Choosing to study abroad is a big decision that can lead to memorable experiences, tremendous personal growth, and incredible career opportunities. Once you’ve decided to pursue studying abroad, one of the first hurdles is to talk to your family and get them on board. If your parents or siblings don’t have experience with studying abroad, it can be a difficult pitch. What they might hear: “I want to move thousands of miles away from home to study in an expensive place where I don’t know anyone.”
But with the right approach, you can show your family how studying abroad can lead to academic success, improved career prospects, and becoming an independent, global citizen. To help you, we’ve compiled our best tips for how to speak to your parents about studying abroad:
Initial approach and conversation
If studying abroad is something you’ve never brought up with your family before, it’s important to slowly ease into the topic and realize that this discussion will likely be multiple conversations (possibly over several days, weeks, or even months). You might open the conversation by asking about their travel experiences or talking about how much you’ve enjoyed and learned on your family travels together. When do you tell them explicitly, “I want to study abroad,” you must show that you’ve put a lot of thought and research into this dream (see our next section on doing your research!).
Remember to approach these conversations as discussions among peers. Listen and acknowledge your family’s thoughts and concerns. Be mature in your answers, demonstrating your thoughtfulness and research – this isn’t a whimsical choice you’ve made! – you’ve been thinking, researching, and planning this.
Do your research
Make sure you’re ready to talk about studying abroad with your family by doing your research first. Speaking intelligently on the subject will show your parents how serious you are, and demonstrate the maturity and independence needed to be successful while studying abroad.
On countries and institutions
What country do you want to study abroad in and why? Be prepared to answer this thoughtfully – both for personal development and academic reasons. Consider the cultural experiences, employment opportunities and academic rigor of the country you’ve chosen.
You should also be prepared to talk about a few universities you’re considering, and why. Do they offer a unique program? Are their academics particularly exemplary? Do you know other students who have been successful there?
Many families are genuinely concerned with the safety of sending their children abroad. This is a topic you should be prepared to discuss openly with facts, not just anecdotal evidence. Research country-specific health information, safety tips, travel advice, and any current travel warnings through your government’s travel bureau; the Global Peace Index can also be a great resource to use.
On cost and finances
Make sure you have at least a general budget of how much it costs to complete your desired degree in the country you want to study abroad in – make sure to include tuition and cost of living. You should also have a few places in mind to apply for scholarships and/or financial aid (check private foundations, businesses, nonprofit organizations, or governments).
If you already know what universities you’re most interested in, you can provide more detailed costs and scholarship information. Most universities include details on their websites about tuition costs as well as other fees, and even estimated living expenses.
How to answer common questions and objections
Why study abroad? Why leave the country?
It would help if you started with your reasons for wanting to study abroad, but you can also include some great stats like:
Isn’t studying abroad expensive?
Study abroad is just a vacation!
We hope these tips help you get the conversation started with your family. Their support is critical in your success studying abroad! And if you're looking for more tips, watch our IGTV with David Ayers from San Diego State!
Research and resources:
IES Abroad. (2021). Benefits of Study Abroad. https://www.iesabroad.org/study-abroad/benefits
AIFS Study Abroad Outcomes. (2013). American Institute for Foreign Study, 1–6. https://www.aifsabroad.com/advisors/pdf/AIFS_Study_Abroad_Outcomes.pdf