by Danielle DeSimone
Hey parents – it might be hard to believe that there are kids out there who are reluctant to study abroad, but they do exist. If your child is one of them, but you’d like them to experience the wonders of study abroad, we have a few tips for you to convince them that yes, they should absolutely take that chance, get out of their comfort zone, and study abroad.
What young person hasn’t dreamed of exploring the world, Carmen Sandiego-style? When talking to your child about studying abroad, be sure to remind them that studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get out of their home culture and explore a culture entirely different than their own. Travel is one of the grandest adventures anyone can have, and experiencing a global learning environment at such a young age is a major opportunity.
Explain to your kid that studying abroad will set them apart from all of their fellow classmates. Are they studying French? Obsessed with marine biology? Studying abroad immerses any student completely in the subjects they are studying, so that their textbooks come to life. Speaking French every day in (and out of) the classroom in France or monitoring sea turtle nests as a volunteer in Costa Rica will give your student incomparable academic experiences that aren’t possible if they stay at home.
Have a teenager at home? They are probably vying for their independence from you on a daily basis anyway. When discussing study abroad with your child, be sure to point out that going to another country will give them the ultimate sense of independence and seriously develop their confidence.
Of course, as their parents, you’ll always be just one Skype call away. But, a summer or year abroad will give your child the skills and experiences they need to become truly independent and capable of handling themselves not just in day-to-day life at home, but in a foreign country.
Listening Is Key
In your enthusiasm to convince your child to study abroad, be sure to listen to them as well; tune into their interests and their goals. Although your support is obviously crucial to your child being able to study abroad, and opinions matter, remember that this is their adventure. Their interests are what are important, and they won’t have a rewarding study abroad experience if it isn’t the right program or country for them.
You and your child might have concerns about the price tag of going abroad, but studying abroad can be affordable. GoAbroad’s Scholarship Directory is an excellent start to learning about financial aid that is available to students. The Traveler’s Mindset guide to funding opportunities like grants, fellowships, and scholarships is also a great resource.
Your student you could also explore crowdfunding options such as Fund My Travel, which would allow your student to tell their story to the world on why they want to study abroad, and accept donations from people in your community and from kind strangers to help them get there.
Summer Camp, but Better
Summer camp friendships are legendary, bonds forged over s’mores and archery contests… Now imagine these kind of friendships built while teaching English to children in Peru, navigating the busy streets of Hong Kong, or learning to speak Italian in Italy by deciphering the restaurant menu together.
Remind your kid that these sorts of experiences will bring incredible people into their lives, not just through their fellow students, but their host families who welcome them into their country simply by opening their home to your child.
Call In The Professionals
Despite your enthusiasm for study abroad, sometimes it’s helpful to bring in the professionals. Speak to your child’s high school counselors or with a representative of a study abroad program, as many of them will know how to answer questions better than you can on how this decision will affect your child, both academically and personally.
Telling Their Story
Does your kid have a fierce creative streak running through them? Explore the endless opportunities for personal expression that travel allows: photography, creative writing, video-blogging, musical inspiration, even an Instagram-blog! Travel and studying abroad are experiences that can help your child to explore new artistic ventures and express themselves in ways they never before thought possible. Plus they’ll get, like, at least 100 more followers on Insta.
Flying The Coop
Although many students are ready to jump blindly into a study abroad program, some might have a few more reservations about the idea of going to a foreign country by themselves. It can be a scary thing for first-time solo travelers, no matter how old they are!
When discussing study abroad with your child, highlight the support systems that exist within many study abroad programs, like on-site staff to assist with emergencies and transitioning into a new culture, pre-arranged housing, or host families who look forward to welcoming your child into their home.
High school students are inspired by their peers and the celebrities they admire. Google celebrities or role models that your kid admires and see how many of them have studied or lived abroad. When having a conversation with your child about study abroad, mentioning “You know who else studied abroad and lived in other countries? Gandhi and JK Rowling!” might just be your ticket in.
With college admissions being so competitive, study abroad experience is becoming an increasingly valued resume bullet point. Very few high school students study abroad, which will make your child’s college application (or job application) stand out from the crowd.
Explain that by studying abroad, they will gain invaluable skills, a more globalized view of the world, and will demonstrate to future colleges that they are valuable potential candidates that should be accepted. Plus, study abroad revelations make a killer topic for application essays!
Cultural Crash Course
Express to your child the amazing cultural education they’ll receive while abroad. Being in another country will open their minds to entirely new way of living, and can completely change their perspective of the world. This might seem scary, but the payoffs are worth it, and this adventure will probably lead to even more travel in their future!
Although all of these tips might help you “sell” your kid on studying abroad, it’s important to remember that they are your child and you know them best. Be open and honest about why you think studying abroad would be such an amazing opportunity for them. They’ll catch that travel bug and will be boarding a plane in no time!
After graduating from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in English, creative writing, and Italian, Danielle decided to leap across the Atlantic and move to southern Italy! Five years have passed and Danielle has traveled to over a dozen countries since making the big move abroad, and she doesn’t have plans of stopping anytime soon. Danielle currently works for the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) as a social media manager and assistant editor, and also works as a freelance travel writer for GoAbroad.com.