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It's all about us parents: 5 important things to consider before sending your child to study abroad

On World Parentís Day, here is Julia Regul Singh talking about how her parents helped her successfully study abroad and what you can do to help your child along on this journey of a lifetime.
BY Julia Regul Singh |   31-05-2019

BrainGain Magazine

I have studied abroad twice in my life. First, as a German high school student in North Carolina, learning English at the age of 16. The second time, as part of my master’s degree in New York City, at the age of 24. I know I am not unique. Today, almost 5 million students spend time outside their home country for their higher education. So, even the quickest of Google searches will reveal that the internet is filled with endless information on what to expect, what to worry about, and what you can gain from a study abroad experience.

Today, as a mother raising three children, I hope all my kids will study abroad. I know that it’s the best education I can give them. But, as parents, we are bound to have concerns. And just as every child is different, so is every parent, and so are our questions, concerns, and wish-lists. 

It is clear to me that the study abroad experience is a family affair as much as it is a lifetime opportunity for our children. When I went abroad, I believed, like every teenager, that the experience was all about me. But, now that my eldest is a few years away from following into my footsteps, I realise how much my parents made possible. So, as a parent I’d just like to say, the study abroad decision is definitely all about us PARENTS!

If you’re considering sending your child abroad, here are 5 important questions you should ask yourself, before you make that life changing decision:

  • Are you raising a kid able to study abroad?
    Of course, I put in a lot of hard work to prepare for my studies abroad. But, so did my parents! And I couldn’t have done it without them raising me right. If it wasn’t for their love for travel, I would have not had an open mind to consider it. If it wasn’t for their support, I would not even attempt it. If it wasn’t for their money, I couldn’t afford it. If they hadn’t instilled values and confidence in me, I would have given up. If they hadn’t let me go, I might not have gone. If they hadn’t had my back, I wouldn’t have been so confident. Now that I’m a parent myself, it makes me reflect:

    Am I ready to let my kids go? What am I doing to get my kids ready to study abroad? Are they even interested in other cultures or ways of life? Do they want to learn a new language? Do they know that I got their back? Would they call me if they mess up? Have I taught them enough to make it on their own? Can they handle their own chores, pocket money, routines?

    Figuring out the answers to these questions informs my parenting process in more ways than I can tell.

     
  • Are you ready to let go?
    Hats off to my parents: they never lived abroad, although they travelled (which I am sure is the reason for my wanderlust). Still, they encouraged me to study outside my own country, on my own – in a culture and language that was completely new to them.

    Of course, at sixteen, I did not consider this a big deal. Like most teenagers, I was happy to wave good-bye, embrace adventure, and soak up everything new. I savored new experiences, finding my old life boring, contemplating not returning to Germany for my higher education.  

    My parents watched from far. They would speak German with me, but also compliment me on my English. They would be happy to hear my stories, and send me letters and gifts on days important to them, thus keeping me anchored to their lives.

    They trusted the bond they had nurtured since my birth. I am embracing this to get ready for my children’s future!

     
  • Are you ready to learn something new?
    While I was busy and focused on my learning experiences (and all the fun and newfound freedom with that), I did not realize that my study abroad changed my parents’ lives as well.

    For one, they had a lot more time. My mother started to take English classes. My father read up on the history on my new home. They opened their mind towards my host country – trying new cuisines, considering travel options in the US, connecting with people.

    They also encouraged me to teach them what I had learned - celebrating Thanksgiving and Halloween, watching movies that I had seen, listening to new types of music that I shared with them.

    Honestly, I can’t wait to share my kids’ lives in a country new to me!

     
  • Are you ready let your kid lead?
    During my exchange year, after I had learned English and mastered my own affairs, my parents acknowledged my skills and let me lead.

    My first test was organizing a mini vacation when my parents visited towards the end of my year. My father said that his English wasn’t good enough to manage the research and the booking (which I now know was a lie, but I didn’t second guess it then). He encouraged me to communicate for all of us during the trip, trusting my suggestions for food, entertainment, and travel options.

    Today, when I am raising three kids in India who speak Hindi way better than me. I have been in situations when I rely on them to communicate for me. I trust that they translate verbatim since they are still very young. When I think of how, in the near future, I will have to give them more control, I have goosebumps.

    But I know the learning will be huge – for everyone involved.

     
  •  Are you ready for change?
    Because sending your child abroad changes everything.

    Teenagers are meant to grow and disconnect from their parents. It is a normal part of growing up. Although I missed my parents when I was struggling through the first weeks, I also remember feeling grown up and happy that I had my own life.

    Now I see how, while I was troubled by everyday fights with my parents, and thought them reason enough to move so far away, new struggles appeared when I was on my own. And I realized that I wanted to vent to my parents but couldn’t because they were so far away. Having to write letters, and having our own space to think and grow, actually brought us closer. Receiving their letters and waiting for their monthly phone calls (remember this was before the internet!), made me realize how much I missed them, and that they missed me too.

    One huge lesson that I learned through all the excitement, learning, and distance is that one thing that does not change while living abroad is that I am always my parents’ daughter. And they will always be my parents. It’s incredible how my study abroad experiences brought us closer as a family.

    And I can hope that the same thing will happen when my children leave as well. As a parent, I feel that we need to trust that sending our children to study abroad might just trigger the changes we want to see in them, and in ourselves.


     

Julia Regul Singh has a master’s degree in urban planning and urban design from the Technical University Hamburg-Harburg (Germany) and a bachelor’s degree in geography from the University of Bayreuth (Germany). Julia attended Columbia University as part of her masters on a scholarship from the German government. After graduating, she worked as an Urban Planner and Urban Designer in Germany and New York City before turning her hand to writing.

In 2010, the Urban Crayon Press published her first book - Boris the Bench. In 2015, her novel Leap of Faith was published by Rupa Publications. Julia currently splits her time between New York City, New Delhi and Bielefeld.
 

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