As a lawyer who puts family first, diligent attorneys like Debra Schonberg know better than anyone how agonizing major life decisions involving children can be. Few choices are as weighty as grappling with whether or not to let your child study abroad, as the thought of letting them set out to some far-flung locale for months at a time can be an instant trigger of stress for more than a few caring parents. While there are perils to consider, the chance to study abroad is a largely positive experience, and as a parent, there are some things you should consider before delivering that final verdict to your kid.
First and foremost, you can think of studying abroad as a way for your child to spread their wings and truly experience living in the world on their own. There’s a big difference between traveling as a tourist and actually living and studying in a different culture, and the study abroad experience will help build independence, self-reliance and a greater understanding of our global community.
Did you know that in the United States, only 1% of students participate in study abroad programs? This is an opportunity for your child to set themselves apart from the vast majority of their peers, showing their ability to work cross culturally to prospective employers right out the gate. They’ll also have the chance to develop friendships in a whole new country, and we all know how important networking is.
Of course there are dangers to being in a new environment, especially one in a country that’s completely foreign to you. No one wishes to send their ward to a problematic, or war-torn country for instance. You would want them in a country where the respect for law and order exists, or at least the fear of local military bearing AK-47 rifles abounds.
No harm in staying safe, and you can provide yourself with some peace of mind if you cover a few topics with your child before they leave to study abroad.
Make sure they know how to get in contact with the American Embassy in whatever country they’re headed to, and have them keep copies of their passport, visas, and other essential documents just in case.
Beyond that, give them the rundown on general safety protocol that applies no matter where they might be — staying aware of their surroundings, traveling with a group whenever possible, etc. The more they know when it comes to staying safe, the better.
Your child might be gone for a while, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to check in. With all the technology at your fingertips, staying in touch is easier than ever. Your child is but a quick Skype call away, and you’ll be able to see how they’re doing as they get acclimated to their new surroundings.