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Has anyone sent their college aged child abroad for a year of study?

Has anyone sent their college aged child abroad for a year of study?

Sep 18th, 2005, 12:06 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 531
Our local newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune did a big article today on this subject and listed places where a kid could spend a "gap" year. The website is www.signonsandiego.com

Article was very interesting and said this custom was growing in the U.S. Good luck with your son.

itsv is offline  
Sep 18th, 2005, 01:30 AM
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Amwosu, I know you are asking about a gap year in the US but thought I would add an Aussie perspective and from a Mum "wise with hind-sight".

It is quite a common practise here for young people to take a gap year overseas to study.

I am mother of four grown, married, well-adjusted 'children' - all in their thirties. Two of the four did this and it worked extremely well. One studied in Paris, the other in London.

They were both immeasurabely more mature when they came home.

One of my daughters went straight to 'college' and messed around for three years. She went from being head-girl at high school to eventually leaving university without a degree!!. She has done well in life, but I know to this day she regrets it!

For those of you who believe you can always follow the child's wishes, I dont agree. There are many 'kids' who really dont have the maturity to make the decision and I believe a wise parent can help lead them in a sensible direction.

Both of mine suffered bouts of extreme homesickness and our phone bills were sometimes in excess of $1000 per month!
However as with artlover's daughter, they eventually didnt want to come home! They made several friends from all around the world and have remained in touch!

I would whole-heartedly recommend you gently steer him in the direction of studies abroad! It does wonders for kids brought up in 'comfortable' homes.

Let us know what you decide!!
EmBee is offline  
Sep 18th, 2005, 03:46 AM
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It seems in the UK too it is now almost the norm for students to take a gap year before going to university/college. At my childrens' school there are almost a dozen 'gappies' from Australia and South Africa.

There seem to me to be two kinds of gap year: one is when the student works in their home area for 6 months to raise enough money to fund the next few months travelling. The other is where they travel and find work where they go. Often voluntary work is a great experience, and looks really good on your CV when you jobhunt later.

If you type 'gap year' into google there are loads of websites with masses of information, in fact the second one on the search result page is about being a ski instructor in Colorado in your gap year! (When we skied in Austria quite a few of the ski instructors were Australian students.)

We are going to have the gap year dilemma in a year's time. Right now my daughter is planning to go directly to university, and take time off after. But a friend of hers has been in Australia, working, and is having such a great time he has no intention of coming back to start at college here, much to his parents dismay. Others have a great time, return home and go to university with much more maturity, motivation and self-esteem that they might have done a year earlier.

I think in principle the gap year thing is a good idea, and I do think that volunteer work is the way to go, because the students learn so much more from really living in a different culture helping those people than they do from just passing through. It's much more rewarding, they realise how privileged they are, and they gain so much more personally from this sort of experience.

Good luck to you and your son.
julia_t is offline  
Sep 18th, 2005, 03:58 AM
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maybe if Mom backs off a bit of HER expectations for her genius son.... why are YOU researching a gap year possibility? I imagine you have cleared this out with your son, right....?
Viajero2 is offline  
Sep 18th, 2005, 04:05 AM
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i also think a gap semester or year is a good idea, as long as there is the opportunity to actually learn something THERE he couldn't learn as well at home.
or.. that he can improve upon THERE while away.

foreign language is of great importance in many fields.. and he could join a musical group also while abroad.

he should figure which LANGUAGE he might like to expand on.. check out the places they are taught.. and sign up.

many language schools are so highly accredited your local university will directly accept all grammar and conversation credits, even if they do not have an agreement directly with them.

then, other unis have their own programs abroad.

usually this is an inexpensive option to have a semester aborad and touch base with other students and feel out new horizons.

remember, if he is gone for more than 90 days he will need a visa that the school will provide the important papers for, but actually getting it processed through the embassy can take TIME.

a second language will help him in the future, and most students only have a certain window of time to try to do these things, if they aren't already proficient.

most towns have local bands or orchestras he could practice and play with.

lincasanova is offline  
Sep 18th, 2005, 04:09 AM
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Nix to the ski town idea. Younger daughter tried that for the year after H.S. At 29 she figured out "ski bum" doesn't put bread on the table. A lost decade.
tomboy is offline  
Sep 18th, 2005, 04:22 AM
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<<works extra hours to make money to build his own computer...>


Your child could get a job (perhaps for a defense contractor in the Dulles VA area) RIGHT NOW paying about $100K/yr.
bardo1 is offline  
Sep 18th, 2005, 04:22 AM
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I think it makes lots of sense for amwosu to be doing the research on possibilities for her son, especially given the way she describes him. Even if that weren't the case, high school kids, most of them, still need help with decisions like this. Of course, she shouldn't try to force him to do anything, but having logical options to give him makes much more sense than just letting him do whatever.

Gap years can be wonderful. I did one in the middle of my college education, when I realized I didn't know what I wanted to do and just felt I needed some time. I went back, graduated and got a master's degree. I never regretted the year off. Now I am the mother of college age kids. While my daughter didn't take a year off, she did do two seperate semesters abroad (London and Paris) and it was the best thing in the world for her - both from her perspective and mine.

amwosu, I would research (as you are) and then lay out several different options, with pros and cons outlined for him. But whatever you do, make sure he has to pay for some of it. For example if he were to go to Europe for a year maybe say you'll pay for the airfare and rent, he has to come up with the rest of his living expenses. Having some stake in the matter will make him more responsible and in the end, make him feel it was more worthwhile.
isabel is offline  
Sep 18th, 2005, 04:58 AM
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Go IU! Wonderful school for business.

The gap year is a great choice for your son - if that year places him in a position to experience real life. By real life, I mean hard work, responsiblity and the chance to figure out what he really loves.

Has he concidered AmeriCorps (I think that is what it is called)? Similar the the post college program. It is a year of volunteer work. He could contribute to society, help the less fortunate, and get a good idea of what life is about.

A year abroad that doesn't involve either work or a truly academic experience, will be fun. I personally believe that a purpose is essential.

My oldest son is very similar to yours. Very smart but just not interested in academics. The only options we offered him were college on our tab or be an adult on his own. He went away to school for a year. Loved the dorm life, made friends he will have for life and got a 2.0 GPA. Left the year on academic probation.

While a very expensive year for us, the year away helped our son figure out what he didn't want to do and how he wanted to study. He is now an EMT and about to finish up a Firefighter academy and graduate with an AA in Fire Technology.

One of his friends was allowed a year off at home without responsibility to figure out what he wanted to do. 3 years later he still lives at home with a part-time job.

My brother did the ski resort thing - for five years. Be careful with that one. Too much fun.

Good Luck.
EmptyNest is offline  
Sep 18th, 2005, 05:37 AM
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I can understand your son somewhat. High schools tends to not challenge kids with the top abilities.

A year gap between college is fine.
He will have a lot of experiences if he is abroad. He will have a lot of experiences if he tries to live on what you make with out a college degree (No parental subsidy).

Now, Ga Tech (the Georgia Institute of Technology) in Atlanta would be a good place for him. It is a top ten engineering school. He might be scholarship eligible. They have a music program but no music degrees. Be warned however, the failure rate at Ga Tech is above 50% and 5 years for a bachelors is very normal. (Computer engineering, aerospace engineering, chemical, mechanical, electrical, industrial, civil engineering, physics (all heavy and difficult math base), architecture, business and some fall back degrees.) Some consider it 'nerd city' (rightly so).

Sep 18th, 2005, 06:04 AM
Join Date: May 2004
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Just thought I would chime in as someone who recently finished college myself. I think a gap year is a great idea. I think too many kids just autopilot on to college because it is what is expected of middle class kids in the US. I had to work my way through school, paying for it myself with earnings from work, scholarships and some loans. Trust me, when you are personally taking $$ out of your own bank account to pay your tuition you regularly examine whether college is really what you want to be doing.

I do share the concerns of some of the other posters here re: what your son wants to do. If he is completely opposed to going abroad then maybe it isn't a good idea. But otherwise I think it is a great idea. I strongly believe that travel gives you a perspective on the world that it hard to get in other ways -- when you see how differently so many people in so many other countries live I think you take things that you have at home for granted a little less. Travel also forces you to be responsible for yourself, as no one else is going to do things for you, you have to work to figure things out.

Good luck with whatever course you and your son choose!
audreyleigh99 is offline  
Sep 18th, 2005, 06:06 AM
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He might find, as many do, that the increased intellectual challenges and rewards of college motivate him in ways high school did not. He can always take a gap year later, if this proves not to be the case.
Sep 18th, 2005, 06:57 AM
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We actually sent our daughter abroad for her entire 4 years of college. I don't know what good sending him to a school abroad before college would do. Our daughter is now a sophmore at college in London. She is having to work her butt off. Things are different abroad. They emphasize the things our schools don't like writing. Have you thought about the Rotary exchange programs? Ours did two semesters in Finland and became great friends with the family. We have even been there to visit. It is a great program and is free except for the plane ticket etc.
jay is offline  
Sep 18th, 2005, 07:35 AM
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A lot of students start college unsure about what they want to do. Most of my freshmen have no clue. The point of college is being exposed to new ideas, new subjects--your son may well find himself 'turned on' by something completely unexpected! It sounds like your son was simply bored with high school and saw no reason to overexert himself with it. It sounds like he has plenty of motivation if it's something he enjoys. This is common for smart kids--high school is just not challenging enough for them so they become accustomed to coasting. College brings a wakeup call, and the first semester can be a real challenge. Believe me, I see this all the time.

I have mixed feelings about gap years. Sometimes it can work, sometimes not. (I didn't have one myself.) It might make it more harder for your son to adjust to a college routine.

An option if you don't want to spend the big money right away is to have your son attend a local state univ/college his freshman year to get a feel for it. He can then transfer if he wishes to a different school sophomore year.

I think it comes down to what your son thinks is best for him. I agree there is no point in someone going to college right away if they're not ready for it, because then it really is a waste of time and money. He needs to sit down and think through all the options carefully. His HS counselor could be a help in that regard, since s/he technically has no stake in the decision and can evaluate without bias.

Good Luck!
DejaVu is offline  
Sep 18th, 2005, 07:46 AM
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I would encourage him to go straight on to college, one of the two he is interested in.

I know if I had been given the chance for a year in Europe between HS and college, I would never have attended. My motivation was not that high. I have a degree only because of the financial generosity of my parents, and because it was simply what I was expected to do.

I don't see from all you've said that your son has any interest in going to Europe himself, so I really don't see the point. I am guessing once he hits college that he may be more motivated, living on his own, away from parents, etc. If not, he can always drop out, be a ski bum, go to Europe, whatever... but you will have done your best to give him the opportunity to get his degree if he wants it.
suze is online now  
Sep 18th, 2005, 08:00 AM
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Another point to add, which may or may not be relevant for your situation: if your son's grades are not good enough to get a good scholarship at IU or Purdue (a B average is touch and go, it just depends), and money is an issue, then one year at a local school could be a help. If he makes good grades, then that could raise his chances for financial aid at a transfer institution. (That's my understanding anyway; I'm a prof, not an admissions counselor or advisor, but I have had students who have taken this route.)
DejaVu is offline  
Sep 18th, 2005, 08:16 AM
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I strongly believe that getting away from home helps one gain maturity. We have an excellent university in our town that would have suited my oldest son well, but I insisted that he find a school out of town, rather than commuting, and all worked well. My son was markedly more mature than some of his contempories who had stayed home or commuted to college.

I don't see college, however, as the only way to get away from home. Years ago, I was a military recruiter, and it was very common that intelligent but unmotivated or underachieving young people would be referred to us, with the idea that military service would mature them.

I've read that when the WWII GI bill was proposed (the one where the VA paid tuition and fees, and a small stipend for living), it was opposed by the heads of our elite universities, on the grounds that they would be flooded with older students, while they wanted younger more malleable students. After a few years of experience with the returning GIs, one of the leaders who had opposed the GI bill stated that he had been completely wrong, and that the GI bill students were more focused and hard working than the younger students, and were a credit to his university.

I'm no longer in the recruiting business, but I just thought I would throw in military service as a way for a young person to gain maturity, while at the same time being in an environment where there is some degree of supervision. To keep on topic, I'll point out that one of the benefits of military service we were trained to usa as a selling point was travel. Alas, the current GI bill is far less generous than the original.

Incidentally, assembling your own computer is not rocket science. Its about like putting together a component stereo; you figure out what parts are compatible, and plug them in.
clevelandbrown is offline  
Sep 18th, 2005, 11:42 AM
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klondike, exactly. My thought on the abroad years is NOT for the first year.

Actually not knowing your son, I think DejuVu's last post is the best option.

The University that I work for has about 3700 Undergraduates. It's not as easy to get a 3.0 grade average as in the bigger state schools, nor do you have large classes. It's about 5 to 1 at the best and about 18 to one in the most crowded environment. It can be quite challenging, especially if you are in Aviation, Nursing, or one of the denser Science programs.

You do know that some people do better in smaller and more personal learning environments than others? Some absolutely need the structure, even those who are very smart or who have interests across the board.

We happen to receive many transfers from state schools who got lost in the shuffle. So don't discount the smaller school after a year of local work, gap, or divining onto a specific field of interest. Some very bright people do the best in its environment. It just wasn't an option for my kids- because of the costs.
JJ5 is offline  
Sep 18th, 2005, 12:48 PM
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Again, not forcing him to do anything. He wants to go to college, plans to go to college. He's just not sure what he wants to do yet and has entertained the idea of taking a break. HIS idea, not mine.

He has traveled without me for up to a month (adventure travel, participating in music groups) and loves to travel without the family. I think there might be a travel gene in our family.

I'm not going to say, "Hey want to go to the Ukraine or Latvia for a semester/year of music study?" without first knowing it is a viable option. He'd jump on the chance! I'm not going to later say, "Oh never mind, that isn't going to work. It would be kind of hard for him to sit and play on the computer in such an enviornment when it isn't part of his program of study.

I don't think it is inappropriate for a parent to research a child's options. I'm pretty sure most parents research their children's college decisions. I have a friend with a kid who wanted to go to college in Florida to be near the beach and another that wanted to go to school in Texas for the football Saturday atmosphere. I wanted to go to Ohio State to be a cheerleader so I did. Not the best reasons to chose schools but thats what kids do.

We haven't had a serious discussion yet. I want to do some research and get some input from others (Thanks to ALL of you!) before we sit down and really get into it. If he knew I was seriously considering his idea he would COMPLETELY blow off his school work this year and I don't feel like being the big bad bitch checking his grades every other day and withholding stuff until he gets them back on track. Been there done that!

Flaking out on grades as a freshman is a problem beyond financial. Upon talking to advisors at both of his top choice schools we learned that if his grades are not good enough after his first year (as in 3.79 or better for the Purdue program) he will not likely get into the programs he is most interested in and certainly capable of completing.

I'm fairly sure that if he were able to jump right into classes that are in his area of interest he would be excited and motivated to perform. But do you remember the Basic Educational Requirements taken your freshman year in college? Those will not excite him any more than most of his h.s. classes.

I went straight to college and chose education as a major because my mother's family includes principals, teachers, and a supt. It was all I knew at 18. I was far more interested in the social life but finished with a decent gpa (hey it wasn't rocket science). If I knew then what I know now I would have chosen a different course of study but I didn't have anyone to help me consider other possibilities. My parents quietly stood by and let me make all my decisions without comment.

I occassionally teach summer school classes at a local college where half my students are young adults who did poorly at Purdue or IU, took time off to work, and are now living at home. I just don't want that for my son and neither does he.

My brother played around in college for two years and made great money selling drugs. He got into a scary situation with a real dealer and called it quits. He went to Colorado to ski and work and decide what he wanted to do and my mom about died. She thought he'd never go back to school. He discovered that he had to have three very menial jobs just to live in a doublewide trailer outside of town with two roommates. He went back to school the next year, finished well, got a job he loved IN Colorado, and made more money his first year out of college than my mother so she finally quit nagging.

"maybe if Mom backs off a bit of HER expectations for her genius son...."

Huh? I thought that's what I WAS doing by letting him take a break. If I didn't have any expectations of him in h.s. he would currently be holding about a 1.2 gpa and wouldn't have the option of going to college at all. I'm not prepared to let a 14-18 year old kid make that costly mistake. With me watching his grades regularly he pulls them up to have a B average every time. He's capable of more but I'm okay with Bs and he knows it. If I had high expectations of him would I send him right to college and scream at him when he does poorly and threaten not to pay?

Thanks for all of the ideas and for the websites.
amwosu is offline  
Sep 18th, 2005, 01:03 PM
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DS isn't interested in living at home and going to the local college. He works with people that do that and they mostly hate it according to him. He had a very negative response to that option when DH suggested it. DH would like to insist that he go to the local college and live at home for a semester and prove he can get good grades before we will help him at the school of his choice. So how do you think an unmotivated student will do at a college in which he doesn't want to be enrolled? I want him to get out and "sink or swim" without the cost it might do to his grades for the first year.

Hey, does anyone just want to have the pleasure of hosting a surly messy teenager that likes to play internet computer games for a year or so?
amwosu is offline  

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