You’ve been accepted to your dream study abroad program. You’ve got your trip entirely planned out. You’ve applied for scholarships. You’ve started packing your suitcase(s). And then, your parents decide it’s no longer a good idea for you to go. You were about to get on a plane in a few weeks and fly off to the most incredible experience of your life, now what?!
We’ve probably all experienced this obstacle at some point in our process of preparing to go abroad. It’s only natural for our parents to worry about us, so why in the world would they let us get on a plane and fly to the other side of the world for a couple months where they might not be able to call us every single day?
I, being the youngest of three girls and never having left the country before, experienced this for months leading up to my semester abroad, but here I am, alive and well back home after an amazing six months in South Africa. So have no fear, it can be done. (However, I suggest not mentioning to your parents if you jump off of a bridge or swim with sharks until afterward.)
Approach this obstacle calmly and logically. If they are concerned about the location you’ll be traveling to remind them of these few things:
- You cannot generalize a population. Unfortunately, you will run into the good and the bad no matter where you are in the world.
- You’ve done your best in trying to understand a place as much as you can before actually arriving there, whether it was through reading various books or contacting distant friends or relatives.
- You’ve gotten all of your shots and have read up on any other safety precautions regarding health in the country you’re traveling to.
- Admit that safety is a concern in some places you might travel to. Explain that you will be alert and smart when making decisions.
- Sit down together and research the organization you’re studying abroad through if it is not your home university.
- You put so much work into planning this time abroad. This is what you want to do, and your parents should trust that you know what’s right for you.
- You WILL listen to people’s safety advice. You will not be an over-confident college student who knows everything and is invincible. If someone suggests you should not walk alone at night, you WILL NOT walk alone at night.
But how will they know that you’re safe?
- You’ll most likely have access to the internet at some point. It might not be nearly as much access as you have here, but you’ll be able to Skype. It’s free, they can see your living, breathing face, and you’ll be able to catch them up on all the awesome things you’ve been doing.
- Most programs have a program director or faculty from your home university leading the program. Make sure your parents have these phone numbers/email addresses before you leave. They will be able to contact these people with any messages or concerns; many of these people might be parents themselves and will understand and be willing to help.
Okay, but will you really benefit from studying in another county?
- Studying abroad makes you stand out on your resume and in job interviews. They want you to move out and get a job after graduation, right?
- A lot of your learning will take place outside of a classroom on this trip, which is far more beneficial than anything else.
- However, assure them that you will still be learning in a classroom too. Meaning you’ll actually go to class.
As hard as this might seem to them, they need to have enough confidence in you to let you go, and they’re going to worry every single day that you’re gone, but they need to understand how much of an impact this experience will have on you. You’ll grow far more independent from this program, and as long as you’re smart and aware of your surroundings, you’ll be just fine.