I remember when I came home for the weekend my sophomore year of college and declared to my parents that I want to study abroad in the U.K. the following year. I was expecting to be met with excitement and a “go get ‘em!” attitude. Instead, 19-year old me was met with “How is this relevant to your future?”, “Is it safe?”, “How much is this going to cost?” and my personal favorite by my dad, “Well at least she’s going to England, not the Congo!”
Although I was a tad disappointed with their initial reaction, I now understand their fears. Many parents can relate to the possibility of having their kids move across the world for 6 or more months. While you ponder over letting your kids go, know that as their parent, you have a huge influence over their decision. Studying abroad can be a beautiful experience for a young adult, however it is not appropriate for everyone. To help make the decision, here are the main factors parents might consider when deciding whether or not to let their children study abroad.
- You’re worried it’s not safe
In this day and age, it’s understandable that parents are wary of letting their kids go abroad. However, it’s important to understand that serious threats such as terrorism may be just as likely to happen at home as they are to happen abroad. Of course, I would recommend taking extra care when choosing a country and a program. Certain countries are inherently safer than others.
The most common threat will be petty theft. This can be prevented by properly educating your children on how to look after their cash and valuables. You could also consider investing in a travel insurance policy that will protect their valuables and cover emergency medical expenses.
- You think it’s too expensive
The cost of studying abroad breaks down into 3 categories – tuition, cost of living, and getting there.
When it comes to tuition, you may be able to choose a program with comparable pricing to what your child is already paying at their home university. This is very relative because if your child is at a private school paying upwards of $50,000 a year, you may find that you’re saving money on the program in terms of tuition.
When looking at cost of living, choosing a location that fits your child’s wishes and your budget is key. Some popular study abroad cities like Paris, London and Sydney are more expensive than cheaper locations like Costa Rica and Ecuador.
The cost of transportation may have an impact on your budget – your child will need a ticket to get there and back, you may want to visit and they may want to come home for a holiday. As someone who studied abroad for a semester in college and did an entire master’s program abroad, travel costs really put a dent in my and my parent’s wallet. There are ways to make traveling back and forth a lot cheaper by taking advantage of credit card rewards, booking at the right time and searching for online deals.
There are also options for families who are unable to cover the cost out-of-pocket. There are specific scholarships for students looking to study abroad as well as financial aid options.
- You don’t see how it’s relevant to their future or degree
Studying abroad is not just an expensive, long vacation. Your children will have firsthand opportunity to see how the other side of the world lives, perceives information and interacts with one another. Studying abroad can influence your child for a lifetime – a scary yet inspiring thought.
To make sure that studying abroad is valuable to your child’s future, it’s important to ensure that the classes they take abroad will transfer their credits to your child’s university. When I studied abroad at The University of Leeds in the U.K., I took multiple classes to satisfy my Psychology and Economics major while mixing in a couple of fun and cultural classes like British Beer Brewing and European Politics.
- They’re not ready
Studying abroad is not for everyone. You should assess your child’s grades and maturity level before agreeing to let them study abroad. If your child is responsible and maintains a good G.P.A. then studying abroad will enhance them as a person, give them a broader world view and generally make them a more interesting human being. However, if your child is struggling in school, skipping classes and has a questionable maturity level, perhaps they are not ready to go abroad. In that case, you can try placing stipulations on their request to study abroad based on improved performance in school.
If you have any questions about studying abroad, want my recommendations based on my travels and experience, or just want to chat, feel free to email me at email@example.com.
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