Studying in a foreign country is like a dream come true for several teens and young adults from across the globe. In addition to their studies, then they get exposure to a completely different lifestyle. The prospect of interacting with new people, learning another language and getting to know about another culture is rapidly gaining popularity with individuals between the ages of 16 and 20.Moreover, getting a degree from a foreign country can add to a person’s professional profile in several ways and boost their career prospects for the future. Some of the more popular destinations for expat students include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Singapore. Several nations are also trying to attract young foreigners by offering them excellent educational packages and internationally recognized certification at competitive rates. In the case of many developed countries, it is easier to get a student visa than a permanent residency or work permit. Teenagers and young adults from around the world are therefore trying to seek admission into universities overseas.
At times, a teenager or young adult may also take the decision to move to another country for voluntary work. This too is a great idea as long as the assignment does not keep them from completing their education. In fact, it helps them learn about charity and handling situations responsibly from a young age.
It is therefore important for parents to support their teenage children’s choices about their lives. However, the decision to move to another country affects not just the teens and young adults who are relocating but also their families back home. While a few foreign students are accompanied by their kin, a majority of them live on their own or with their classmates when they are abroad.
This could be really hard on a parent, especially if you are coping with a teen moving abroad for the first time. Not only has your child grown big enough to go away to college, you will have to get used to the fact that they have chosen to live in a foreign land for anywhere between a few months and years. Considering how busy students now get with their academics and social lives, you may not even get to connect with your child as often as you would like to. Moreover, you are not likely to visit each other regularly, not even on special occasions.
Fortunately, supporting your child’s decision to move overseas doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you are going to spend your days in misery. Do bear in mind that the sooner you get used to the idea of them being settled abroad, the easier it will be for both of you. Given below are a few tips on how you can overcome some of the reservations you have about letting your child relocate.
Understand their reasons
Never take your child’s decision to move overseas personally; not all children are eager to get away from their homes, parents and families. Many teenagers actually look forward to the whole experience of living in a new country, where the people, lifestyle and overall culture are likely to be quite different from what they are used to. Almost all youngsters have a nascent desire to explore and see the world, so you should be glad that your child is actually doing something about realizing his or her dreams.
It may also be a good idea to sit your child down and ask them why they prefer settling down in a different nation, instead of a closer location. Ask questions about their future plans as well as the place that they have chosen in order to gauge how carefully they have considered the move and their new lifestyle.
You could use this as an opportunity to help them understand what they are likely to go through when they venture out on their own, especially in a foreign land. Alleviate any concerns, fears or even misconceptions that they may have and set realistic expectations so that they do not have too much trouble adjusting at a later stage. However, do make sure that you don’t come across as being too negative about the whole thing or your child will just clam up. Try your best to show some support, enthusiasm and excitement towards the move. In fact, let them know that you agree with their decision and are proud of them for trying to make it on their own.
List the positive aspects of the move
Make a note of all the ways in which your child will benefit by moving overseas. To begin, most youngsters tend to become much more responsible when they start living on their own. Moreover, settling down in a foreign location involves a higher amount of work and if your child can handle some part of the procedure on their own, it will be a highly rewarding experience for them. Do keep in mind some of the other advantages such as –
• Better career prospects in the future
• Exposure to a different way of life
• Finding new areas of interest
• Gaining a global perspective (personally and professionally)
• Achieving a foreign degree and work experience
• Improving language and overall communication skills
• Interacting with people of a different culture
• Personal growth and development
• Widening their network
It is also quite common for younger people to appreciate their families and friends more, after they have been away from home for a while.
If the place that your teenager chooses has a higher standard of living in comparison, they are likely to have a better lifestyle too. The earlier they start, the easier it will get for them to adjust to and settle down in a foreign location.
Learn as much as you can about the place
Most parents are very apprehensive about their young children moving to a far-off, unknown location and this is understandable. Lack of knowledge about the culture and customs of a country can make matters even worse.
To avoid this problem, try to learn more about the place that your child has opted to live in. However, don’t just rely on what they tell you; conduct your own research on that country. Look for information on how developed the place is, its crime rate, the standard of education, career prospects available, the number of expats that live there, and so on.
It is quite easy to find information online about the lifestyle in almost any city and town. However, do keep in mind that some of the sites will give you a very rosy picture about the place as they are trying to promote tourism. Blogs written by people living in that country are not very reliable either, as they only state personal opinions as well as experiences, both positive and negative.
It is therefore best for you to access popular expat sites that are known to give out facts about various aspects of life in different destinations.
Make a trip to that country
Any parent will be heartbroken at the thought of not seeing their child for several months, or maybe even a couple of years. Of course, you can stay connected with each other to some extent with the help of technology but the personal touch will be missing. In fact, seeing your child in their new environment but not being able to experience it with them could actually intensify the loneliness, at least for you. Time differences may also not allow you to interact with each other as often as you like.
Both of you could stay excited about your child moving overseas if you plan a vacation a couple of months down the line too. This will give your teen something to look forward to, as they try to settle down into their new life. Your trip is likely to be more interesting if your child has had the chance to become familiar with the place. It is therefore best for you to travel a few months after they move. Planning a visit in the near future allows you to save up a bit for your vacation. You can also carry along the items that your child finds it difficult to obtain.
Being an empty nester
Even though saying goodbye to your children seems difficult, there is a silver lining to the dark cloud as you move into the “empty nest” phase of your life. As a parent, you are probably used to placing your wants and needs on the back burner all the time, perhaps due to a lack of time, money or other resources. However, with your child moving to a far off location, you should definitely have more time and space for yourself. Sometimes even children with the best intentions tend to get a bit disconnected with their families when they go away to college or move overseas. Save yourself from a lot of anguish by not getting your expectations too high. Instead, make a few changes to your lifestyle so that you can make the most of this phase of your life.
Below are a few useful tips for empty nesters.
Take it easy
Almost every parent is known to complain about how hectic their lives are, especially when they have teenagers in the house. After having a packed schedule that involved school, extracurricular classes, PTAs, play dates, projects, etc, for several years, you can finally sit back and relax as you no longer have to run around after your child. The first thing you should do when you get the chance is de-stress and rejuvenate yourself!
Ease up on your daily routine so that it is not as packed as it used to be and lets you get as much rest as you need. Look at this as your “Me” time and use it to improve your personal health and wellbeing. Try to slow down and at the same time practice yoga, meditation or deep breathing techniques as they are known to relieve stress as well as fatigue.
Explore new options
Even a few hours every day is enough to pursue a new hobby. You could learn a foreign language, master an art (like dancing, painting), take up a sport, get back into shape by joining a fitness centre or just spend some time outdoors.
Many parents actually go back to school and get a degree or take up a vocational course when they reach this stage of their lives. In fact, after being a stay-at-home parent for several years, some people use this opportunity to pursue their careers/ passion again, which could include taking up a job or starting their own business.
Spend time with your partner
Remember what it was like between the two of you, before the children came into the picture? Use the empty house and the extra time to recreate some of the magic of your younger days! Plan romantic dates, couple’s activities and fun outings on a regular basis; this will give the two of you the chance to reconnect with each other.
It is very common for people to lose touch with close friends because they are busy with their families and especially their children. Now that your child no longer needs your constant attention, try to renew connections with your old friends and widen your social network.
Helping others is a highly rewarding experience! Any additional time (or money) that you have can now be devoted to some of the greater causes to improve the community. Think about helping out at a charitable organization, an old-age home or a historical society.
Some empty nesters make the mistake of cramming their daily schedule, as they don’t want to brood over their child leaving. However, instead of filling this void with commitments that are likely to drain you out, try to enjoy your new freedom, without any guilt.