By Brittany Allen, ISA Site Specialist
In these times of global uncertainty, the idea of studying abroad can, for some students, bring a lot of questions, concerns, and doubts. Not only do students worry about their safety abroad, but their families, particularly their parents, do as well. Because of everything taking place around the world, it can be difficult to see the value in having a global educational experience. My mother, Gloria Waddell, was one of those parents who was extremely concerned about my safety and well-being while I was abroad. I asked her a few questions about how she felt while I was in South Africa and why, ultimately, she still believed that going abroad was the best decision for me.
As a parent, what were the best ways to ease anxieties about sending your child abroad?
I went to work to gain as much knowledge as possible about the country of South Africa. You need to know the area. Learn about cultural norms and traditions and how to respect them. I also gained knowledge about the South African government, i.e. who to contact in emergency situations, visa issues, etc. Knowledge is power and it really can put your mind at ease.
Do you think the benefits of your child studying abroad in a place like South Africa outweighs the risks?
My child was in a PhD program with a focus on teaching and she was clearly excited about the classes she was taking with international students abroad and their international focus. Those experiences and interactions helped to crystallize her direction for the future. It became clear that her focus had to contain an international direction. As a result of her experiences, she now has a career direction which focuses on preparing students for international study. As a parent, it is gratifying to have your young adult student know their career direction with the sky as the limit. The other impact has been the many connections she has made. Finally, her level of confidence has grown substantially, not only in herself but her abilities as well.
Why do you think it’s important to support your child’s decision to study abroad, especially in non-traditional locations?
One of our objectives as parents was to raise broad-minded children who possess an adventurous, independent spirit. They have been encouraged to explore their environment and the world. When the university offered the opportunity to our daughter we could see the excitement this generated and acknowledged the opportunity this would offer her. Our message to her has been that we support, trust, and have confidence in her endeavors.
International education is more important now than it ever was. It allows young people to break down barriers across academic disciplines, race, economic status, language, religion, and ethnicity, just to name a few! As cliché as it sounds, expanding our understanding of the world is truly one of the keys to a brighter future.