You’ve just packed your son/daughter off to study abroad, and while it will definitely be a challenge for them to acclimate to their new surroundings, what might be an even bigger challenge is for parents to get used to the idea that their child is far away from home and alone in another country.

We spoke to several parents to find out what their experience has been like. Of course, not every parent thinks the same way, but we tried to find a diverse group of parents who have children studying in the US, UK, Canada and the UAE.

We asked the parents we spoke to the following questions:

Questions:

1) Whose idea was it study abroad?
2) Were you on-board with allowing your child to study abroad from the get-go or did you prefer (and try to convince) them to study in their home country?
3) When the decision was made for your child will study abroad, did you help them with finding a school, the application process, financially and/or settling in?
4) Did you have any concerns about sending your child to study abroad; if so, what were these?

The Parents:

Mr Naseem Chit, son studying Computer Engineering at Waterloo University, Canada
Mrs Sondos Al Onaizi, son studying Business Administration at Northridge University, US
Dr, Khawer, daughter earned ACCA qualification from BPP University in London, UK
Mr Waleed Al Mutairi, son studying Political Science at San Diego State University, US
Mrs Aisha Al Tunaib, son studying Media and Communication at Wollongong University Dubai, UAE

Their Views:

Mr Chit decided to allow his son to study abroad because “the cost of education in Canada is cheaper than the Middle East and the US.” All the parents said that it was their child who wanted to study abroad, except for Mr Al Mutairi, who said that his son wasn’t really sure what to study or where to go, so he decided to direct him towards the path of studying in the US. Mrs Al Tunaib was the only parent that tried to convince her child to study at home.

The two mothers that participated in this survey had differing reactions when their children told them they wanted to study abroad. Mrs Al Onaizi, said it was her dream to have her children study abroad, and that she was happy when her son told her that he wanted to go to the United States. Mrs Al Tunaib, was not as open to the idea because she felt that her son, who is the youngest in the family, would not be able to take care of himself. Dr. Khawer, was also hesitant when his daughter told him she wanted to study in the UK, but he says, after a few family discussions, both his wife and he were on board with the idea.

When it came to supporting their children, unsurprisingly, all the parents we spoke to said that they offered financial support. Mr Al Mutairi and Mr Chit both also traveled with their sons to help them find a residence and settle in. When it came to selecting the school, all the children had their minds made up about the school they wanted to attend, except for Mrs Al Onaizi, who helped search for the best school and program for her son.

Now coming to the most important question, what were their worries? Every parent has certain worries concerning their child which is natural. But knowing that your child is in a foreign place all by themselves, brings different issues that parents worry about.

Mr Chit said he was worried that his son would find the change in environment difficult to adjust to, and that this would affect his studies. Dr. Khawer was worried that his daughter would not be able to take care of herself, and that the difference in culture between Pakistan and the UK would be difficult to adjust to. What helped ease his worries was that they had relatives living in the UK who advised him to travel to the UK to experience the culture for himself, and it was his visit that helped ease his worries, and convinced him to allow her to study there.

Mrs Al Tunaib had the same worries, that her son would not be able to take care of himself. Interestingly, she was also worried that her son would enjoy his experience so much that he wouldn't want to return home. Mrs Al Onaizi has similar worries as Mr Chit, which was that the new environment would be too difficult to adjust to. She even feared that it would be overwhelming and that her son may want to eventually transfer back to a school back home. Finally, Mr Al Mutairi was worried about his son’s well-being because he had read about the high crime rate of the area his son was living in.

All the parents we spoke to were unanimous in their concern for their children’s well-being and concern about them adjusting to their new environment.

Some advice they shared was, visiting the country their child would be studying in, as “this will put some of their fears to rest.” But even if this is not possible for everyone, “keeping in touch regularly is a big help”; this is helpful for both students and parents especially during the initial period of adjustment.