As loving parents, we often ponder over the best ways to educate our children. We send them to school entrusting them to the care of their teachers. We instruct them at home with patient diligence. We enroll them in activities including sports, scouts, music, academic enrichment, and many things close to home and close to us. For parents with high-school and college-aged children, the choice of studying abroad will likely present itself. Many parents will grapple with this decision. Traveling, especially when abroad, takes time, money, effort, patience, and faith. Should parents and caregivers encourage their children to study in a foreign country? There are some obstacles and challenges to consider, but the benefits that can be gained from studying abroad reach far and wide.
Easing the Expense of Studying Abroad
Choose an Inexpensive Destination
Travel is expensive, but there are ways to ease the cost. For example, if your child wants to study abroad, have them consider choosing a country that is nearby and cheaper to get to, such as Canada or Mexico. If your child has their heart set on traveling to Europe, they might think about areas where the cost of living is less expensive. Instead of traveling to extravagant cities like London or Paris, they might choose a program in the Italian countryside. Many colleges and universities around the US, such as The Ohio State University, have a wide variety of study abroad programs. Opportunities for foreign travel exist at the high school level as well.
Grants, Scholarships, and Part-time Jobs
Another great way to save money is to apply for grants and scholarships. Additionally, students could get a part time job to start saving their own money that they could use towards studying abroad. Having a part-time job would also encourage financial independence and responsibility.
Planning for Studying Abroad
Preparing a Passport
When traveling, planning is essential. If your child wants to travel outside the country, they will need a passport. Applying for a passport is easy enough, but processing times can be unpredictable. It is always a good idea to make sure passports are up-to-date and to get them renewed if necessary.
Research, Research, Research
After settling on a destination, it is important to research that place as much as possible. This is something fun and exciting that you can do together with your child as they prepare for their journey abroad. Have them study maps of where they will be going to help them get a sense of their bearings before they arrive. If they are traveling to a big city, have them learn the metro maps or bus routes so they can understand how they might get around. Take time to research points of interest in and around their destination so they can take full advantage of the nearby historical and cultural opportunities.
Patience and Faith
Growth by Leaving Comfort Zone
As parents, we must sometimes leave our own comfort zones to allow our kids to grow. Sending our children to a faraway land is a definite trial of comfort, patience, and faith. One way to ease this anxiety is to discuss plans with your child. If they do opt to study abroad, you should encourage them to see, experience, and learn as much as they can during that precious time. Making these types of plans together with your child could be a great bonding experience before they embark on their adventure. If possible, you might even consider visiting your child wherever they choose to go.
Exposure to Another Culture
An Enriching Experience
Experiencing another culture is a wonderful way to enrich the mind, body, and soul. Our children learn when they meet people who do things differently. When our children immerse themselves in another culture, they learn at a deeper level. They learn new ways of doing things that they might prefer to their usual way of doing things. On the other hand, they may learn ways of doing things that they do not like, and this will reinforce appreciation of their own culture. Either of these is a valuable lesson.
Diversity is prevalent. While it can be intimidating, it is also exciting and beautiful. As parents, we must allow our children to embrace diversity. What better way to do this than to travel abroad? Developing open-mindedness by expanding a child’s world view is essential to raising citizens of the world.
As human beings, we love to eat! As Americans, we have a fascination for cuisines from all over the world. The average American diet can be seen as riddled with excess sugar, salt, and fat. Many diets from other parts of the world are considered healthier. The Mediterranean diet, for example, emphasizes healthy fats from seafood and olive oil as well as fresh fruits and veggies. The Indian diet is known for its vast array of spices that have many health benefits. A traditional Japanese diet includes minimally processed foods like fish, seaweed, rice, soy, fruit, and vegetables. Studying abroad would provide your child with the opportunity to eat these foods in their native lands – talk about a truly authentic culinary experience!
Exposure to Another Language
Studying abroad often means being exposed to a different language. Research shows that learning a foreign language has many cognitive benefits, including improvements in concentration, communication skills, memory, creativity, and academic performance. Plus, learning a new language can be fun and interesting!
Learn a New Language
The mental processes involved in learning a new language are very complex. Along with formal classroom instruction, immersing students in the field of a language is an indispensable method for gaining fluency. Being in the presence of a foreign language that you cannot fully understand is daunting. However, that simple presence is the first step to easing the anxiety of being lost in translation. Students of foreign languages benefit greatly from a mix of classroom instruction and full immersion. Studying abroad is a wonderful way to get the best of both worlds and achieve the goal of fluency.
Memories that Last a Lifetime
Along with everything listed above, one of the greatest benefits of studying abroad will be the memories made. Many theories about the key to happiness exist. One such theory is that the experiences we have, rather than objects we possess, are the true key. Our experiences create memories that last a lifetime. By taking the time and effort to plan a successful trip, your child has the potential to make many happy memories.
Studying abroad is an incredible opportunity that everyone should explore. We are all citizens of the world, and embracing this idea will lead to success. You can help your child succeed by letting them take flight and soar.
Author: Amanda Hutson, Curriculum Assistant at A Grade Ahead