All Abroad!

This makes no sense to me. Stay home where you belong. Traveling is over rated. Who needs to see Europe anyway? Anything you should really see there can be seen in a book or on the internet. Europe really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be anyway. When did studying abroad get so popular? When I went to college no one I knew went to college in Europe except for the rich and famous. I never studied abroad and I think I turned out fairly well rounded.

leslieThose are the words I say in my head, the words I want to tell my 20 year old who is spending the next semester in Paris. But I don’t. In fact, like so many other times in my reign as queen of the castle I bite my tongue because I know that this is a great opportunity for her and one that she should not pass up. But I must say I was very surprised to learn how popular- almost a given today- that many college students will study abroad.

Regardless of the chosen college major, there are so many benefits to studying abroad. Students get to select nearly any location today and be immersed in that culture for a few weeks, semester, or even a year. That experience alone will help my daughter grow both academically and personally in ways that she can’t do by staying on campus. She will be exposed to new people, new ideas, new ways of living, a new language, new classes, and a new way of viewing the world.

Studying abroad affords students the rare opportunity to live in another country, experience a new culture, and gain independence. I know in my brain this is all true because where or when would she have this chance again? Doing this now and not on her own- like I always envisioned those hippie types doing back in the 60’s and 70’s when they’d backpack across Europe staying in youth hostels along the way- is a controlled environment with all the nuts and bolts worked out by Marist college. That alone gives me relief. But then there’s my heart. The thought of my child being that far away from me, in a foreign country, where she does not speak the language or know the laws and customs terrifies me. Thank God for the practical side of me because it keeps dragging me back to the controlled environment concept that keeps me from expressing my concerns.

Studying abroad can reshape the way students think about their own career plan, and they take a more reflective turn on the role that they’re going to play in the world as it relates to their career plans. People who studied abroad years ago will tell you that the experience was the most powerful experience they had. Many times it really opened their eyes to a whole other way of thinking about the world that we live in and how their actions and their interactions with people from other cultures really have an effect on the world.paris

Many college students will be attracted to the idea of studying abroad. As a parent and a student, do your homework first. Check who runs the program you are interested in and how the grades will transfer. For those parents who have children in different colleges in addition to Marist, know that some colleges run their own programs with professors and standard level grading. Those are the purest type of study abroad programs as the grading and level of classes is exactly the same as it would be on campus. Not all schools are this meticulous. If your child chooses to go to another school’s foreign study program, find out beforehand if the professors are from that college or from a local school and how grades will transfer. Will the costs be the same? If your student’s goal is to become fluent in a language, perhaps a program where your child lives with a host family would be ideal. In short, there is a huge difference in the quality of foreign study programs.

Research carefully and talk to your child about your concerns before committing to studying abroad. I did and am satisfied and confident that this is a smart move on my part and my daughters. Now to convince my heart of that…

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