Studying abroad will change your life. Not only does it offer you the chance to experience other cultures, learn new languages and ‘see the world’; thinking globally also provides access to diverse approaches to tuition which may be inaccessible in other countries. To top it all, international study will place you in a better position to compete within today’s global economy. That said, those considering taking the plunge and applying to study overseas may find that it can be hard to break the news to their family. Even if you have lived away from home before- perhaps you have even lived overseas previously- studying abroad can still be a difficult issue for your parents and loved ones to grasp.
What's the key to overcoming their concerns? Empathy. Place yourself in their shoes and try to understand their reservations. So, let's take a look at the reasons why they might be less than enthused about the possibility of you leaving, before giving you the tools you need to convince them otherwise.
Why they won't want you to go:
1) They're afraid they will miss out on your life.
The timescales involved in studying abroad vary massively. Perhaps you would like to go abroad for an intensive two-week language course, or just one semester. Or maybe you are thinking about doing an entire undergraduate degree or a doctorate abroad. Either way, for some parents, the thought of not being able to witness first-hand the everyday happenings in your life, even the really boring bits, is difficult to handle.
2) They worry you won't be safe
This is the biggest fear any parent can have. If you're moving to a big bad city, like New York or Shanghai, your parent(s) might be worried about crime rates in your area or harassment on the street. Then there's the disaster scenario: what can your parent(s) do in a medical emergency if you are living on a different continent? If they don't have the spare cash for inordinately expensive flights or correct entry permissions for your new country of residence, their options are severely limited. If you suffer from any kind of chronic medical condition which requires regular attention, this fear is likely to be even more salient.
3) You’re entering the great unknown
Everyone fears the unknown. If your parent(s) isn't/aren't well acquainted with international travel or has/have never lived abroad, the whole concept will be completely alien to them. If you come from a family where higher education, let alone studying in another country, is something of an alien concept, this could be the biggest potential stumbling block.
How to convince them that it will all be okay:
1) Tell them how great it will be!
Your parents need to know that you are really excited about this possibility and that you feel it is the right choice for you. If you are not convinced, then neither will they be.
2) Show them the money
As grown adults, your parent(s) will be sensible to the idea that money matters, even if cost is not their number one concern when it comes to your education. It may be that studying abroad is comparatively cheaper than in your own country. For instance, many American doctoral programs include a Masters degree, are tuition-free and pay students a stipend for their study. British undergraduate fees are, in contrast, sometimes less expensive than American programmes. Even if the course you want to apply for is not immediately cheaper than others closer to home, show them that your rate of potential earnings after graduation is likely to be higher than if you completed a course of study in your own country.
3) Show them how to keep in touch
We all know that applications like Skype, Viber, Whats App and Snapchat are great tools for keeping in touch, but do your parents? Showing them that you can easily keep in touch by sending messages, videos and pictures will make them feel like they have a window into your life. They can see what you're up-to on a day-to-day basis and easily check you are safe. Best of all, by using these apps in particular, you can select exactly what your parents get to see, meaning they never have to encounter a single tagged photo of you drunk in a bar, passed out on a door step, etc. And believe it or not, your parents are great people to share snaps with. Who wants to see your failed bakes or what you made for dinner? In reality, probably not that many people - but your Mum or Dad will love it!
4) Let them help you
If and when you have persuaded them that you should apply for a course abroad, you then have to handle the whole process of applying and moving. Even if you are usually wilfully, stubbornly and fiercely independent, you have to allow them to feel like they are participating in this big change in your life. Let's face it: no one likes to play the helpless bystander.
Accept help, even if you normally wouldn't. This help could take many forms. Asking for their assistance in proof-reading an application statement is a good way to show them exactly what you are going to study and why you want to do it. It will also make them burst with pride when they read all the amazing things you have already done and what you want to go on to achieve. Plus, it will feel as if you are all working as a team to help you achieve your goal.
Accepting financial help can be harder, but as long as your parents are not attempting to give beyond their means and it won't upset other family members if you accept their offer, this can be a significant gesture. Very often, parents and family members will not know any other way they could possibly help you out, so if they want to buy you a new suitcase or get you a little foreign currency, be aware that turning down this offer can be deeply hurtful. No parent wants their child to leave for another country and feel as if they are now completely extraneous to their child's life.
Ultimately, if you are considering the possibility of studying abroad, it is undoubtedly an opportunity worth pursuing, for myriad reasons. The decision to move abroad, however, is not just a change that affects your life, but one that affects your whole family. And, if there's one thing you should remember, it is this: parents are people, too. So be nice.