The first thing parents and students should do before traveling anywhere is to check with U.S. Department of State's International Travel Information Website. There you will find links to consular information sheets and country background notes, which provide important information about your host country. For some countries, there may be a travel warning in effect, so be sure to check the Department of State's current travel warnings as well. Travel warnings are issued when the Department of State decides, based on all relevant information, to recommend that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. To make sure you have a more comprehensive view of the situation in your host country, you may also want to cross-reference with other sources of information, such as the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and their Country Information page, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the U.K. Foreign Commonwealth Office.
US Embassies offer various services for U.S. citizens while they are abroad. Students are recommended to register themselves with the local US Embassy while they are participating in an international programs.
The CIA Factbook Web site has a comprehensive list of destinations. The site contains information about geography, people, government, economy, communications, and transportation for every country. It is a helpful Web site to become familiar with the country you are going to study in, as well as surrounding countries you may visit during your time abroad.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is an operating component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Their Travelers' Health Web site contains helpful information regarding vaccinations, diseases and health risks for each region of the world. The site also contains information about items you need to bring with you while traveling and ways to stay healthy during your time abroad.