One Parent's View
My Daughter’s South African Adventure
Given that my parents were from Eastern Europe, I had always envisioned my daughter spending a study abroad semester treading the land of her grandparents. Instead, she moved me out of that huge box of parental expectations by announcing, during her freshman year at SCSU, that she had found an “awesome” study abroad program in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Initially, this was not a digestible idea. I could not fathom my youngest child traveling to the bottom of the earth to the continent torn by war, famine, political unrest, poverty, and all of the other bad press which lumps all African countries into one cornucopia of misery. Fortunately, websites and printed materials assured me that my daughter was traveling to a beautiful country, studying at an excellent institution (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) housed far better than I was when in college, and offered an educational opportunity that was irreplaceable for her learning experiences.
It was very difficult to say good-bye that cold January day when Laura left, and we missed her dearly during the more than five months that she was in South Africa. What helped immensely was seeing her weekly on Skype (the internet based communication program that uses video along with sound) and visiting her in Port Elizabeth. I arrived on Mother’s Day and spent ten days with my daughter, attending some of her classes, exploring parts of South Africa, and sharing some of her experiences. I learned so much about a significant part of the world, and felt enriched by my own travels. It made so much sense to me why my daughter came home a transformed young woman, who had a greater sense of world issues, politics, and the globality of the issues we all face as citizens of the earth. She also manifested an air of confidence and poise—the kind that makes parents swell with pride.
There were several lessons that I learned as a parent of a college student who has studied abroad. The first is that it is usually more expensive than anticipated. Regular communication is necessary, and if it could be managed, I would strongly encourage a parental visit, especially for the longer tours. And finally, let your child go. SCSU is quite experienced in bringing students overseas, and it is imperative in today’s competitive job market that a college graduate has some sort of international experience. And finally, have the confidence that you have done a good job in raising a child who can successfully negotiate passports, long flights, foreign accents and strange food. His or her adventure is your legacy!