Growing up, I had only seen two states- Iowa and Louisiana, the places my parents are from. College being my first time away from home, I knew that UT was my opportunity to gain some cultural experience through study abroad and I wanted to go everywhere, which more than scared my mom. So, before I even brought up me studying abroad, I warmed her up to the idea of travel, me being gone for long periods of time and being a few countries away from home.
Casually I made conversation about traveling in general and talked about what my mom and I’s dream destinations were. I got to explain why going abroad was important to me, and how study abroad would enrich my college experience. It was also really important to hear about where my mom felt comfortable me studying abroad. To make this a great experience for me, I wanted her on board so her input really influenced my decision. After a talk about safety, travel myths and locations that would be great for my major, she was more receptive to the whole idea. So, when I said “You’d be cool if I went to Spain? There’s an interesting bio program there,” it was a transition into Phase 2: talking about applying.
I brought up the subject again with my mom once I was set on a program. Together we went over the program page and details to get her opinion. I wanted her to feel included in my study abroad process. Immediately, my mom brought up many questions about safety, who else was going, what kind of support would be there for me, etc. Since I already attended an info session, I told her about International SOS, that the course was taught by a UT professor and I’d be with other UT students. The more information I told her, the less hesitant she was. By the time I told my mom I had applied and was accepted, she was excited for me!
Though my mom had never traveled before and had many concerns about me going abroad, her fear of the unknown was cured with information I could provide to her to give her a complete, transparent view of studying abroad. Keeping her in the loop definitely made the process easier. Once I was in country for my program, I kept up the transparency. I let her know my plans and sent pictures all the time of fun excursions I went on. She got to see how good this was for me and that reassured her the risk and worry was worth it.
If your parent has questions like my mom, sending the For Parents page their way may help. It addresses common questions, from which majors can go abroad to financial aid and the long-term benefits of studying abroad.
This post was contributed by Allyson Gunderson, a 2018-2019 Peer Advisor. Allyson participated in the faculty-led program Evolution–An International and Cultural Perspective in Seville, Spain.
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