At one time, there was one of two means for a young person to experience a new culture abroad. He could either join the military or win a scholarship to an overseas university. Neither opportunity guaranteed that the experience would be safe or particularly meaningful. Results were mixed.
Times, however, have changed. Today, not only do most colleges and universities offer a supervised program of overseas study, but such opportunities are also available to high school students as well. This type of study is established and organized with program durations that range from one month to a year. Parental objections or concerns have been addressed for the most part by the organizing institutions. Other reasons for you to sign that permission slip and arrange for your child’s study abroad insurance are noted below.
Some Benefits of High School & College Students Studying Abroad
Your child’s experience as an exchange student relies on the decades’ worth of practice and practical experience behind the program in which he enrolls. Information to help prepare your child and your family for the experience is available and freely shared prior to his departure. Host families in your child’s country of destination are trained in their responsibilities to your child before opening their home to students. Other benefits include:
•Cultural Exposure & Immersion
Foreign study and the cultural exposure that accompanies the experience provide significant assets to your child’s understanding of himself, the world and the concept of “culture.” His subsequent ability to recognize that certain aspects of “reality” are socially and culturally defined allows him a type of life-long psychological flexibility and a broadening of his horizons.
•Foreign Language Acquisition
Study after study has demonstrated that fluency in a foreign language is acquired faster and more fully during an immersion experience than the exposure provided in, for example, a typical U.S. high school class.
•Establishing Cross-Cultural Friendships
Your child’s foreign educational experience isn’t meant to be all work and no play. His ability to form cross-cultural friendships is not simply a reflection of growing language fluency, but a means of measuring the ability to comfortably adapt within the new culture.
•Lessons in Self-Sufficiency
Even with the assistance of the adults in your child’s host family home, his time spent in another culture—including the “cultural bumps” he’ll undoubtedly experience—will help prepare him for living independently as an adult after his schooling is completed.
•Lessons in Maturity
Your child will also learn lessons in maturity with the demands that an unfamiliar culture require. Experiences of this nature tend to help a child be more emotionally stable. Exposure to—and an appreciation of—travel and culture generally lead one away from an emphasis on the acquisition of things and more toward that of experience. These latter changes in focus usually result in greater financial maturity and stability down the road.
•Possible Work Experience
Depending upon any labor restrictions on your child’s visa and the employment laws of the country in which he’s studying, he may be able to obtain work experience that can lead to better employment once he’s back stateside. Even if that’s not a possibility, a study abroad trip on a resume appeals to most employers.
•Lessons in Independence
Living on his own—with or without the assistance of a host family—will provide your child with innumerable opportunities to learn maturity, adaptability, flexibility, patience and social skills.
Recognize the Opportunity
Your parenting skills and your own life experiences will make clear to you that your child’s time spent in a foreign classroom will teach him less than the overall cultural experience of studying abroad.