We know how much you adore watching your child grow, change, learn, and develop their own opinions. But you may also feel a little nervous about seeing them sprint towards adulthood, wishing you could keep them under your wing for their whole lives. It isn’t easy watching your child become an adult. But you know what’s even harder? Not letting them become their best selves. Along with essentials such as education, nutrition and love, time spent abroad is a hugely valuable investment in your child’s future, particularly in today’s global and increasingly complex world.
Even if you didn’t have the opportunity to travel, study and live abroad while you were young, here are five reasons to give this opportunity to the next generation now:
1. Let them meet their tribe
Comfortable as your home, street, town and life may be, the world is so much larger than our immediate lives and interactions. Research has shown again and again that relationships, rather than wealth or social standing, are instrumental in increasing our happiness. For young people, the search to find their “people” runs close to the surface at all times. Social groups are everything as a young person grows up and the support (or lack of support) gained from them affects their understanding of themselves and their place in the world. It’s wonderful that your child has important people at home, made up of parent/s, extended family and friends, but there’s a difference between our “tribe” and the people who surround us in our daily lives. People who make up your son or daughter’s tribe will have shared interests, common goals, and enhance their self-esteem.
Through travel and overseas study, young people are naturally encouraged to spend time with peers who share their values and interests. This period of time in a young person’s life can be intense and challenging and their “tribe” will often remain close for the rest of their lives.
2. Help them feel at home anywhere, with anyone
If there’s one thing exchange students, expats and long-term travelers report, it’s the surprising realization that despite our cultural and linguistic differences, human beings are all the same. Right now, your adolescent or young adult might not appreciate this. On the surface, from afar, or through the glare of the news or the blue light of a smartphone, it can seem that there are very few similarities between themselves and a young person from China, Singapore, Australia, the United States, France, Argentina or South Africa. But if you let your child experience life, study, and make friends in any one of those places (or any other!), just sit back and watch delighted as their world widens and empathy for others multiplies.
3. Help them improve their language skills
There is no better way to learn a new language and become more confident as a communicator than spending time abroad. The life and language lessons learned are invaluable, and in today’s world and today’s job market, being bilingual – and bicultural – truly is better. This means young people who don’t have a working level in at least one other language – and the cultural understanding to go with it – risk being left out of the loop should they desire to work and live internationally. The benefits of language learning are endless: From increasing brainpower, to reducing the risk of dementia, and the chance to have an international future.
4. Make the planet feel smaller and bring opportunities closer
Following this first jump into international living, further opportunities become far easier to imagine. Believe us: The feelings of nervousness your son or daughter experiences initially will soon disappear as they dive into their time abroad – and later, it will be them expressing interest in undertaking new endeavors. This confidence comes from the breakdown of the idea that we are different at our core (see point 2) and the motivating energy of increased self-esteem after tackling a challenge.
5. Give them the leadership skills they need
Now, more than ever before in your child’s lifetime, people are politically and socially divided. In many corners of the world, emotions and anxieties are running high. Your son or daughter is part of the upcoming generation of thinkers, politicians, parents, leaders and change agents whose contributions will direct the course of the rest of this century. Young people need to be equipped with the skills to effectively contribute to and shape the world they inherit; time abroad is a wonderful way to help them develop these abilities.
Travel, cultural immersion and language learning encourages independence, creativity and creative thinking, open-mindedness, problem-solving, social interaction and language skills – all of which contribute to making leaders, thinkers and citizens able to think critically and contribute positively.