By Janet Eggenberger
Let me start by making it clear that I AM NO EXPERT on the topic of studying abroad. I am speaking here as only a mom who has now gone through this experience with two of my children. My oldest daughter studied abroad in Granada, Spain and my other chose Rome, Italy. Both absolutely loved the experience but let’s face it, it is not for everyone.
If you have a high school student who is even remotely considering the possibility of studying abroad, it is important to consider the different types of programs offered. Pretty much every college offers some form of a study abroad program, though they are not one size fits all. Some schools, like the University of Illinois, offer a type of cohort program for students depending on major and location of study. My oldest went to Granada with 75 total students from Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Any instructor teaching her classes was from one of those schools so she received credits from University of Illinois and not a foreign institution. All students were fluent in the language. This was important because all the classes she took (mostly gen eds and Spanish courses) were taught in Spanish and not English.
My other daughter’s experience in Rome was completely different and she went with her own university cohort and there was no language component (other than they all had to take Italian I). All students were from University of Illinois and all were in the same program. She lived in an apartment with other Americans, whereas the older daughter lived with a host family. Two very different experiences but both very successful.
Obviously, there are lots of places to study abroad and some of the more popular include Italy, France, and Japan. Our plan was always to pay for 4 years and 4 years only of education for each child so it was important that the girls planned ahead and left enough classes to take for the semester. Cost of the programs vary but don’t rule out the experience thinking it will be too expensive. Both girls took a full semester at regular tuition costs. Of course, room and board, transportation costs, extra travel, etc. all added up but the experience was truly a once-in-a-lifetime for the right child.
Studying abroad is definitely something to consider. Both girls loved the experience and grew in so many ways. I would recommend it to anyone! How come kids get to have all the fun?
Janet Eggenberger is a mom of three – a recent college graduate who just moved out, a college senior, and a high school junior. She is a graduate academic advisor at a private Chicagoland university.