Studying abroad isn’t about getting to take cool pictures for Facebook. With that said, anyone who has been part of this experience will say that it is unique and the benefits are endless. From immersing yourself in a different culture to discovering new places, it is clear why several people want to have the chance to study abroad at least one time in their life. Still, the perspective can be different for those who worry for their twenty-something-year old children.
The first time I introduced the idea of studying abroad to my mother, I was met with a “We’ll see.” Later, my mother would reveal that she had really hoped that I would forget about it. Sadly for her, the idea never left my head as I spent every day thinking about how cool it would be to study in another country. When I brought it up again, after two months of doing research and looking at boarding schools that interested me, that “We’ll see” changed to a “I don’t think it’s a good idea…”
It might sound crazy that my mother didn’t like the idea as soon as I proposed it. I thought things were bananas when my father joined her in thinking that I should just stay home. It took me years to understand why they reacted the way they did and that, in reality, their reaction was completely normal.
Most parents don’t like the idea of letting go of their children. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first, middle or last child. It doesn’t matter if said child is in high school, taking a gap year or in college. One way or another, parents always find a reason to say, “You shouldn’t go.” Even though it’s easy to get mad at them for not immediately agreeing with the idea, understanding why they disagree is a must when trying to get the best result in the situation.
Please note that there is a difference between going to college in another state and going to Paris for a semester. At least if their children are inside the same country as them, parents know how to reach out, what to do if there’s an emergency and overall feel better about their kid getting used to the new place. Things change when they find their child suddenly asking to let them go to study in a different nation.
The path toward convincing them to let go can be tricky, but it isn’t impossible. The first thing in the checklist is restraining yourself from arguing and listening to their concerns.
“But what about school?”
Today, many colleges offer study abroad programs. Students can travel to the other side of the world for six months, go to school, stay with a native family or on campus and get to know the culture. Thanks to this, finding opportunities to study in a different continent for a semester isn’t as hard as one could initially think.
The opportunity to study abroad for a quarter in France or Hong Kong was one of the things that made a big difference in my decision to attend my current college. Every quarter, applications to be part of the program are open for students interested in studying in one of the two campuses in those two countries. The process is incredibly uncomplicated: Talk to the college advisor, express interest and let them help with scheduling classes.
In my opinion, this is a big solution for college students who want to travel but also feel that they can’t take a break from college. At the same time, it’s easier for parents to open up if they feel that your education is still secured.
“What about the language?”
Surprisingly enough, knowing the language doesn’t have to be a rock in the road to travel the world. Of course, the lack of fluency in a foreign language will be one of the first things that parents will point out as they try to stop their kids from leaving home. Many people see language limitations as a big con, but it’s necessary to remember it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to learn a different language while traveling.
The first thing that probably comes to mind are those travel size books that are usually sold at the airport. I won’t say that autodidacticism isn’t an option, but it isn’t for everyone. Some people will be able to learn from reading and completing language books, watching movies without subtitles or using phone apps like Duolingo. Some others might feel that they will only learn if they sit down in a classroom with a teacher.
Language school is an alternative that is not as well-known as it should be. Language schools are all over the world, specialize in intensively teaching languages and are open to anyone who is interested. In addition, some language schools also offer housing for international students.
English First (EF) is one of the most popular study abroad programs for college students. Students can take classes in the language of their choice, attend private tours and live in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Costa Rica, Japan or China. EF also allows students to choose the period of time and season when they would like to study abroad. There’s no need to cut school to travel. Besides, an immersive experience in a different country always leads to better results when learning a new language is the set goal.
“What about the time difference?”
Keeping in touch is certainly not a problem in the year 2016 when one doesn’t need to look too hard to find an internet connection. At first, exploring, learning and having fun will take up most of the time and forgetting to ring home will be a potential consequence, especially if there are more than six hours of time difference in between.
Going abroad is a great way for college students to prove that they can easily manage living alone. At the beginning, dealing with the time difference could cause many people to feel overwhelmed and forget to call their family. In consequence, parents will get anxious. The reason why so many parents dislike the idea of their kids going to a country on the other side of the world is the danger of losing contact. They know that if they don’t get a call every once in a while, they will be left wondering if their child is okay and why they haven’t called yet.
Please, be considerate. The experience opens a huge opportunity to explore the world, but it is also important to remember to write, call or text once in a while. It doesn’t matter if it’s every day, once a week or once a month, knowing how their child is doing can bring great relief to parents and help them accept that it isn’t as bad as they thought it would be.
It’s obvious that most of the things parents worry about have a solution. But then, why do parents see so many complications? The truth is there is no way to keep parents from worrying. Again, regardless of their kid’s age, parents will always regard their children as theirs, which is why they don’t like to think that they could be apart for long.
They might go out of their way to try to convince their kids to stay home. Some might even offer to buy a brand new car. The best you can do to show studying abroad is a positive experience is be open to dialogue, be understanding and look for solutions. In the end, most parents agree that it is a positive thing to be part of and have no problems with repeating it.
There’s nothing more to convincing parents than acting like an adult and not throwing a tantrum.