A close friend of mine always reminds me in times of trouble that “poor is the man whose pleasures depend on the permission of another.” I don’t know where he picked up that catch phrase, but it’s profoundly true…most of the time.
And then sometimes it isn’t.
Sometimes our pleasures (read: travel plans) depend exclusively on outside influencers — our parents, our boyfriends, our girlfriends, our professors, our bosses, our chihuahuas…and sometimes these people need a little convincing.
We’ve addressed a few of the major complaints parents and others often have when you prepare to live abroad. Hopefully the example of those who have gone before you and the wisdom of your sources (ahem–RSJ) will give you the confidence you need to make the leap.1. ”It’s dangerous to live in other countries.”
If we want to be frank, it’s dangerous to live anywhere. Students coming from other countries to study wherever you are located now have parents singing the same song. Different is not equivalent to dangerous, although it is often billed as such. If you’re even considering living abroad, then you are an intelligent and worldly person already — you know that foreign countries require a few extra precautions, a little adjustment time, and reverence for cultural divides. Reassure whoever you are speaking to that common sense does not melt over the Atlantic, and if you are traveling to a particularly perilous zone, you are doing so with good cause and armed with the most important information.2. ”Why do you want to go somewhere else when America is the best country ever?”
I hear this all of the time, as I am sure you do too — and it’s obnoxious. If you can, ignore it. If you can’t, slap them.
3. ”What if you get homesick?”
Homesick can be boiled down into missing people dear to you, and missing certain habits or environments that cannot be recreated in your new locale. As far as the former, show that you are well-armed with your BBM, Skype, and whatever other means of communication out there. Have regular Skype dates set up as soon as you can, and be sure to remind the haters that abroad is not a permanent state. If you are so “homesick” for your two-ply toilet paper or cocker spaniel that you cannot live another day abroad, then there are such things as planes, trains, and automobiles to bring you home.
4. ”You’re not very good at keeping in touch, so how will I know you’re safe?”
The onus is on you for this one to create an action plan. This is a common complaint of parents who are used to your bi-semester college phone calls. Open them up to your Twitter account (the one you update only when sober), research cell phone and data plans with them, and teach you parents/grandma how to answer Skype calls.
5. ”Living abroad is too expensive.”
Living abroad can be very expensive, but here’s the rub: tuitions are often lower in foreign universities, and health care is often free. Transportation across the world is becoming increasingly cheap and convenient, and jobs teaching English are never more than a click away wherever you are. Write up a budget, work hard before you depart, and get a sense of the inflation levels/exchange rate before you go so you can answer this question adeptly.
6. ”What if your credits/degree/professional experiences don’t transfer when you come home?”
This is a common concern, and one you should research thoroughly. Your study abroad office should be able to predict which classes will count toward your major, and which won’t. Consult with colleagues in your field (especially superiors) to get a sense of what they feel about your abroad opportunity. And if you plan on pursuing a full-fledged degree, make sure you know the university’s accreditation and its international ranking. I think it’s a common perception that abroad means slacking or subpar. Abroad experience is ALWAYS an asset, even if to prove your resilience and curiosity alone, and many educational opportunities (read: Oxford, INSEAD) are translated as incredibly prestigious at home.
7. ”I’ll miss you too much.”
This is when a well placed hug and “I love you” is most appropriate. Separation always presents anxiety, but it also deepens relationships and sheds truth on friendships. Your position abroad offers the perfect excuse for an exotic visit, and today’s technology enables us to video conference and eat dinner with our families every night in cyberspace if necessary. It’s not likely that you’re booking a metaphorical one-way ticket.
8. ”What if you meet someone else over there?”
Classic battle cry of the boyfriend/girlfriend wary of sexy Europeans, etc. enticing you at nightclubs or on beaches. What if THEY meet someone else while you’re gone? We meet people every day that fascinate us and change our pace, and if you plan on taking abroad as an excuse to cheat then that person shouldn’t want to be with you anyway…jerk.