There is no doubt that Millennials are the most connected generation in history. In seconds, we can watch animals at an African watering hole in real-time, video chat with a friend in Brazil and buy stock from the Tokyo Stock Exchange–all at the same time. With so many international opportunities at our fingertips, it’s no wonder that the number of students studying abroad grows every year.
What Studying Abroad Provides
While having your child away in a foreign country may make you uncomfortable, studying abroad teaches life skills that cannot be instilled in the classroom. I personally spent almost a year abroad in Southern Spain, and the experience changed my life in ways that I could have never imagined.
Learning to adapt to your surroundings is necessary for all walks of life. International students are thrown into a foreign environment and expected to succeed, helping to strengthen talents for being open-minded, resilient and “keeping your cool.” As an American high school student living in Andalusia, my transition to the local style of schooling was difficult. The nurturing, open-forum style classing I was used to in the States was a thing of the past, transplanted with a no-nonsense lecture styled teaching. However, when I switched from high school not too long after, I found myself surprisingly at ease with the pressures of making new friends, meeting strict deadlines and embracing the new.
Development of Problem Solving Skills
Much like adapting to your surroundings, problem-solving skills are not something you can be taught from a book. During my time studying abroad, I had the experience of being alone, lost and unable to speak the local language as I traveled from France to Belgium. Yes, there was bouts of contained panic, but I learned to face my fears, rely upon my instincts and, most importantly, that I was truly a capable individual. Since then, there have been plenty of other scary moments in my life, but I’ve learned to take a step back to assess the situation, as well as to not let self-doubt block me from taking action.
Improved Social and Communication Skills
If enough time is spent abroad, learning a new language will happen. However, the spectrum of communication goes way beyond linguistics, and I certainly had to become creative with how I conveyed certain messages. By immersing oneself into a new culture, there is a better chance of understanding core values and beliefs that are unlike those you’re familiar with.
Being able to be outgoing and mindful of my body language has served me well. During my job interviews, I am mindful of how my hands are positioned, whether my shoulders are straightened or slumped, as well as my tone. During the first few days of meeting my co-workers, I didn’t let anxiety hold me back from sticking my hand out and quickly becoming familiar with each and every one of them. I’ve certainly come a long way from being the teen with downcast eye contact who awkwardly mumbled when meeting his host family.
Helpful Tips for Preparing to Study Abroad
So, now that you know why your child should study abroad, here are some helpful tips.
Read, read, and read some more
Before sending your kid off, they should read and study as much about the culture as possible. This will help in learning traditions and possibly avoid uncomfortable situations. Getting a head start on the language will also be helpful—Duolingo offers free language courses.
Bring as little stuff as possible! A lot of people don’t realize how many things they accumulate in six months. Instead of being weighed down by unnecessary amounts luggage, streamline your life a bit and see what you need as time goes on. If you’re going to be studying at an American university, you’ll need to buy specialized dorm room bedding; sites like OCM will ship your twin XL bedding to your university, so don’t worry about things like sheets until you arrive and see what is included and what needs to be obtained.
Make Digital and Physical Copies of Documents
As they say, hope for the best and prepare for the worst. With both versions, you and your child will be ready for any situation.
Manage Your Money
Even after paying all the necessary fees, there are still many money oriented questions that need answering. Will your child have a bank account in the country? How much ATM will fees cost? Where is your emergency fund located and how can your child access it? All of these questions should be answered before buying a plane ticket. Throughout the semester, keep an eye on exchange rates here.
Studying abroad is an amazing experience that teaches teenagers and young adults necessary life skills, allows them to see the world, and learn a new culture/language.
Have your kids studied abroad or hope to? Leave a comment and let us know if you have any other tips!