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How can I help my child who wants to study abroad?

So your child wants to study abroad. You may be wondering if studying abroad is right for you child and how you can help your child in this process.

Last week we heard from our guest blogger who described the uncomfortable feelings of not being able to help her children through the international process. The comments from our readers brought home the point that these are familiar feelings among many of you. Let’s admit it: it is not easy when your child comes to you and declares that he/she wants to study abroad. It’s not just the distance from home. It’s not even just the money (although those programs abroad can get quite expensive). Rather, you are sending your child on a journey that is full of uncertainties, and you are not sure you have the tools to help your child make informed decisions. In this post we aim to help you – the parents - help your children make the right decisions.

Are studies abroad right for your child?

We know what attracts your child to study abroad. Research shows that studying abroad is a wise career choice. People who studied abroad are more likely to get higher grades, gain relevant employment and earn higher salaries. What is more, studying abroad can broaden one’s horizons, and open a whole new world of experiences, as well as social and professional networks.

This does not mean that studying abroad is a wise choice for your child, at this time. There are other career choices that may be better. You will need to find this out - together. A good starting point would be to find out why your child wants to study abroad. This would allow you to identify possible alternatives and consider them together, and will also be a good framework for really thinking through the options in a supportive framework. Are the programs abroad more prestigious than those at home and do they open doors for your child in academia or in the job market when he or she comes back home? Is it a step towards immigration to the new country? What kind of financial obligations will your child need to take on to study abroad and will your child need to carry a large debt for a long time to cover the costs? Is your child bored or unsatisfied with his or her current career/study options and needs some alternatives? Does he or she have other motivations?

The importance of these questions cannot be overstated. The answers to them would be the first indicator in deciding what program to choose and how to make other decisions regarding the application process. For example, if your child’s goal is to enhance his or her value in the job market, it is necessary to identify the kind of programs that would fulfill this need. If the goal is to land a job in the foreign country upon graduation, it is critical to not only assess how realistic it is to use studies as a gate for immigration, but also to make sure your child can get a post graduation work visa or immigration status, including for family members (spouse, children). If your child wants to change his or her social scene or to enhance language skills, it is important to select a program that meets these needs as well and provides a good atmosphere for international students and for students specifically from your home country.

In short, for this experience and expense to be worthwhile, make sure you understand the real goals of your child, and how to best achieve them through an international education.

Good signs
Red Flags
When you ask, your child is able to explain the sources of information already explored and plans for additional research on why to study abroad There is no indication that serious research has been conducted by your child on why to study abroad
Your child is able to weigh the pros and cons of each study option (including on questions of career implications and financial consideration) Your child does not really know why he or she wants to study abroad.

Prepare for challenges

Studying abroad is a great experience, especially for graduate school. We, at the GradTrain team, went through this process ourselves and had wonderful experiences and takeaways.

But the process is also full of challenges. If your child got into graduate school abroad or even got to a stage of considering it, your child must be very successful and confident. This is great and you must be very proud. However, studying abroad may be all the more challenging for your child in this regard. Your child - who is used to expressing her/himself so clearly and smoothly - need to adjust to a different language and culture when studying abroad. Your child – who has established social and professional networks – may at first not understand the social codes, and he or she - who is used to excel – may find studying in a different country difficult. Your child may not expect this – yet he or she should be aware and prepared for this transition.

Make sure your child prepares. We at GradTrain believe that, ideally, your child should talk to someone who is what he or she wants to be in 3-5 years: someone who has gone through the international application process recently, applied and studied in the fields that your child is interested in, in the same or in similar places, and has the same background in terms of language and culture etc. We are in the process of building our services around this concept.

It would also be good if your child practices language skills (he/she can do it through the GradTrain video platform), speak with people who are going through the same process now (they can do it on our platform as well) – and remind your child that if he or she is experiencing some adjustment issues at first, it is completely normal, it is most likely only temporary and your child will be able to adjust and succeed, it just sometimes takes some time.

Other things that you and your child may try to find out in preparation for the international application process is what kind of visa he or she needs, what the quality of life is in the places that your child is considering going to, whether or not there is a community of the same religion, language or culture as you that your child can contact when he or she needs the feeling of home.

Make sure your child knows some basic safety rules: are there dangerous areas close to the university that your child is considering applying to? Make sure that you and your child find out and what the potential solutions are (are there for instance safe places to live on campus?). Again, the best people to give advice about this may be current and past students at the university (you will soon be able to contact them through the coaches at GradTrain. Also make sure your child knows the number of the police service, ambulance, university emergency contacts. Last, but not least, make sure your child has a good health insurance.

Good signs
Red Flags
Your child is able to explain some of the challenges associated with studying abroad and some solutions for these challenges. Your child believes that everything will be smooth and that he/she is capable of easily overcoming any challenge in the application process and in the move to a different country.
Your child is planning to consult with a current international student or recent graduate to understand and address challenges. Your child’s foreign language skills are poor-intermediate.


Ahem…excuse me for the question, but who will be paying for the studies abroad? Studies abroad can be quite expensive. Indeed, international students typically pay more than nationals for the same education. Can your child afford it? Does he/she count on a job he/she will get later in order to return a potential loan? Is it realistic? Does your child count on your help? Can you afford it? These questions may be useful to address as part of the destination and school selection process. Indeed, as we have written about before, certain destination such as Scandinavia and Poland my be attractive as it may be a more affordable option than other places.

It may also be a good idea to explore opportunities that your child has for getting financial help. Scholarships may be available from the university they are planning to go to or from the university where they already studied. We will have a scholarship database at GradTrain later in the year which will – we hope – provide a lot of useful information for this purpose. (If you need assistance before that time – contact us through GradTrain. We’ll see if we can help with some information). We will also have a blog post on the financial issue. (You can subscribe to our blog here). It is a sensitive topic for everybody who is going through this process. But it can be far less comfortable to tackle it later on, when the university bill arrives (and it always does!).

Good signs
Red Flags
Your child is saving money and looking for information about scholarships and student loans. Your child is considering schools and destinations that are way beyond their or your financial abilities.
Your child is supported by a government grant or a scholarship. Your child is counting on your financial support, though you are not sure you can provide it.

And something for you

The most important thing for you is of course that your child will succeed. But what about you? Think of some things that will make this experience as fun and easy for you as possible. It isn’t easy to have a child abroad for a year or for several years. First, make sure your child has a calling plan to call home. Make sure your child has a cell phone (But don’t call too much!). Make sure to check if your child is facing any challenges and offer support from afar. Make sure to come visit them. Send them a package with treats. Try to make it to your child’s graduation ceremony – it is quite an experience!


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