Parenting a young adult comes with its own set of challenges – but also excitement as your child begins to build their life and take steps towards independence. One of those steps may inevitably be a summer internship or study abroad.
Regardless of whether you’ve traveled abroad or studied abroad in college, you’ll likely be a bit uncomfortable with the thought of your child living alone in a foreign country for months at a time.
Here are ways you can surrender control — and make the study abroad experience manageable for both you and for your child.
Arm them with language
In addition to researching the local laws and customs of the host country, consider arming your child with the skill of language. Basic understanding and conversational fluency in a foreign language is key to boosting their confidence and ability to navigate safely.
“The biggest concerns we hear from parents when their children are going abroad is their children getting lost in a foreign country, being lonely or secluded and just simply that their kids will struggle with basic things due to communication barriers,” says Ryan McMunn, CEO of BRIC Language Learning. “Knowing a second (or even third) language not only helps students get around easier, it gives parents a peace of mind and helps alleviate many of these concerns.”
Knowing the language can also enhance the authenticity of the experience – when most students only study abroad once.
“Too many study abroad students wind up only hanging out with their follow students and miss out on the people who are kind enough to be hosting them,” he adds. “Language learning is the portal to fully understanding the culture that they’re living in.”
Embrace social media
Prepaid phones, international phone plans and SIM cards can really add up in addition to normal program and living costs. Depending on the host country, WiFi is generally available and apps like Skype and FaceTime are fun, free alternatives for staying connected throughout their trip. Whatsapp is another free tool for instant messaging and photo sharing. If your child is active on Instagram or Facebook, consider signing up to follow their travels through photos and stories. Try designating a specific day and time for weekly or bi-weekly catch ups with your child. That way, you get regular updates while giving them enough freedom to enjoy their time abroad.
See the end game
Studying abroad is beneficial in many ways, so keeping the endgame in mind will help provide some perspective. In addition to improving language proficiency, your child is likely to learn important real-world skills and make global friendships and connections that can help them in their future career. The experience will also help them develop confidence and independence. That's the goal of parenting in a nutshell, right?