Understanding Why Your Son Or Daughter Wants to Study Abroad

This is the first of a series of three posts about college students and studying abroad.  In this post we’ll look at some of the reasons that a study abroad program might make sense for your college student.  In the following two posts, we’ll consider how to help your student prepare to go abroad, and what to do while he is away.

We live today in a global society.  Worldwide knowledge and experiences are becoming expected in the workplace.  Many students consider studying abroad and look forward to the opportunity to spend some time in a foreign country during their college years.  This experience may take the form of a summer program, an organized college trip, or a semester or year abroad.  For many college parents, understanding their student’s desire to spend a year far away in another country seems obvious, while for others it make take some work.

As a parent, you may understand completely why your student wants to study abroad – in fact you may be envious of the experience.  Your student may have talked about and planned for this experience even prior to attending college.  On the other hand, perhaps you hadn’t considered this, and you may be wondering why your student, who worked so hard to transition to college and settle in, would want to uproot, even for a semester, to do it all again.  The more that you work to understand your student’s motivation for studying abroad, the more you will be able to discuss his options with him.

There are several reasons which students give for wanting to study abroad.

  • Study Abroad allows students to experience a new culture.
  • Study Abroad gives students a new perspective on the world, and on their own culture.
  • Study Abroad experiences provide new challenges for students to overcome.
  • Studying Abroad increases students’ sense of independence.
  • Study Abroad allows some students to extend their curriculum by taking things not offered by their own institution.
  • Study Abroad looks good on a resume.
  • Study Abroad may fulfill particular personal goals of the student.
  • Studying Abroad is an adventure!

Should my student study abroad?

Studying abroad provides students with many wonderful opportunities and perspectives, and most students who go value and benefit from the experience for many of the reasons mentioned above.  However, as beneficial as the study abroad experience is, it may not be the best experience for every student.  You and your student should talk and think carefully about whether this is the best choice for her.  Reasons for not studying abroad may be varied and very personal.  There are some general questions your student might consider.

  • Did your student have an especially difficult time making the transition to college and adjusting to her new independence?  Is she ready to take on an entirely new and even bigger transition?
  • Are your student’s grades a concern?  Many students who study abroad find their GPA’s stay the same, but if your student’s grades are an issue, study abroad might not be the best option.
  • Does your student rely heavily on support at college?  If your student uses tutoring services, counseling services, etc., will those types of services be available at the host institution?
  • Are there any immediate family  issues that might impact the student’s stay abroad?  Although students cannot be responsible for family issues at home, if there are any impending family concerns, your student might not want to find herself unable to return home.
  • Do you have any particular concerns about your student’s mental or physical health that might impact a study abroad experience?
  • Will your family be able to cover the extra costs of studying abroad?  Although many study abroad programs may be covered by normal school tuition, students are often responsible for their own travel costs, as well as extra food, entertainment and travel once they are away.

Help your student consider a program

Most colleges and universities have a Study Abroad office to help students through the process of choosing and applying to an appropriate program.  Allow your student to do most of the work of finding the information that she needs.  However, spend some time with your student looking at her options.  This is a big decision.  Consider factors such as location, language requirements, urban vs. rural environments, length of program, academic calendar, level of classes offered.

Once your student has made a decision that studying abroad is the right choice for him, it is important that you help and support him through the process.  If you have concerns, discuss them with him.  The more that you talk about your concerns and your dreams for him, his goals and his dreams, the better you will both feel about this decision.  As with that initial send-off to college, your support, and lots of open communication, will make the process go as smoothly as possible.

Once your student has decided to study abroad and has chosen a program, the process of preparing to go begins.  Our next post looks at some of things parents should consider as their student prepares to go abroad.

Related Posts:

Helping Your College Student Prepare to Study Abroad

What Parents Can Do To Support Their College Student Studying Abroad

The Path To Graduation: What’s Your Student’s Timeline?

Helping Your College Study Abroad Student Stay Safe

Study Away – Alternative to Study Abroad

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