Want your kid to have an advantage in the job market? Of course you do. I suspect few of us parents truly WANT our spawn to be in a perpetual state of Failure to Launch Syndrome. After all, our kids have got to grow up, leave their childhood bedrooms, and get a life of their own sometime, right? Playing World of Warcraft 24/7 in your boxers with Mom and Dad relaxing in twin La-Z-Boy recliners downstairs only gets you so far when you’re 30.
That’s why we parents have to plan smart. And plan now. To kick our kids out of the country, where they’ll get a hella education and magically become way more employable.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at this awesome infographic. And while you’re eyeballing the cool retro travel feel, consider this statistic: 74% of employers said that studying abroad made prospective employees (that’s your kid and mine) more attractive when evaluating junior-level job candidates. Put that in your organic artisanal biodynamic grass-fed shade-grown pipe and smoke it.
Full disclosure: I’m biased. My kid is spending his second year of high school in France this very minute. He thinks it’s awesome and I believe that his life will be better because of it. Me, I was scared at that age. Not every kid is cut out for je ne sais quoi, but many are. Especially if we parents help them prepare (tip: start ‘em young).
So…what kind of kid is a candidate for study abroad?
Above-averagosity. It’s daunting enough doing Trigonometry without also doing it in a completely different language. It helps if your kid isn’t the kind who freaks out easily and is willing to sort of suck for a while until the language thing clicks (trust me, it’s a sink or swim thing so it tends to click pretty fast).
Low on the freak-out scale. It’s best if your kid isn’t too picky about anything. When you travel abroad, things are weird. Foods are weird. Beds are weird. Bathrooms are weird. Electrical outlet thingys are shaped differently. Not to mention that people are speaking a whole other language. It’s best if your kid can take things in stride. You could help this quality at home by planning ahead. Serving escargot tonight could be a start.
Curiosity does more than kill kittens. It’s a huge plus on the abroad-o-meter. They say that foreign exchange students are most successful when they say “yes” to everything. They’ll have more friends, see more of the country, meet more people, and have way more fun.
Oh, and the money thing? There are ways to make it happen without mortgaging your first-born, knocking over a bank or selling a kidney. AFS, the organization my son is participating through and probably the best-known foreign exchange program in the world, encourages creative measures to make study abroad affordable. Fundraising, scholarships, etc. There are several similar organizations with similar ideas. Or, the Rotary Club only asks families to pony up for plane fare, insurance and spending money. The tradeoff may be the amount of program support offered, so be sure to compare all your options.
I wish my parents had encouraged me to think and act globally. I like to think that we parents could help make some amazing changes to our world by helping our kids become global citizens.