Dubai, United Arab Emirates - September 16, 2019: For every parent, the moment their child is accepted onto their dream course at their first choice University is a time of great pride and excitement for the future. What is perhaps not talked about so often, is how UAE parents can prepare themselves as well as their son or daughter for what living abroad in a foreign country will bring, outside of the confines of the campus lecture hall.
Sara Hedger, Head of Safeguarding and Child Protection at GEMS Education shares some insightful tips on how to overcome fear of the unknown in order to effectively prepare for your child's international departure, and in some cases, what secondary education can't always prepare you for.
1. A new city, a new playground
What is very interesting for most students when it comes to studying abroad, is its sense of unrivalled freedom – far away from the nest, where they put themselves in a situation where they have to employ their own ingenuity and resources. The move is a challenge in itself, this is particularly true if the young student has not yet broken free of their countries' borders for an extended period of time. It gives young people the chance to prove their own strength of character and gain a stimulating and rewarding experience, and no experience can teach or replicate the same lessons as living away from one's native land.
Young adults who decide to study abroad will learn about another culture and other people, but most importantly they will truly learn something new about themselves.
2. Tolerance and culture
What can sometimes prove problematic is when assumptions that have worked smoothly for an entire life in a homeland are applied without thought in a totally different culture. Depending on the chosen city, it never harms to do some research on its culture and social customs ahead of arrival.
3. They should aim to be street smart, not only book smart
Most of the time, while young adults are navigating their new city / country of residence they are out of a schooling or educational environment. This means that they will need to learn to fend for themselves and be resilient. We all want to protect our children from hardship, but it is important to remember that sometimes they need to solve their own problems and overcome hurdles so they rise up stronger. Learning how to judge situations and people in their new surroundings is an important skill. It also might be worth looking up crime rates of the selected city and country, as UAE is known to be safer than most – so it would be sensible to warn of the potential dangers and risks associated with exploring new cultures.
4. Get a medical check-up
Before your child takes off to study abroad, they should be encouraged to visit the doctor and make sure they're in good health. It might be wise to ask questions on the country they will soon be living in so that any specific recommendations for travel vaccines or medications are given. It is important that medical needs are up to date, and it wouldn't go a miss to look into any weather that greatly differs from the UAE so that they can effectively pack the right clothing prior to arrival (and perhaps learn how to use a radiator!)
5. Teach them not to give into peer pressure
Fleeing the nest and entering into full time education in a highly regarded University, especially in western countries within Europe or America, comes with it social challenges which won't have been part of the UAE social curriculum. This is due to the influence from other students coming from more liberal schools and colleges. Freedom of access to alcohol, tobacco and the likelihood of coming into contact with illegal substances will have been higher in these places, in comparison to UAE. This is where core teaching on the importance of sticking to moral principles comes into play, and to let young adults know when and how to exercise good judgment when making key choices.
6. Be on call, but don't hassle
All the arrangements have been made and your child is about to board a flight. Now, all that's left to do is trust that everything will be all right. This can be challenging for many parents. Knowing a little bit about where your young adult is going will help you imagine them there, safe and content. Some teens call every day, or they may be so busy with settling in to a new way of life that they barely keep in touch. Both situations are normal so try not to worry and create additional stress. Try to enjoy the peace while you can!