Many of you know that my daughter, Katie, completed a summer abroad program in Scotland as well as service trips to Ecuador and Costa Rica while she was in high school. Her experiences have convinced me that traveling is an essential part of a teen's education that should be undertaken whenever possible. SPI Study Abroad was founded in 1996 and offers language immersion, global leadership and community service summer programs exclusively for high school students.
As hard as it can be to accept, the truth is that your teenager today isn’t the same infant you held in your arms eighteen years ago. Though it may seem like just yesterday that you changed diapers and watched your child ride a bicycle for the first time – somehow, your son or daughter now asks for the car keys, fills out college applications, and holds down a job.
Allowing your teenager to take the first steps toward independence can be both thrilling and terrifying – but this is, of course, one of the most important things a parent can do.
Enter high school travel and study abroad! Encouraging your teen to engage in meaningful time spent abroad is one of the hands-down best ways to instill within them a sense of confidence, independence and global mindedness. Here’s why:
Develop a Global Consciousness
Teenagers that are encouraged to travel will develop a strong global consciousness – this is one of the best outcomes of a study or travel abroad experience. During time spent in a foreign land, the walls that tend to shelter our kids in a first-world environment will inevitably peel away as they become enmeshed in a different culture and way of life. Through interactions with people of varied backgrounds, teens are able to discover a historical connectedness – they find their own unique place in the greater story of an immense, diverse world. This kind of experience positively impacts both their thinking, and the ways in which they perceive other people and events. Traveling and studying abroad helps teens to grow into more mature, perceptive global citizens.
An Enriched Education
Whether your child decides to participate in a tour-based program or join a language immersion trip, one thing is for sure – he or she will encounter a different, more diverse kind of classroom that extends far beyond grammar textbooks. Pair this type of unique educational opportunity with the rich learning that comes through living with a host family, exploring unfamiliar cities, utilizing a foreign language on a daily basis, and forming new relationships – and you’re talking about a seriously enriching educational journey! The world truly becomes a student’s classroom when they study abroad – this is an invaluable part of the experience, and your teen will be all the more enlightened because of it.
High school study abroad and travel programs can really help to cultivate confidence and independence in teens. These skills are not only vital for success in college – they’re critical to success in real life. Being able to stretch their wings of independence in practical, everyday ways helps teenagers to grow and mature. Tackling daily decisions on their own (decisions that adults make regularly every day) presents teens with a measure of perceived risk – the idea that our actions have consequences. Successfully negotiating situations in which perceived risk is great (while, in actuality, it likely isn’t) will help to build confidence and improve problem-solving skills. In essence, a little time spent on their own will help to stretch and strengthen your child’s character.
It can be incredibly difficult to send your baby on an airplane bound for Italy, but, sometimes making the hardest choices can lead to the best outcomes for your kid. And, trust me – when your child comes back a more cultured, confident, and independent person, you’ll be overjoyed that you made the choice to send your teen abroad.
About the Author: Justine is an equal parts travel junkie, intercultural education advocate, yoga-loving foodie, and writer. She's the Admissions Director for SPI Study Abroad, a leading provider of language immersion and global leadership programs for high school students, and is the main contributor for the SPI Blog. When not leading SPI’s programs in France, you can find Justine on her yoga mat, exploring new restaurants in her neighborhood in Austin, or on Twitter at @Justine_Travels. You can also follow SPI Study Abroad on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
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