, and remind themselves that they’re not isolated.

Seek professional help if symptoms persist.

Dr. Matthew Rudorfer, a mental health expert at the National Institutes of Health, notes that the winter blues is an informal term and not a medical diagnosis. He cautions that the symptoms of the winter blues can be warning signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder, an actual clinical diagnosis. If your child experiences the symptoms for an extended period despite following the recommendations listed above, reach out to their school counselor to seek professional help.

When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care (offered by the Blue Cross Blue Shield® PPO network) no matter where they are in the U.S.
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Most people’s approach to health care is rather simple: When they get sick, they see a doctor. But for those interested in long-term well-being, seeking care only when you’re not feeling your best is not enough. 

“Preventive care” is the term used to describe the ways someone can maintain and improve their overall health. If you want to better understand how preventive care promotes long-term wellness and how to take advantage of options near you, read on.

Preventive care protects children against harmful diseases.

Health care professionals recommend children get immunized against diseases and viruses like chickenpox, COVID-19, human papillomavirus (HPV), and rubella, among others. These vaccines prevent children from contracting life-threatening diseases and strengthen their immune systems. Getting vaccinated ensures children are protected for the long term.

Preventive care normalizes regular visits to health care providers.

Scheduling regular check-ups with primary care physicians and dentists not only allows these health care professionals to ensure your children are healthy and happy, but they also show your children that visits to the doctor’s office are not something to fear. 

Teaching this lesson at an early age is crucial: As people age, consistent check-ups with a doctor are crucial to detec early signs of serious conditions. 

Preventive care instills lifelong healthy habits in children.

Leading a healthy life is more than just shots and visits to the doctor. The best care involves instilling the daily habits that lead to improved physical and mental health. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children engage in 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day, including muscle- and bone-strengthening activities like push-ups and running. In addition, they recommend adhering to a sound eating plan and practicing relaxation techniques to improve and maintain mental health. 

By building these habits at an early age, children will maximize the benefits and lead longer, healthier lives as adults.

When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care (offered by the Blue Cross Blue Shield® PPO network) no matter where they are in the U.S.
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Making friends as an international student can be intimidating. Parents are often the first to hear when their child is homesick, lonely, or stressed. It isn’t easy to make new, lasting friendships in a foreign country and parents can feel helpless on the other end of the phone. 

Here are some tips for you to share with your child as you support them through this new challenge. 

Eliminate Language Barriers

Making friends when there is a language barrier is challenging. International students may be tempted to surround themselves with only those who speak their native language because it’s easy and comfortable. 

Talk to your child about the amazing and unique opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds. Remind them that they could miss out on valuable friendships if they base their inner circle on language alone. 

Encourage your child to speak the language of their host-country as much as possible. The more they can speak the language, listen to it, read it—and even sing songs they have learned—the better they will communicate. 

Language need not be a barrier to creating great relationships and the right friend will help your child master their second language. Students can be creative in the ways they communicate and ask questions, too. They can use pictures, hand signals, or videos to ask questions if they don’t know the word. And they can (and should) share their native language with their new friends, too. 

Be Vulnerable

International students will need to get comfortable with being vulnerable to make the best relationships. You can help them do this by nurturing their confidence and self-love. Remind them what makes them a great friend, student, and person and help them understand that fear will only hold them back. Encourage your child to take risks by embracing the foreign culture and learning as much as they can about it. 

Suggest they start a conversation with one new person each day. Students can prepare a list of introductory questions (such as do you have any pets; where were you born; how many siblings do you have) and use it to spark conversations with new people. Challenge them to ask their teachers about their own educational backgrounds and experiences, too. It can be scary to put yourself out there, but it’s all part of the international student experience. 

Add Humor

Humor is a powerful tool. Not only can it kill fear and negative self-talk, but it can and does bring people together. Laughter is not dependent on language or culture so encourage your child to grab their phone and watch some funny videos with their new friends. If someone mentions a language mishap to your child, encourage your child to take it lightly and laugh it off together. It’s bound to happen and in every failure there is a lesson. 

Remember (Almost) Everything Is Temporary

Your child’s time studying abroad will come to an end sooner than you both think. Fear, discomfort, and anxiety are temporary; eventually they dissipate and fade into the past. Your child may be filled with many overwhelming emotions as they try to forge new, meaningful friendships, but it’s certainly worth the discomfort and risk— the one thing from their time abroad that just may last a lifetime is a great friendship.

When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care, no matter where they are in the U.S.

Contact for more information.

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For many international students, the road to an American university begins with attending high school in the U.S. But impressive grades and a stellar list of activities often aren’t enough to gain admission to the country’s best colleges. To better prepare for college, international students and their families should enlist the help of counselors.

When seeking college guidance, you can choose to work with a counselor within your child’s school or look to a counselor or placement consultant from a different organization. Either option will provide helpful advice and resources. Here are a few reasons why you should partner with a counselor when preparing for college.

Counselors help your child navigate the often-confusing college application process.

SAT or ACT? Early Action or Early Decision? Sometimes, the college application process can feel like an overwhelming amount of deadlines, buzzwords, and requirements. Counselors are experts who can help families and students register for standardized tests, compile portfolios, request letters of recommendation, and ensure applications are submitted on time.

Counselors are skilled at finding relevant scholarships and financial aid.

It’s no secret college has never been more expensive. What often goes unreported, though, are the many cost-saving opportunities available, especially for international students. International families often know a great deal about the top-rated U.S. colleges, but less about the other excellent options. Because of this, families sometimes miss out on those schools’ scholarships and programs geared toward helping international students. 

A counselor can make students aware of these other colleges and universities. By working with a counselor, students and their families will better understand their options and enter the admission process with a better sense of the market.

Counselors can connect students with cocurricular opportunities.

The best colleges aren’t only interested in grades and scores. Competitive schools are looking for students who add value to their campus—they want interesting people. For high school students, that means involvement in their school and a demonstrated commitment to activities outside the classroom. 

School-based counselors are familiar with their school’s culture and know the many cocurricular opportunities that are available. They can point students toward clubs and activities suited to their unique interests. More importantly, participating in cocurriculars and passion projects enables students to get the most from their school community and experience. Counselors are responsible for a crucial component of a student’s application: the main recommendation.

Students might ask their favorite teachers for glowing recommendations, but colleges ask counselors to write about their students. Counselors are limited in that they can only write recommendations based on the interactions they’ve had with each student. With that in mind, encourage your student to develop a relationship with their assigned counselor early in their junior and senior years. The more counselors know about their students, the more their recommendations are authentic.

Outside consultants and counselors are not on campus every day, but they’re just as invested in student success. The college process is a long one, so it’s best to rely on their professional help. The sooner students can connect with counselors, the better prepared they’ll be for college and beyond.

When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care, no matter where they are in the U.S.

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An insurance claim is a request for your insurance company to pay for something your insurance covers, such as a trip to the emergency room. This usually involves completing a form and requesting payment, then submitting the form to the insurance company.

The process to submit claims may vary, depending on the situation. Understanding the process will help eliminate the stress of submitting a claim and avoiding payment delays. 

Use In-Network Providers When Possible

Your insurance plan has a list of doctors, hospitals, and clinics that are contracted directly with the insurance company. These providers are called in-network providers, and they accept payment directly from the insurance company and send claims to your insurance company. This means you do not have to submit the claim yourself.

If you do need to submit the claim yourself, however, here are five steps to ensure it is filed correctly and approved.

1. Ask for an Itemized Receipt

If you do have to file the claim yourself, you must provide an itemized receipt from your medical provider. This receipt lists all services received, the cost of each, and a special medical code that the insurance company uses when reviewing your claim. 

To obtain a copy of the receipt, simply call the medical provider and ask for the documentation because you are filing a claim. 

2. Complete a Claim Form

Your insurance carrier will provide you with a claim form, often available to download from their website. Simply complete the form, which asks for details about the illness or accident, insurance information, and any expenses already paid towards service. 

The form should include detailed instructions, including where to send the form once it is completed. If you have specific questions about the form, your insurance company can help. 

3. Make a Copy

Always, always, always make and keep a copy of any documentation you send to the insurance company; include the date you sent it and the method (such as email, fax, or through the postal service). 

You may need to resend documentation at a later date and you will benefit from having an accurate copy of your submitted documents. 

4. Call Your Insurance Company

Once you have your receipt, completed the claim form, and have personal copies of each, call your insurance company. Let them know you are filing a claim, review the paperwork in hand, and ask them if there is anything else you need to send to complete the filing of the claim. Confirm how and where to send the paperwork. 

Most insurance companies prefer claims to be submitted via email, or directly through their website. Finally, ask them how long it will take for the claim to be paid. Write down the date of this call, the time, the name of the person with whom you spoke, and the details of your conversation. 

5. Follow Up

It is always a good idea to follow up in a week or two to confirm that your documents were received and that the claim is being processed. Your insurance company may request more information or documentation from you during the processing of your claim, so be ready to provide more details at any time. 

Common Causes for Denial of Claims

The following errors could lead to your claim being denied.

  • Clerical errors: Misspelling of names or addresses, typos, entering the wrong medical code, or date of service. Be sure to triple-check all the information on the forms you are submitting. 
  • Failure to meet the submission deadline: Every insurance company has a different deadline, but be sure to make note of it. Claims typically need to be submitted within 90 days of a medical visit, but be sure to familiarize yourself with your company’s policy. 
  • Medical necessity is deemed insufficient: Claims are sometimes denied when the insurer does not consider the medical visit or procedure as appropriate or necessary. 

If your claim is denied for any reason, there is typically a process for appeal or an opportunity for resubmission. 

When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care (offered by the Blue Cross Blue Shield® PPO network) no matter where they are in the U.S.
Contact for more information.