Keeping the Lines of Communication Open: Students Talking to Parents about Education Abroad
Friday, October 18, 2019
Contributed by: Carla Sinclar, Diversity Abroad Communications Intern
Studying abroad is one of the most valuable assets you as a student can take away from your academic careers. The benefits range from honing foreign language skills to increasing cultural awareness, to name a few. But traveling internationally comes with some risks, and it may be the first time you’ve been away from home — or from your home country — which might rattle the nerves of your parent or guardian. And sometimes, no amount of assurances or pamphlets can keep a worried parent happy, so keep these things in mind before and during your time abroad.
Be patient, and be prepared.
When you initially bring up the prospect of studying abroad, be ready to answer some questions. Especially for first-generation college students, the idea of packing up and hopping on a plane for a semester or year can be a daunting idea for a parent to wrap their mind around; be sure to have all the information about the program, the advisor, where you’ll be staying and more to show that you’ve done your research and that you’ll be in good hands. And remember not to get too frustrated if they’re worried! You’re their child. It’s only natural.
Know how you’re going to pay.
Other than safety, financial concerns can play a big role in a caregiver’s apprehension to studying abroad. Let them know that it doesn’t have to come straight out of your or their pockets — there are plenty of resources to tap into to fund a program abroad. Check out Diversity Abroad’s scholarship center, where you can find a number of different scholarships and grants to ease the burden of paying for a program.Talk to your international education advisor to further explore your choices, but one thing’s for certain: it doesn’t have to fall on your parents. Be prepared with the information to show money isn’t an insurmountable obstacle.
Set up modes of communication.
While abroad, there are always methods of keeping in touch with your parents to give them the occasional check-in — they’re going to want to hear all about your experiences (and make sure you’re keeping safe)! Most cell providers offer international plans, which might be cheaper than making international calls. Prepaid phones or SIM cards are also useful for keeping in touch with your fellow study abroad peers, as well as contacting your parents. If there’s internet available, free applications such as Skype, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger can be used to call, video chat or text-message using only just wifi, making them a valuable resource for spontaneous checkins. Set up a set time to connect as well, whether it be a certain time of day or week where they know you’ll touch base. And remember to keep it!
Know what to do during an emergency.
While no one wants anything bad to happen, when bad situations arise it’s best to be prepared. Make sure your parents have the numbers of advisors at your base school as well as at your host institution, and the address where you’ll be living. Make sure to have proof of your medical coverage and identification on you at all times as well, as having this important information on you will help assure your parents you’re prepared for any situation.
Your caregivers want what’s best for you — sometimes taking that leap can be little scary. If you cover your bases and show them you’re knowledgeable, prepared and just a phone/Skype call away, they’ll see the value of a study abroad experience. And don’t forget to take pictures to show them when you get back!