In early 2020, we posted a blog titled, How to Talk to Your Parents About Study Abroad. Oh, if we only knew how much that conversation would change! While the majority of the tips in that post still ring true, you’ll likely have to take a different approach when discussing study abroad with your parents during COVID-19.
We understand that for many parents, having the “I want to live in another country without you” conversation can be difficult. Keep in mind that while you’re dreaming of eating gelato in Italy or teaching English in Chengdu, your parents are worried about your health and safety, financial security, and personal well-being among vaccine rollouts, travel restrictions, and new virus strains, so go easy on them. Here’s how you can approach the notion of study abroad in such an unpredictable climate.
Come To Them With More Than One Scenario
It’s important to show your parents that you’ve done your research, and one way to do so is to present a couple of different program options to talk through. Due to the evolving pandemic, your parents might be more or less comfortable with certain program locations or length of time away from home. Fortunately, USAC offers a wide range of programs and term sessions to help you piece together the perfect program for you and your parents.
We can’t promise anything about what the world will look like a year, months, or even weeks from now, so it’s smart to have a strong understanding of what your perfect program looks like and what an ideal backup program is. Consider local COVID-19 guidelines and safety requirements, travel restrictions, and on-site support when weighing your program options (hint: all USAC Specialty Programs have 24/7 emergency support by our program Resident Directors), among the usual academics and immersion opportunities. You can find updated information regarding USAC’s COVID-19 safety measures on the USAC website.
Meet With a USAC Representative
We know that you and your parents will have questions about study abroad, so why not ask them? You can chat one-on-one with a USAC Program Advisor or University Relations Coordinator about your program-specific or general questions by scheduling a personal advising session. Not only will setting up an appointment show your parents that you are being proactive about your study abroad journey, it will likely make them feel better to hear you talk through your options and safety protocols with a USAC professional.
Be sure to come to your appointment with a list of questions (from both you and your parents) and ask away! No question is too small or too obscure to ask. Don’t worry, we’ve heard them all.
Lay Out Your Study Abroad Goals
It’s important to set a list of goals and resolutions for your time abroad, but in an era when study abroad is more of a privilege than usual, really dig deep into your intentions for your time abroad.
One reason we see parents struggling with the concept of study abroad is because they don’t understand what study abroad is. Be prepared to share the types of experiences you plan on participating in during your time abroad. This could include any travel destinations, courses you plan on taking, and volunteer or internship opportunities you want to take advantage of. Discuss how they fit into your overall academic (and professional) plan. Bonus points if you are able to demonstrate why you are opting to study abroad now (as opposed to waiting until the pandemic is behind us) and how that decision will successfully impact your future.
Make a List of To-Dos
Another reason many parents (and students) struggle with the idea of study abroad is that the list of actions to get abroad is overwhelming. Make a list of to-dos and a timeline for each task, and develop a plan to make sure each task gets done. It might help to organize tasks into a few different buckets: easy tasks you can cross off whenever you have time (like watching alumni videos on our YouTube) to larger, more time-consuming or time-sensitive tasks (like submitting your program application). Don’t worry, once you have been accepted to your USAC program of choice, we will help you with the rest.
Laying out all of the must-dos before you begin your discussion will help alleviate any fears of the unknown that tend to loom over the heads of concerned parents. It will show them that you’re being proactive and responsible and that you’ve already put a lot of thought and effort into your decision.
Discuss a Health and Safety Plan
We’re proud that none of our Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 students tested positive for COVID-19 during their study abroad; however, it’s important to recognize that getting sick abroad is likely a major concern for your parents. One big step to talking to your parents about study abroad during COVID-19 is coming up with a health and safety game plan to well, keep you healthy and safe while abroad. Will you get vaccinated before departure? Will you purchase international health insurance? (Hint: yes! Comprehensive international health insurance is included in the USAC program fee). How will you check in with your family, friends, and USAC staff during your time abroad? All of these things are important to discuss when it comes to your health and well-being, and your parents will feel much better about your study abroad plans when they hear the steps you’re taking to protect yourself abroad.
Study abroad during COVID-19 is possible, and we can help you make it happen. Addressing your parents’ concerns with research and a solid plan will help you gain their support in your pursuit of international education. If you or your parents have more questions once you start planning, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.