Are you thinking about studying abroad, but are hesitant because your parents may not be on board? You’re not alone. Parents, especially those of first-generation college students or students of color, are not always immediately supportive of study abroad plans. This often comes from a place of concern for your safety or your personal and academic wellbeing. Understanding where your parents’ concerns are coming from is the first step to convincing them that studying abroad will be a positive and enriching experience for you. When talking to your parents about study abroad, preparation is key. Below are three steps to take before you sit down with your parents to ensure the conversation is productive and convincing.
Step 1: Do Your Research
Before talking to your parents, make sure you know your stuff. Look into programs in fields and parts of the world that interest you. It is also helpful to look into the courses offered in these programs and how they could supplement your education at your home university. Finally, research the costs related to the study abroad programs you are interested in and produce a rough financial plan. This should include researching scholarship opportunities such as the Fund for Education Abroad to make your program more affordable.
Step 2: Set Personal, Academic, and Professional Goals
To be persuasive in your conversation with your parents, it is important that you have a solid understanding of why you want to study abroad. Think about what you can gain from this experience that you would not be able to gain from staying at your home institution. It’s helpful to think of these goals in three categories: personal, academic, and professional. Personal goals include how you see yourself improving as a person. Studies show that studying abroad positively contributes to a student’s maturity, self-confidence, and world view. Think about what you will learn about yourself and what kind of person you hope to be when you return from your study abroad experience.
Academic goals encompass the ways in which studying abroad will help you become a better student. Many parents are concerned that studying abroad will disrupt their child’s academic success. In fact, the opposite is true. According to the IEE Center for Academic Mobility and Impact, students who study abroad report having higher GPAs following their experience and are 17.8% more likely to graduate on time. Think about the ways that this study abroad experience will supplement your current academics.
Finally, professional goals include the ways you will be more prepared to enter the work force as a result of your study abroad program. Students who have studied abroad are often seen as more competitive in job applications because employers value the unique experiences you have had abroad. Think about what you could learn through your study abroad program that could appeal to potential employers in resumes or interviews. In fact, you can share specific skills students are proven to gain while studying abroad, as determined by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
By critically thinking about these three areas of growth, you will be sure to show your parents that this experience will serve as more than a vacation and will benefit you in many aspects of your life.
Step 3: Enlist the Help of Professionals
Through this process of talking to your parents about study abroad, it is important to remember that you have many resources to support you! Get in contact with your institution’s study abroad office and voice your concerns about your conversation with your parents. They will be happy to help by giving you additional resources or even offering to speak with your parents directly to ease their worries. It is also helpful to reach out to your host university to get more information about their programs. Be ready to give your parents these contacts as well so they know who to speak to if they have any additional questions.
Finally, when you are ready to have the conversation with your parents, speak calmly and confidently. Understand that the idea of you traveling to another country alone is likely scary for them. Validate your parents’ worries but assure them that you will be safe and responsible. With the right approach, they will see that studying abroad is an incredible opportunity for you to grow as a person and expand your horizons.