My daughter, Meranda Ma, studied abroad in Madrid, Spain, during the fall semester of her junior year at Davidson. As her mother, I was definitely worried and concerned, especially under the unstable circumstances at that time. However, I understood the benefits she would gain through this experience, so I decided to support her decision, both financially and emotionally.
Meranda’s older sister Melissa also studied abroad in Spain during her junior year in college. Therefore, it was not too difficult for Meranda to follow Melissa’s experience and prepare items she needed in her luggage. I still encouraged her to be mindful and respectful of the cultural differences, such as food, habits, customs, etc. At the same time, I shared safety tips with her, especially when she explored independently. For example, traveling in groups at night, always have cash handy, make copies of her passport (bring a copy with her all the time, rather than original), etc. I made sure her cell phone’s capability in the U.S. remained connected and can immediately be used when she landed in Spain (rather than have her purchase a SIM card on her own a few days after arrival). In today’s world, having access to a phone is very important – anything can happen any minute. I also prepared myself by thoroughly reviewing information provided by the school and saved all contact information handy in my phone.
The most positive impact studying abroad had on Meranda was how eye-opening it was to experience a completely different country, people, culture and history from the U.S. It was a great opportunity for her to practice Spanish, since she stayed with a non-English speaking family. It’s definitely different learning the language at school vs. actually using it in daily life. Due to the distance, she had to resolve issues and problem solve on her own, rather than depending on family. This built upon her confidence and survival skills. Having this shared experience also gave her and her sister an additional connection, so I also strongly recommend this experience for families with multiple siblings.
Overall, studying abroad is a wonderful opportunity for students to understand a different country. To them, it was an unforgettable experience that will be remembered for the rest of their lives.