All parents know that the time will come when their kids leave home. Often, that first time away from home is at college. In most cases, students go to schools within their own state, or at least within the US. But, what if your son or daughter comes home and says that they want to study abroad? Yes, this is an amazing opportunity, maybe even once in a lifetime. But, is it safe? After all, it’s not like you can just jump in your car and be there in a couple of hours if they need your help. Before you nix the idea all together, take some time to really think about the benefits, and how this can change your teen’s life forever. As long as they are smart and careful, they can be just as safe as they are at home.
The Importance of Studying Abroad
If your teen has the opportunity to study abroad, it is something that the whole family needs to seriously consider. This is an opportunity that they may never have again, and it will benefit them in so many ways, both personally and professionally. They will learn things that aren’t normally taught in classrooms, and learn a new language (they have to if they want to shop, travel, etc.). They will make global connections, as well as friendships that will last a lifetime, and they will learn how to be independent. If you are still worried, here are some things you can do to help keep your kids safe while studying abroad.
- Study Up on the Host Country – The first thing to do is to learn about the host country. Find out about all of the local customs, laws, and of course, where the US embassy offices are located. You can get lots of information about the country your teen wants to study in, including health information, travel advice, travel warnings, and safety tips, from the US Bureau of Consular Affairs website. When students study abroad in Israel, they get a lot of great information from this website.
- Learn about Communications – You and your teen will need to find ways to be able to communicate at any time, which can be difficult in some countries. International calling on cell phones can get pretty costly, so it is a good idea to look into other options, including international cell phones and international phone plans. Many students and parents now communicate via Skype, which is free with an Internet connection. Another option is to get a foreign SIM card, so they can make local calls.
- Teach them about Personal Safety – Whether they are staying at home for college or studying in another state or abroad, your teen needs to know about personal safety. Make sure that they are aware of the things that can happen when they are alone, and encourage them to always travel in groups. They must learn to keep their valuables safe at home or in their dorms, and to not go out with a lot of money. It may also be a good idea to enroll them in a personal safety class where they learn some self-defense techniques.
- Insure their Good Health – You need to know that your teen is not going to have any health issues while studying abroad. Make sure that they receive full medical examinations before leaving, and that they get all of the necessary vaccinations. It is also a good idea to get extra travel insurance, just to be on the safe side. Make sure that your teen knows where to find medical clinics, hospitals, and on-campus health services.