Study Abroad a Bonus for Kids
On Saturday, we sent our youngest son Dylan off to a summer study abroad program in Istanbul, Turkey. His older siblings both studied abroad during their college years. Older brother Aaron spent a school year at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Older sister Hayley spent two quarters studying Spanish in Granada, Spain and one quarter studying public health in Ecuador. Needless to say, our kids are not afraid of traveling and learning about new cultures and places. More importantly though, my husband Glen and I fostered the idea of going abroad in our children.
Neither my husband nor I studied abroad, something I think we both regret. When is a better time to travel and learn then when still foot loose and fancy free and more than likely still on the parents payroll? The world seems so much smaller today than it did 30 years ago. Internet access allows an easy way to keep up with news events from around the world. Many high schools (and even middle schools) sponsor overseas trips for various school programs. And America being a nation of immigrants, our children are exposed to other children from different countries among their daily playmates.
The main key to all of this though that as parents we were willing to let go. We took the risk of allowing our children to travel halfway around the world and be gone from home for weeks or months at a time. Sure, it is easy to keep in touch with Skype, email and Facebook. And yes, there are risks just walking down the street of any American city. But to be in a foreign country means being out of reach in case of emergency as it is usually a one or two day trip to where they are. It means trusting they will make the right decisions in unfamiliar surroundings where English is not the common language.
We have no regrets about this though. Aaron and Hayley learned valuable lessons being on their own in a foreign country and we expect Dylan will too. And we had the advantage of seasoned tour guides when we visited Aaron in Scotland and Hayley in Spain, a wonderful byproduct of children studying abroad. Regretfully we will not be able to visit Dylan in Turkey. However, I think he will still have fun without us!