For any student aspiring to study abroad, there is an understanding that this will likely be a life-changing experience. Yes, you will get to travel, but more than soaking up the humming of the lights in the airport as you clinch your visa, you are also going to have the chance to gain exposure to a different world than you knew before.
Ready to Ask Your Parents to Study Abroad? START HERE.
If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know that I am NOT a study abroad fantasy player. I understand that there are many students that do not have great experiences when they study abroad, and many often regret it.
Even for me, I said that my experience studying in Florence was not the most memorable, although I would love to experience the city again as an older, wise adult.
While you can go through and gather your plans, begin to download applications, and research all you’ll need there is often one obstacle you’ll need to face: Your Parents.
As a study abroad advisor, I often meet students who are thrilled at the idea of spending a semester overseas but who do not see it as a reality because they know their parents will not approve.
I am grateful that I had the full support of my family throughout all of my adventures abroad, but I understand this dilemma well from an empathetic perspective. However, as I have grown in my career and my journey within this industry, I also see it from both sides of the coin, so I wanted to share more insights on the reason behind WHY they are likely saying no.
Before we begin, I also want to encourage you to go ahead and access your free copy of my ‘Parents Say YES!’ Workbook. The #1 goal of this workbook is to help build a more constructive conversation around talking with your parents about your study abroad goals and ambitions – something that I feel is often missing from this entire scope of the puzzle.
Here are 3 Reasons Parents Say No to Study Abroad
1. Safety Concerns
Let’s have an honest chat here: life can be good but the world is not always a good place. It’s a general statement somewhat based on projected opinion, but also built-in facts. In 2018, a Gallup Poll survey showed that nearly 68% of the world still felt safe walking down the street in their communities at night but within the same data, concerns were growing about an increase in violent crimes, homicides, and of course, an ongoing ebb and flow of terrorism.
As a non-parent, I do not claim to know all the ends and outs of the never-ending emotional attachment parents have to their kids until the day they die, but I can tell you for certain, that your parents are never going to NOT care about your safety. While you might be “legal” on paper based on your country’s laws, most students are very dependent on their parents at minimum until they kickstart their careers. This means they have the right to have a say.
One of the most common questions I hear is this: “I’ve grown up, started college/university(potentially far away from where I live’ and I’m fine, why is there so much worry over me studying abroad”.
I get it. The journey to entering university (or even potentially boarding school for younger students) is a rite-of-passage transition point. It has given you independence, you manage yourself, you learn life skills, etc and you’ve made it home in one piece for the holiday meal. Surely you’re capable of doing this in a new city for 4+ months, right?
You ARE, but parents see the connection to safety differently when you want to study abroad. There’s a major distinction between having the ability to get to your child in a disaster when they are a short train ride away or a few states over compared to thousands of miles away (that may also include red tape depending on the country).
Among the top safety concerns parents worry about in particular for study abroad students:
Crime – Overall, world crime has been on the decline, however, foreign travelers are always more susceptible to crime attacks because they have local disadvantages and often stand out. This can include petty crime and more serious incidents.
Living Situation Safety – This is a big one! For students going abroad as part of a large program where you will have provided accommodations or even if you are expected to find your own housing, parents want to know the specifics that go beyond the website or brochure.
Will there be security at the front door after hours? Do you have to have a key to access the building? Are cameras around? Similar to basic crime, you’re in a new unknown place, what will you do if something goes wrong?
In the workbook, I dedicated space for you to be able to clearly articulate the answers to some of these questions, including mapping out what the safety measures are and also encouraging you to connect your parents with any leaders of the study abroad program you are interested in applying for so that they can get a better sense of the lay of the land that cannot be gleaned from an organizational website.
There is no need to be an alarmist, but do understand that for parents this is always top of mind and that only magnifies when you tell them you’re interested in going someplace far away from where you are less accessible, potentially unreachable, and at the mercy of a new environment.
2. Money Concerns
You had to assume this would be here. As I say, I often struggle with whether or not this is number one or two for parents. However, I know most of them would say that they can make more money, but can never replace a child so I keep money second.
Studying abroad is expensive. For some, it is more affordable considering circumstances. For those of us raised in the US, faced with the annual price tag of $25,000 USD (this is the lower end!) for college, university, and even some top-notch private high school, paying $10,000 USD for one semester in a foreign country seems like a bargain.
Students that come from countries where higher education is free or at least MUCH cheaper than in America have the reverse battle. Parents want to understand your WHY for wanting to do this, particularly for making a decision to “pay for an education” when you can get it at no cost or at a minimal price. (If you need more guidance on your ‘WHY’, check out Day 2 of my Learn How To Study Abroad in 30 Days Series on YouTube).
I admit it: It’s a hard sell for that one. They have a point. This is where your why plays a key role in painting the picture for them. You have to have the confidence to present the idea with conviction but also be realistic about what you’re applying for.
Can you find out what the pushback is specifically? Is it a price range? If so, find a program that puts you lower. Is it your projected cost of living? If so, find a way to compromise and figure out if you can take some monthly money off by getting different accommodations for the duration of your program.
Like a savvy salesperson, you have to listen to not just what your parents are saying when they object, but what they are NOT saying so you know how to fill in the informational gaps.
3. Not Understanding Your Overall Vision
Transitioning from your “WHY” (you’ll need it here too!), many parents object to study abroad for the simple fact that aside from safety and money, they just do not see what the point of it is.
You’re essentially asking your parents to step into a “What I Do” meme. There is often a disconnect between what your parents think you will be doing while you’re abroad, what you express you want to do, and what they might accept you’re doing (let’s remember, the reason this matters most is that you probably need their financial help and they want you safe – it all ties together again!).
Parents were once your age. They have likely been to university. They understand the lifestyle, however, making the case that you need to study abroad to do more of the same is a harder sell that you’re going to have to work for.
I always tell my students to have some tangible, reachable goals they can present to their parents they can commit to reaching while they are away. Also, similar to the money issue, find ways that you can be proactive in helping ease their worries about this issue or any other concerns they may have that are valid, even if to you they appear unreasonable.
There is no guarantee that your parents will say YES even if you follow all the steps in the workbook, but I can say with certainty that you’ll be able to begin a meaningful discussion that may help change the narrative for them in the long run.
Are your parents the biggest roadblock in your study abroad dreams? What are their BIGGEST concerns? LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW!
Until next time,
Known as The Study Abroad Specialist, Kimber Grayson is a serial-study abroader turned International Education coach and expert. Since 2014, she has helped 100+ students navigate their semester away journey from the coastal areas of Spain to China and every place in between. In 2018, she launched The LiveStudyLearn™ Abroad Association, a one-of-a-kind online membership platform for study abroad students worldwide.
She holds two Master's degrees from two well-respected London-based universities and has experience working in the US, UK & and Italy.
In her spare time (what's that again?), she enjoys leisure travel city breaks, any snow-based activity, skeet shooting, and attempting to learn new languages.