Study Trip & School Year Abroad: Why Your Kid Should Try It!
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I remember like it were yesterday the envy I felt for a high school friend: she left for a study trip, turned into a school year abroad in Los Angeles, one of my dream cities back then. At the time, we are talking about the ’90s, having such an experience far away from home was definitely out of the ordinary.
Upon her return, she spent months telling stories about her adventures and how that year abroad had profoundly changed her.
I think my travel obsession came from her experience. I tried to convince my parents to send me abroad, not even for one year, but at least for a study holiday in the nearest England, they still refused. From that disappointment to moving to England as an au pair at age30 and, later on, traveling all over the world – I can say that I definitely had my “revenge” ☺
Why Send Your Kid On A Study Trip abroad?
Fortunately, today things have changed a lot, there is more freedom, but also more secure opportunities, not only for young children but also for young high school students to be able to have a study experience abroad. Something that, in my opinion, every kid should try at least once in their life.
The journey, in addition to being a highly educational experience from a cultural point of view, inevitably also becomes a means for personal growth. For this reason, getting children and young people used to travel from an early age can prove to be the best school of life ever!
And there is a no better way to make your kids spread their wings than to organize a study trip in Europe, England, or why not, even in the USA!
Does that seem too far away for you as a worried parent? A cousin of mine thought the same, but then luckily for her son, she armed herself with courage and gave in. Now she is not only happy to have let him go, but she speaks with pride of how her son managed to get by on his own very well.
My nephew, a smart and bright young man who is now 18, first started with a summer study trip in Edinburgh, and then went as far as Miami in 2019!
As a travel-loving aunt, I couldn’t help but applaud his mother who, despite her worries (my nephew is also diabetic), gave him one of the best experiences of his life, making him a responsible and attentive young adult whom everyone is proud of.
Many parents have different qualms about it. Fears and worries are more than understandable, yet once you try once, the road is all downhill.
Are you one of those parents? Here are the reasons why you should change your mind and give your children the best gift ever: A study trip abroad!
What I’m going to write here is the result not only of common sense but above all, some considerations and teaching resulting from my many years of travel experience around the world.
I did not have the opportunity to experience a study trip abroad when I was a little girl but after 8 uninterrupted years around the world, I know that even a few months away from home can make a lot of difference, especially in the delicate kids’ formative years.
They Will Learn To Adapt To (Almost) Everything:
Do you remember that time when you found yourself a bit disgusted at the idea of tasting that particular dish typical in the country you were visiting? Or does the idea of sleeping in a low star hotel or a hostel frighten you or it doesn’t exactly excite you?
Your kid may not have all these qualms about when it comes to trying new things and adapting. That’s right, traveling at a young age allows you to train future adults who will have no problem living a different routine from their own or not being afraid of the unknown. Indeed, they will find these new things and discoveries stimulating and fun!
Flexibility and being able to adapt to different scenarios is an essential quality to cultivate from an early age, and will greatly help them as adults not only in everyday life but above all when they start working.
They will become adults capable of facing any difficulty and, if necessary, will know how to reinvent themselves in times of crisis.
They Will Grow When Meeting With Different Cultures
One of the fundamental moments for the growth of a child or a young boy is the confrontation with everything that is different. During such trips, they’ll meet people with different lifestyles, languages, and ways of communicating that can be completely different from one’s own.
Children and youngsters who come into contact with the world from an early age will become open-minded adults with full acceptance and understanding of what differs from their own reality.
Living in a different cultural environment makes young people understand very quickly that the world does not revolve all around them and the culture in which they were born, and this will help them understand that sometimes they are lucky and privileged.
They will also realize that diversity is a source of enrichment, not of fear, mistrust, or even hatred and bullying. They will become mature adults, able to relate better to everyone and understand the point of view of others much better.
They Will Carry Indelible Memories Inside
How many toys did we receive in our childhood, and how many pairs of shoes do we remember? Probably very few! But try asking about trips and experiences with parents or friends… Those will hardly vanish from our minds.
Traveling with children and teenagers, or allowing them to travel independently, means giving them memories that will remain forever in their memory.
A motto that applies to young people but that I still have today as an adult: Giving experiences, not things, is the best choice, at any age. But as a child, it is even more valuable.
They will understand the value of such experiences, and how much more important they are than material goods in the long run. I cannot say that this awareness will come immediately but they will undoubtedly have it as they mature.
They Will Cope With Their Fears (And You With Yours As A Parent)
Another reason why you should take your child to travel is to overcome your fears. That’s right, although these are more than normal and understandable anxieties and fears, the time has come to set them aside for the greater good.
If the idea of sending your child on a study trip or having him spend a semester or year abroad makes you panic, facing your qualms will make you a better parent.
Obviously, I can’t tell you what’s the best way to raise your kids. What I know instead, as a traveler and as a daughter who was not allowed to have such experiences as a child, is that there are very safe ways for children to experience the world.
And that putting aside your fears will not only help you to live better the detachment from your kids that sooner or later you’ll have to face, but you will be able to do it in a more serene way, knowing that your child has shown you that he/she knows how to be independent.
Not to mention that you will be seen by everyone, children, and teenagers, as a modern and cool parent, and your kids will always be grateful to you, which will, in turn, increasing your complicity and strengthening your relationship with them.
If only my parents had put their fears aside when I was young! Luckily for me, years later I managed to realize my dream but it would have been very different if I had started exploring the world at a young age.
Study Trips: One Of The First “Solo” Travel Experiences For Kids & Teens
A Study trip or a year studying abroad is one of those experiences for which your child will never stop thanking you. They consist of group trips during which children from the age of 8 stay in a college, study the local language, and participate in various types of activities and excursions.
Of course, these groups are supervised and monitored by the presence of an adult companion. Which is a great solution to start letting your kids go and give them all the travel benefits.
A study trip experience will prove to be even more formative than traveling with parents because children/teenagers find themselves having to spend 2 weeks (or more) on their own, in contact only with their peers and with the supervisor, who is often their school teacher. I can assure you that on their return you will already be faced with a small adult.
School Year Abroad: A Dream Coming True For Every Teenager!
If the study trip can be considered the “first step” of letting your children experience the world without you, the next step, and perhaps the most coveted one, is to send them for a school year abroad, or if that’s too much, you can choose for a semester instead.
This is definitely a more complex step for the parents because in most cases it means entrusting their child to another family, which not only speaks a different language but also has a completely different lifestyle.
Yet, this is the experience that many teens (we are talking about kids aged 15 to 19) would like to have. Accomplices all movies and TV series they are crazy about, which of them would not want to go to the classic American prom or have a real French/Spanish experience?
How To safely Organize A Study Trip Or A Year Abroad
If the thought of sending your child on a study trip or abroad for a school year appeals to you despite your understandable fears, my advice is to contact a specialized agency.
Here are the steps I suggest you follow, also based on how my cousin organized the trip to send her son to the US:
1) Select the agency: you can search online, or get some suggestions from someone who has already had this experience, but the important thing is to check the seriousness of the operator.
2) Choose your program: if you want to send your child on a study trip, check if there is already a group of students leaving among your kid’s friends (for example classmates), you can ask to join them directly, otherwise, the agency will add your child to a group departing for the chosen destination. Of course, if your child will spend a semester/year abroad, the situation is different since he/she will leave alone.
3) Register: it is usually possible to register online. Coordinate with other parents if necessary, also to get to know them better and contact them if necessary.
4) Share the good news with your kid (who may not even believe it!) ☺
5) Take a deep breath and wish him/her a good trip!
6) Try to stay calm and positive: with the means of communication available today, staying in touch is really easy. But don’t overdo it, give your kids the freedom to have their experiences without having to report to you immediately. Wait for their return, they will be looking forward to telling you everything!
To wrap it up, here is a personal anecdote: no matter how old one person is, many parents will always see their sons or daughters as “the little ones to protect”.
Let’s take me for example: At 19 I left “the nest” to study at the University (thousands of km from home), then I moved to England as an au pair for a year when I was 28 and after learning the language and found a good job I have lived in London for 6 years.
Despite all this (and my thirty-five years at the time), when I said I was giving up everything to backpack around the world, in their eyes I went back to being a naive child, and I had to promise to call them often wherever I was.
So why not start getting used to seeing your children spread their wings early on for a while? It’s good for them and good training for you as a parent too ☺