What do you do when studying abroad is all you want but your parents really aren’t on board? How about if your parents love the study abroad idea but will only help support you if you choose to study in a “safe” location that they have picked out? We’ve been there. In order to study abroad in the destination of my choosing I conned my parents into believing I was just going to the south of Spain (you know, Morocco, just south of Spain) as to avoid yet another conversation about stepping onto the “unsafe” area of Northern Africa. Eventually the truth came out and the fallout wasn’t pretty. The fact of the matter is you shouldn’t have to lie to your family about where you want to go. In the hopes of helping you through some difficult conversations, here are some tips on presenting your “crazy” study abroad plans to your family:
Get informed. Before you ever broach the topic of study abroad with your family do your homework. Find out how much it will cost, what classes you’ll be able to take, and how it will fit into your academic schedule. You should also do some research on the history of your location so you can address any concerns your family brings up.
Present the facts. Rather than getting overexcited or defensive, take a moment to share with them your main reasons for studying abroad. Avoid the social components that have you excited and focus on why you’re willing to leave your friends, significant other and campus activities to go to university abroad and what you hope to gain from the experience.
Look up and print out info on some of the scholarships and grants out there for study abroad. Let them know that you’re taking the costs seriously and are already looking into ways of making the process cost effective, need help? Check out our budget section for advice and scholarship info.
Get your parents up to date information on safety in the areas where you want to study. Keep them informed of any US State Department travel advisories and get them US embassy contact information just in case. This will make them feel like you’re taking your safety seriously and allay some of their fears.
Have information from your academic advisor and study abroad office on what you need to do to make sure your study abroad units transfer back. This will allay your parents’ fear that studying abroad could wind up ruining your 4-year plan and ultimately set you back academically.
If all else fails refer them to this USA Today article on why studying abroad is important for students, and remind them that the world is becoming is becoming a smaller place and that international experience will give you an edge resume wise.
Overall if you take the process seriously your parent’s will be much more likely to take it seriously too. You know your experiences will be fun but there are also the serious cultural, linguistic and educational lessons you’ll learn that will make study abroad worth it.