You know it is so much more than just a rite of passage. You know deep down that the benefits of the experience are nearly endless.
But that doesn’t change the fact a small part of you panics when your college-age child announces that they want to study abroad. This is especially true if they want to study abroad for a whole semester or even an entire year.
So how do you keep your cool while helping your child prepare for and enjoy this life-altering experience?
Following are just a few ways to combat the anxiety and take steps that will legitimately lay your fears to rest.
For most parents, fears about their child studying abroad are related to:
⦁ Safety: Between the concerns about how differently health care works, the different types of sickness they could be exposed to, as well as all the unknowns risks and threats that come with traveling in a foreign land on the other side of the world, there seems a lot to be anxious about.
⦁ Keeping In Touch: When you hear from your child regularly, it prevents your imagination from running away from you. You feel more in control hearing from them and knowing they are safe. Traveling, though, often means communication is cut off or limited, which makes parents feel very vulnerable.
⦁ Cost: There is a very real anxiety over the costs of studying abroad, especially if your child is going for a semester or year.
Things to Know
To help assuage some of the above fears, first – here are some things to know:
⦁ It’s worth it: studying abroad truly does prepare your child and improve their chances for real world success. They will have to learn a new level of self-sufficiency and independence. They will also be exposed to a completely different view of the world and the problems other people face, developing cultural sensitivity as well as maturity.
⦁ It’s not as dangerous as you might think: statistically speaking, most study abroad trips are free of any serious incidents. This is especially true when you properly prepare, which we will discuss in a moment.
⦁ Staying connected has never been easier: there are an incredible number of ways to stay connected with today’s technology, so it is very unlikely you will truly have to relinquish regular communication.
⦁ Lots of ways to pay: between numerous scholarships as well as ways to budget and send money, cost can be managed when planned for ahead of time and when your child is willing to work hard enough for it beforehand.
Things to Do
Hopefully these little facts have assuaged your fears somewhat. But now, here are the real, tangible steps you can take to truly make your child’s experience safe and affordable.
⦁ Safety Steps:
⦁ Make sure you and your child learn as much as you can about the host country. The more you know about the country’s customs, culture, as well as the country’s crime related issues, and where embassies are, the better.
⦁ Make a full contact list for you and your child. Have all of the contact numbers and emails for everyone your child will be going with, any responsible leaders, address of where they are staying, etc.
⦁ Be street smart with valuables. Teach your child about why they should only carry small amounts of cash with them at a time, and keep it somewhere very discreet. Travelers are big targets for pick-pocketing.
⦁ Get international travel insurance to cover your child’s care should they need medical attention.
⦁ Communication Tips:
⦁ Develop a communication plan before they go. Decide when they contact you, how they contact you, what they contact you for.
Will they touch base with you daily? Weekly? By email, or phone, or instant messenger?
⦁ Use internet apps like Skype, Viber or Facebook to communicate for free on a more regular basis. All they need is access to WiFi and their laptops, and you can talk to and even see them for free as often as you want. Make sure you set up your accounts before they leave.
⦁ Another app that can be used for free is the texting app WhatsApp. This is perfect if you just want a quick line about how they are and where they are.
⦁ Managing Costs
⦁ Make your child participate in figuring out how to cover the costs for their trip. There are many study abroad programs that are literal exchange programs that will make the cost virtually the same as if they were studying at home.
There are also hundreds to thousands of scholarships and grants they can apply for.
⦁ Develop a detailed budget before your child goes. Besides the cost of the schooling, there will be room and board, travel costs both getting to the host country and any travel that occurs while they are there, and the day-to-day eating and living costs.
⦁ If your child will be studying abroad for a long period of time, learn about and establish a profile with a money transfer program like Pangea Money Transfer. This will enable you to send money directly to your child if and when they need it, on the condition they have established a local bank account.
Even if your child is footing the bill, having a money transferring account established will help ease your anxiety, knowing you can send funds at a moment’s notice if necessary.
There are a lot of simple steps you can take, and basic knowledge you can gain that will go a very long way in giving you and your child legitimate peace of mind about their upcoming study abroad trip. Don’t wait – start implementing these steps immediately to ensure that they, and you, have an amazing study abroad experience.