cap on globe with books
There are so many compelling reasons for students to study abroad that it is difficult to understand why only a small number embark on such an adventure. In 2006, the U.S Senate issued a report containing 13 reasons why broad-based support of study abroad programs is important and necessary on a national level. The report indicated that, believe it or not, the typical American student has difficulty naming world countries and capitals on a world map and that while 79% of Americans agree that studying abroad is a good idea, only 1% of Americans actually do.
A study abroad experience allow students to expand personal horizons as well as share the American culture with people around the world, leading to a greater mutual understanding of the world around them. Additionally, research shows that the ability to speak more than one language results in greater academic achievement and increased cognitive. Would you believe that multilinguals even recover from brain injury more easily than single language speakers? It’s true.
Generally, kids are curious creatures and are interested in traveling to new places and speaking new languages. In fact, you may have already traveled abroad with your kids or exposed them to another language. Perhaps your kids have been exposed to other cultures via school or the Internet? If you’ve visited local gems such as the Naples Botanical Gardens, the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, or the Naples Zoo, your kids have been exposed to international themes and have probably become excited about world exploration. They may even have friends from other countries in their classes at school. No matter where inspiration comes from, it’s a good bet that your child will want to have an international experience. So what do you do if your children want to live and learn in another country? Be equipped with the information they need to make the dream a reality.
College Study Abroad Programs
The typical study abroad program is designed for college students and requires that Americans complete their sophomore year of college before spending a semester or year abroad. This is because many of the European and Asian education systems extend high school beyond the typical American graduation age of 18. In fact, students do not graduate from high school until between the ages of 19 and 20 in many other countries, making it necessary for American students to wait until their junior year to matriculate into another university system, thus giving rise to the term “junior year abroad”.
Most colleges and universities have an international programs office offering options for study around the world. It’s important to know that although your child’s institution may not have that program to China or Italy that he or she wants; students can generally participate in a program offered by another university and simply transfer the credit to the home university. Most students and parents may also not be aware that student loans, federal grants and other forms of financial aid can be applied to the study abroad program costs and, in many cases, completely cover them.
Here are some tips to help students get started:
• Contact the International Programs Office at the home university.
• Visit the financial aid office to learn about grants, scholarships and aid.
• Consult with an academic advisor regarding the application of credit to the degree program.
• Once a program is determined, do advanced research about the country and its customs.
Experiences for Teens and Younger Students
Kids don’t have to wait until college to have a study abroad experience. Your child’s school may sponsor trips, or be affiliated with organizations that run educational trips abroad. Additionally, many churches and civic organizations also offer study abroad experiences. Kids of all ages and grade levels can take part in summer programs, vacation programs and exchange programs in other countries.
Here are some resources to explore:
• IPSA: Worldwide Consortium of Universities, Colleges and Language Schools
• US Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
Preparing for Travel Abroad
Once a program is determined, it’s time to get ready! The organization facilitating the experience will advise on travel documents, visas, lodging and logistics but it is important to do your own research. Traveling anywhere cold turkey is never a good idea. When going to another country, knowing some of the customs, language and geography in advance will help avoid culture shock and aid students in adjusting to a new and exciting environment.
Here are some suggestions for getting your child ready to travel and live abroad:
• Watch videos/conduct Internet research on the destination
• Learn some of the language
• Explore the history, culture and traditions of the destination
• Try the cuisine in advance by visiting an international restaurant
• Become familiar with the currency
Whether your child travels with family, or alone via an exchange or study abroad program, the experience is sure to be educational, eye-opening, and life changing.
To learn more about traveling abroad and how to do it safely, visit: http://travel.state.gov/.
Nicole Flesvig Bruland is a mother of two, writer, and educator. Raised near the Canadian border, and having studied in Paris, she is a French/English bilingual with a passion for language. She has been a teacher and education policy consultant at the Florida Department of Education. Nicole is a blogger for the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples and an adjunct professor at Edison State College. She enjoys traveling and having fun with her sons, Jacob and Evan, and her husband Bronze.