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How To Persuade Your Kid To Study Abroad

by Danielle DeSimonetravel-map-of-europe

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.

World Explorer

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.

Academic Advantage

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.

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Independence Day

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.

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Financial Concerns

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.

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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.

Celebrity Inspiration

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.

Resume Booster

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!

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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!

About Danielle

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.

July 1, 2016
Study Abroad in Ireland

TM: What makes Ireland the best study abroad destination, in your opinion?

Allison: Ireland is a great study abroad destination when people pick countries for study abroad (or even just for vacation), Ireland isn’t typically at the top of the list. It doesn’t have snowy ski weather or sunny beach weather. Ireland does get lots of rain, which just makes you appreciate the sunny days so much more!

Ireland is worth the visit alone because of its breathtaking natural sights. I have been on trips to many different parts of Ireland and to many small towns along the way, and I never cease to be amazed by the country’s beauty. Capturing it in pictures just doesn’t do justice.

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Cork county, where I am studying, is actually the largest of the 32 counties in Ireland. Many of the small towns that I have visited have been in the west of Cork, which is known for its cliffs and beaches, and most of the breathtaking views that people associate with Ireland.

Most of the small towns have been very quaint and quiet, and buildings are painted any range of colors. These small towns also tend to be pretty far apart from each other, and definitely don’t blend together like they do in the U.S.

Studying abroad in Ireland has also given me the opportunity to travel Europe for much less than it would cost going from America. Flights to the European continent have cost me as little as 12 Euros (through budget airlines like RyanAir), and from there I can get anywhere. Traveling to another country for a weekend is an experience that I never imagined I would have.

By studying abroad in Ireland, I’ve been able to see European countries that I’ve always dreamed of visiting, while also experiencing Ireland, a country that I also never imagined I would visit.

How are Irish people different from how they are usually portrayed in films?

Not everyone has red hair, nor does everyone sit in a pub, drinking all day. Not everyone is a farmer, or lives in a small town off the beaten path. Some do, of course, but as an exception. I’ve found that Irish people, for the most part, are extremely friendly, polite, and hospitable. It was a very refreshing upgrade from American standards I’m used to.

What has been the biggest culture shock for you?

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There have definitely been a few aspects of culture shock for me, going from the U.S. to Ireland. One that I wasn’t expecting is that nearly everyone here smokes — a lot. Walking through town everyday, I pass numerous people walking with a cigarette in hand. Even walking through the university campus, there are crowds of students smoking outside buildings.

Another difference was how casual the drinking culture is here. I knew it would be different from the U.S., since Ireland’s drinking age is 18, but I didn’t know how casually people take it. There definitely are people who go out to party at night, and the vast majority of people will go to a pub after work with friends, have a beer or two, and then go home. One of my teachers even suggested to our class that we all go out for a drink together when the class finished!

Another different aspect that I’m very happy about is how much fresh food is available. In Cork, where I am studying, we have a fresh food market with all sorts of vendors that are open daily.  Plus, the food is very inexpensive! Packaged foods in grocery stores have less artificial additives, and are more fresh than their counterparts in the U.S. Even though I have to go grocery shopping more often, for the delicious food I get, I don’t mind at all.

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What has been the most profound lesson being in Ireland has taught you so far?

I’ve been slowly learning to embrace everything thrown my way and dance in the rain, both literally and figuratively. I can’t let myself use the excuse, “It’s raining, I don’t want to go anywhere,” because I have things to do…and in Ireland it could rain for 10 days straight!

Especially as I’ve been traveling more, there is always the chance that something could go wrong. I’ve tried to adopt the mindset of getting straight to “how to fix the problem” rather than staying in the “get upset over the problem” phase as I used to.

My goal for the rest of the trip to enjoy every minute I have left here. My trip is already half over, and it feels like I just got here a week ago. I will never get another opportunity like this, so I’m taking it all in while I can. I can guarantee that once I’ve left, I’ll only want to come back.

About Allison

d77646_a3b5670f70b14d639bc744334b716cceAllison Parker is a second year Occupational Therapy student at Quinnipiac University. She is spending a semester abroad in Cork, Ireland and is journaling her way around Europe. You can read more about her adventures on her blog, The Luck of the Irish.

March 17, 2016
The Time I Went On Study Abroad & The Egyptian Revolution Happened

This article is the story of how the Arab Spring taught me an abrupt lesson in being open and letting go of expectations while I traveled and studied overseas.

 

“Aren’t you afraid something like this might happen in Egypt?“

my mom asked.

It was December 2010. NBC Nightly News had just come to a commercial break and we briefly exchanged glances – hers worried and mine rather nonchalant.

Just seconds earlier, scenes of protest and revolt were projected into our living room. Tunisia had erupted into chaos after the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a vegetable cart owner whose sole source of income – his wares and produce – had been confiscated by police.

I was 20. I was invincible. And I was going to Egypt – not Tunisia.

Sure, the Middle East has been a volatile region for decades. But I was adamant to prove to my friends, my family, and my peers that the Middle East was more than just a hotspot of Islamic extremism and instability. Heck, Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, had been in power for 30 years, and he certainly wasn’t going anywhere soon.

Tunisia was an outlier.

That’s what I kept telling myself. And that’s what many Egyptians kept telling me when I finally arrived in the country a few weeks later.

I was even prepared for the isolated demonstrations that did break out on January 25, 2011 – Egypt’s National Police Day. Apparently anti-police brutality protests were held every year on this day, a small but tolerated jab at the Mubarak regime.

So when I was on a student tour of Old Cairo on January 25 and our guide abruptly ended our walk through the market stalls of Khan al-Khalili, I wasn’t too worried. I wasn’t worried either when we were told to board buses to New Cairo, a suburb on the city’s outskirts, and stay there for a few hours until the demonstrations simmered down.

 

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And they did, at least for a little while. Nobody, not even the locals, thought this year’s protests would be any different than in years past.

But while the protests simmered down, they didn’t die out completely.

Family and friends sent concerned emails, having seen the demonstrations on the news. But in a city of 10 million inhabitants, life goes on if only a few thousand are protesting.

Four days later, I went for a walk with three other students down the leafy streets of Zamalek, an affluent suburb in central Cairo where our dorm was located. We approached a riverfront cafe and were lured in by the smell of cardamom coffee. I sat down on a white wicker chair and looked across the Nile.

And then, finally, I saw it: Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the demonstrations.

I wasn’t frightened. I wasn’t nervous. I was, to be frank, excited. “Well, this will make for an interesting story,“ I thought to myself. I took out my camera and began to take pictures. We were at a safe vantage point anyways… or so I thought.

That’s when my plans to study abroad in Egypt were turned upside down.

As dramatic as it may sound, there really is no other way to describe it.

I had hardly had a sip of coffee when I heard gunshots. But instead of a sound that reverberated from across the river, the gunshots were fired from somewhere behind us.

And then it came. At first it was just a tingling of the throat. A tickle. I thought I had to sneeze.

Suddenly, my eyes began to water. It was as if I had just inhaled the contents of a pepper shaker. My throat was burning now.

It dawned on me: tear gas.

I looked across the river and, to my astonishment, saw that the protesters were now fleeing. They were being dispersed from Tahrir Square, and many of them were running across a nearby bridge straight toward us… and also straight toward the riot police waiting somewhere behind us.

I will never forget the words of the Egyptian waiter who tried to calm us down in that moment. Kuluh tamam, everything is okay.

But everything wasn’t okay.

 

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We shoved the waiter a 50 pound note and ran to the sidewalk, waving frantically at every passing car and taxi while burying our faces in our scarves and jackets.

The first car passed and the driver shook his head and hands. No.

Another passed. Also no.

Finally, a taxi slowed down and all four of us bolted in. “Ala tul, ala tul, straight ahead,“ I shouted.

Thirty minutes later, on the rooftop terrace of our dormitory, I looked out at the city around me. Plumes of smoke were rising on the horizon. Car alarms and sirens were blaring in side streets. Gunshots were being fired in the distance.

Later, this day would be come to be called the Day of Rage.

In the next few days until my ultimate evacuation from Egypt, I was plagued by a sense of uncertainty I had never known before. Nationwide curfews were imposed early in the afternoon. Internet and cell phone service was shut down. Supermarkets began to run out of fresh produce.

It was now obvious that these protests weren’t something normal. Perhaps Tunisia really wasn’t an outlier after all.

On the night I signed up for an evacuation flight, January 30, 2011, I went into the bathroom and began to sob.

I was upset because the semester I spent a year planning for had vanished into thin air.

I was upset because my attempt to prove the Middle East isn’t always an unstable place had failed.

I was upset because I had taken the whole affair so lightly at the beginning.

And I was upset because, for the first time in my life, I had absolutely no idea what to do.

I had no idea where I would be evacuated to (I ended up on a flight to Istanbul). Nor did I have any clue how to proceed with my studies (it was too late in the semester for me to return to my home university in the United States).

In the end, I managed to find a study abroad program in the United Arab Emirates that took me in at short notice, and I even went back to Egypt that summer to volunteer at two NGOs.

 

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But I won’t sit here and tell you everything turned out alright.

I was robbed of an opportunity to explore Egypt to my heart’s content – a country I had dreamed of visiting for some time. In retrospect, I was so focused on visiting Egypt that I didn’t really enjoy my time in the Emirates.

I left the Middle East feeling disoriented and confused.

Before Egypt, I had hoped to pursue a Master’s Degree in Middle Eastern Studies or International Development. My life after graduation was all planned out, or at least a part of it. After eight months in the Middle East, though, I returned to the United States not knowing what I really wanted to do anymore.

I was lost. I was directionless. And I was frustrated.

Looking back on this trip almost five years later, I realize that, at the time, there was one important lesson I hadn’t yet learned:

While you may know your destination, you’ll never really know where it will take you.

Sometimes, this can be thrilling and exciting. But it can also be incredibly nerve-wracking, as Egypt showed me.

At the end of the day, though, the only thing I really could do is to stay open to the experience, be flexible, and let go of any expectations. And that, I believe, is one of the most important, but also hardest things to do when traveling.

I’ll admit, it’s a skill I haven’t mastered yet…

But if anything, Egypt certainly nudged me a good bit closer. And for that, I will be forever grateful.

 

About Danny
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Originally from the Midwest, Danny has lived in Europe and the Middle East and has traveled to over 30 countries. A lover of languages, maps, photography, and window seats, he is currently based in Frankfurt, Germany, where he enjoys the simpler aspects of expat life when not on the road. To learn more about Danny and his travels, visit his blog, The Dusty Compass.
December 1, 2015