Introducing a new feature of the SPI blog! Every month, we’ll ask parents why they’re choosing to send their children abroad. Here, Parent Blogger Jim Brzezinski explains why he enrolled his daughter in her first study abroad program:
Why did I sign my daughter up to study abroad? Simply put: to give her the chance to get out in the world on her own, and to see the world through her own eyes — not through the rose-colored version she gets when her parents control her experience!
My wife grew up in the same town I did, but unfortunately her family wasn’t able to take elaborate vacations. Going on vacation usually meant visiting a relative or a relative’s cabin once a year — nice, comfortable, but never anything different.
I grew up the child of truck drivers. I spent my summers driving across the eastern half of the country seeing the world through the backseat of a semi-truck. But, I got to see things that the average kid didn’t. We stopped at every museum, park, and roadside attraction that we passed. My parents made sure I saw everything I could that they could provide, and were even able to scrap together enough money to send me on a study abroad program touring Europe for four weeks. This gave me insight into how other people across the world viewed Americans — how they lived, and what they dreamed of seeing in the world.
I wanted that for my children. Studying abroad and learning another language is a great opportunity for anyone — especially an impressionable teenager. Learning the language from locals (i.e., learning the way the language is actually spoken versus prim and proper book-dominated language) is a major plus. But, for me, the biggest thing is for my daughter to see that other people in completely different settings have similar hopes and dreams, too. They may live in another country, they may not have what she has (they may have more), but, they all have aspirations to live a full life. They all want their kids to have better lives than they had.
Wanting more isn’t bad, but it’s about appreciating what you have, too — not material things (like the latest Apple product) but a stable home, a supportive family, and access to a safe life. The life we created for my daughter is comfortable and secure, but the only way for her to see that and to make her own decisions on what will make her happy is for her to get out on her own. I want her to experience how people from completely different areas of the world can be happy on their own terms, on terms not defined by the latest marketing scheme.
If she doesn’t know what the world has to offer, there’s no reason for her to ever leave and explore it on her own. It’s time for her to find a different way to look at life and start on the path to find what will make her happy. This is her turn to expand her horizons and leave the nest.
About the Author: Jim Brzezinski is a husband to his high school sweetheart, father to two daughters, and an automotive designer. He took a study abroad trip in 1989, before the Berlin Wall fell, and experienced the Cold War in real life — not from a book. He would rather see things for himself than read about them online, and he wants the same for his children. Jim is sending his daughter, Sydney, to Costa Rica this summer with SPI.