Study abroad has been a reality for decades. The world is moving towards education without borders and what not too long ago seemed like an exclusive experience for college students, experience is now becoming a trend for High School students.
Maybe it is something you child has dreamed of for a long time, and which you knew would come sooner or later, or maybe you have been suddenly surprised by your child’s desire to enroll in a High School program abroad thousands of miles away from her family.
And now what? Isn’t she too young? Are we ready, as parents, to let hem go? Is she ready to live thousands of miles away, alone, without her family and without knowing the language? Will it be safe for her? Is this investment worth it right now? Would it be better to wait until college? How will spending months abroad affect her academic records?
I am sure that these and many other questions have run through your mind and it is important to answer them all.
First of all, it is really important to sit down and talk with your child. A family talk is, without a doubt, a key aspect in this process, since it can establish why they want to do the trip, what are they expecting to learn from this experience abroad and to know if she is aware of the challenges she will have to face, in order to determine if she is ready and mature enough to be able to face such a life-changing experience for both herself and her family.
As parents we often try and satisfy our child’s wishes all the times, but, living an experience abroad when she is just 15 years old is taking a step too far. It is not a videogame machine or a pair of designer shoes he really liked last time he went out with his friends, or even the latest cellphone he has been asking for many months… Studying High School abroad is a big step that can bring great personal benefits, but maturity is important to face this experience successfully.
Ok, we are ready to face this adventure, but… where do we start?
Choose the destination:
Probably your child has already chosen the destination but other times the destination is not chosen. This usually happens when the location is chosen regarding a specific language. For example, if the language chosen is Spanish, there are many destinations. Nevertheless it is really important to further investigate the country or even the city that is most adequate for your child. Several factors have to be taken into consideration:
The safety of the chosen country is essential, especially when they are still minors. Going to a country that guarantees physical, legal and health security is not something to be taken lightly and should be the key factor when choosing the destination.
But we must not only stay on the surface, we must investigate Further. Make sure that you also choose the correct city to go study. Ensure that the agency guarantees the chosen destination and that you are given enough information regarding the area and neighborhood where your child will be staying. It is not good enough to stay in the safest city on the world if your child lives in a conflictive neighborhood. Choosing the neighborhood and the environment where your child is going to live is important and we need to have full information about it. Have this accurate information regarding the city and the neighborhood from the chosen country, weeks before the program starts.
Learning the language:
This may not seem so important to you, but do you know how many different ways are there of speaking Spanish? As many as there are Spanish speaking countries. There isn’t a better or worse one and we won’t get into a debate about it. If you want your child to study in Spain, you should take into consideration that there are some regions such as Catalonia or the Basque Country where Catalan and Basque are the languages used at school. This does not make it very practical when trying to learn Spanish.
Research the health system of the country where your child is going to travel. Make sure it has the proper means to guarantee that she will have access to it in the event of an emergency and the proper standards to guarantee her health and safety. Most of the programs include healthcare insurance so ask your agency what it covers and how it works.
Choosing the agency
An increase in the demand of teenagers who want to study has led to the appearance of numerous agencies that offer programs for High School students. Most of them are well recognized and have been long established in the US, they have representatives all around the world and help thousands of students annually. However, there are also local companies that carry out these programs on site offering some competitive advantages, such as a more personal service, better knowledge of the area and a better knowledge of the staff, who will be in charge of your child while she is away from home.
Do not hesitate on making extensive research and contrast different agencies, in order to make the correct decision. Investigate each company in depth. But, most important, let yourself be guided by your parental instinct. Confidence is the key when choosing your agency.
Regardless of the agency you’ve chosen, make sure that:
It specializes in working with teenagers. Whatever your child maturity level is, they are still minors and must be closely supervised, especially if they are going to live thousands of miles away. Owing to the increased demand, lot of agencies have started offering High School programs to teenagers, but you must consider their working experience with them and, especially, if their on-site personnel have a program director specifically for teenagers.
Make sure, you always have easy access to any kind of information at all times, and that the agency personnel are always available and easily reachable when needed.
ALWAYS ask to know the name of the coordinator in charge of your child; ask for his/her number and make sure to have a talk or a videocall before your child leaves. Ask the agency to have frequent contact and direct access to your child while she’s away.
Information about the school:
You should have full information regarding the school where your child is going to study. Things such as the timetable, courses, teachers or if there is a specialized tutor for foreign students, are key questions that should be answered.
Information about the Host Family:
If your child travels with a Homestay program it is extremely important to know the host family in advance. You should be assigned to a good family, with a high educational level, that have a nice and comfortable house and that they provide a room properly conditioned and enough space to provide you a pleasant stay. Make sure the program offers you a family with school-age children, it is proven that host siblings are an essential support for the students.
You should have a full report of your host family with the personal information of each member of the family and you should be able to communicate with them through video conference months before your arrival. Also, ask to have all their contact information; telephone, emails, social network information, etc., to be able to be in touch with them weeks before arriving at your destination.
Having reached this point, we should ask ourselves if we have fully analyzed all the suggested aspects, in order to make the right decision.
If the answer is yes, your child will be well prepared to successfully face one of the most gratifying experiences a parent can offer them.
A unique experience that may positively transform her life and which will always be remembered with affection and gratitude!