Studying abroad for a semester or more used to be a rarity. In the last ten years, however, American students’ participation in study abroad has increased greatly as we have come to realize that we must prepare our young people to assume a role in a world different from the one in which we grew up.
The world suddenly seems smaller and tightly interconnected and our students will be expected to function as professionals in the new global economy. A study abroad experience transforms our students in every way: intellectually, personally, and professionally. Academic studies pursued in another country provide a special kind of intellectual challenge. Leaving home and venturing forth to another country empower a young person and trigger a spurt of personal growth and self confidence. A study abroad experience can also greatly strengthen the resume, for employers interpret the study abroad experience as a sure sign that a person takes on challenges and can function in a wide range of situations.
What’s your role as a parent?
Take the time to become informed about your student’s program of choice. A wonderful resource is a national Web site with an almost exhaustive checklist guiding your analysis: The Center for Global Education—Study Abroad Handbook
Consider visiting your student— the second half of the semester is a great time to go. By this time, students are settled in, comfortable with their surroundings, and knowledgeable guides. Having your son or daughter proudly act as your guide is a great moment as a parent.
Encourage your student, guide your student, but do NOT do the preparatory work for him or her. Their attention to the necessary details involved in studying abroad is a vital part of their growth and is essential to a successful study abroad experience. Insisting that your student carry primary responsibility for the off-campus experience helps empower her, and encourages the independence and self-reliance that will ultimately make his off-campus experience rewarding.