How Expats Can Support their Children Who Are Studying Abroad

. 5 min read

Please Note: This article was previously published on the HiFX blog. Due to popular demand, it has been resurrected from the internet archive and updated. Enjoy!

Studying abroad can be a fantastic experience for your child. It can provide lifelong benefits, such as:

  • Building confidence
  • Increasing employability
  • Enriching their understanding of international cultures, traditions, and perspectives
  • Creating friendships with people from all around the world.

It can also be an anxious time for parents who are trying to balance a desire to protect their child with the knowledge their son or daughter will get more out of their education experience. This will only happen if their son or daughter are allowed the freedom to achieve their own goals, make their own mistakes and learn how to cope on their own.

So how much do you support your children while they are away?

We’ve got some practical tips for how you can support your child through the process, while also giving them the freedom to develop valuable life skills.

Practical Support

Before the breakers
Photo by Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

First, ensure you know where your child or teen's key documents are and that you have contact details for their school. Make sure certificates like visas and insurance are in place, both for your child’s safety, and for your own peace of mind.

However, in other areas, it might be worth taking a step back. If your child doesn’t check what they’re allowed to take on the plane with them, what’s the worst that can happen? This might result in an embarrassing conversation at the airport and perhaps they’ll have to leave behind a jar of Marmite (or Vegemite for our parents down under) that shouldn’t have been in their hand luggage. This will teach an important lesson about preparation, and make for a good story for later in life.

Emotional Support

Being so far away from home can be difficult, both for you and for your child. The good news is that technology makes it easier than ever to stay in touch. Before your child leaves, it is worth agreeing with them how and how often you will stay in touch, although you might find this needs adjusting once your child has settled in.

You can find some tips here on what kind of affordable communication options are available to you.

It’s natural for your child to feel a little homesick sometimes, but this can help them become more resilient in the long run. Remain positive, reassure them these feelings are normal and you have confidence that they can get through this.

Remind them there are people nearby that can help, such as other students and teaching staff. In the majority of cases, these feelings will pass and your child will focus on the positive experiences in the long run. But if the negative emotions persist and you are becoming concerned, then you may wish to consider contacting the programme provider to see if additional support is required.

As well as looking after your child, make sure you take care of yourself. It’s understandable for you to feel anxious, lonely or a whole range of other emotions. It can be helpful to talk to other people who have been through the same thing, and there are online communities such as Babble, Bundoo, or CafeMom that can offer support, advice or at least a virtual sympathetic ear.

Financial Support

You may find that you end up covering a number of additional expenses as a result of your child’s decision to study abroad, so it’s good to be aware that some costs can be avoided or reduced.

I followed Don Kao, a Chinese American LGBT activist, around for weeks on an assignment from New York Times photo editor James Estrin. I captured this moment of Don helping a woman fill out paperwork. It exemplifies how hands on and willing to help Don is, especially among LGBTQ youth.
Photo by Monica Melton / Unsplash

For example, your child may be charged hidden fees for withdrawing money from a foreign ATM or when using a credit or debit card abroad. It’s worth encouraging them to do some research into this before they leave so that they’re getting the most from your money.

It may actually be easier and more cost effective for your child to open a student account with a local bank, depending on where they are studying and how long they are there for. This also avoids the need to carry around large amounts of cash, which has a number of risks attached to it.

You may also wish to discuss with your child the impact of exchange rates on how much they get for their money, particularly as there has been a lot of movement in the value of the Pound since the UK voted to leave the EU.

It might help to download a currency converter app such as the XE Currency Converter, which will help them to understand how much they are actually spending.  The exchange rate becomes particularly important when transferring a large amount of money, for example to pay tuition fees, so by timing the payment well they could reduce the amount they pay.

Finally, it’s important to be clear in advance what level of financial support you are planning to provide. This could be a great opportunity to teach your child how to manage a monthly budget. Numbeo is helpful for understanding how the cost of living varies around the world, so you could use this to agree what is a reasonable monthly budget for your child and where this money will come from.

Studying abroad is an exciting time for students, although it can be stressful for parents. But whether you’re making a one-off payment, or sending a regular monthly allowance, XE can help you make international money transfers quickly, easily and securely.

Please contact us to find out how we could give you one less thing to worry about.

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