Parents are trained to worry, especially when their child is far away. After all, you spend their lives protecting them and getting them ready for the world, and then when they go out into, you suddenly feel helpless- or, at the very least, no longer terribly helpful. It can be stressful, and that stress can be exacerbated when your child is going to study abroad in the United States. Suddenly, every news story you hear could be about your child, even though you know that odds are it isn’t.
But is this rational? Not really, no. We understand that every parent is going to have some nerves about their child studying abroad, and there are justifiable concerns. From crime to weather, we feel that these are all normal concerns, and we can help to try to alleviate your anxieties. Here’s why fear shouldn’t be a factor when deciding if your child should study in the USA.
Crime happens, but it is a big country
Without wading into the gun debate, there is no doubt that there is firearm violence in the United States (although the numbers did plummet for a while). There are also very high-profile shootings that garner the attention of the world, leading many to believe that Al Capone still runs all the streets. These are all terrible tragedies, but they only affect a very small percentage of the population. Statistically, your child is very safe, especially given the school they will be attending.
It is an odd quirk of human behavior- if one hears something negative about a place, they tend to paint the whole country with that tainted brush. But you know that isn’t a fair way to evaluate a place. If something bad happens in a neighboring city, you wouldn’t want people to assume your city is just as bad. Yet when it comes to different countries, people tend to make broad generalizations. To avoid studying abroad due to fears of crime is to erect a largely-imaginary obstacle.
Tourists aren’t targets
Every once in a while there is a high-profile case that the media decides they want to make into an example. That’s fairly understandable, but it is important to know that there is no broad attempt to attack foreign tourists. Indeed, every once in a while there is a rash of scare stories, but they turn out to be hoaxes.
What about natural disaster?
This is an interesting one. America is such a big country, that there are many different kinds of natural disasters and weather-related catastrophes, from hurricanes to earthquakes to tornadoes to mudslides, or just a brutally cold winter. Indeed, most countries offer more warnings for natural issues than for crime or political reasons.
But again, these are freak occurrences- always tragic and scary, but hardly epidemic. Most people go their whole lives without seeing a tornado, feeling an earthquake, or withstanding the brutal lash of a hurricane. There are areas of risk, but that is true in every country. No place is entirely safe from the effects of nature. But in almost every occasion, steps have been taken to prepare for the worst, and the incident of death from extreme natural events is among the lowest in the world.
Both rational and not
The interesting thing about fear is that it can be completely outlandish but still feel very real, and is almost always based on a rational concern. You are concerned for your child, so you try not to dismiss anything, no matter how over-the-top, just to be sure. Scientists are pretty united in the idea that sharknadoes are not real, but that doesn’t mean you won’t worry.
However, if this article didn’t convince you, call the school. The international director is there for this very reason. They can help walk you through your fears and concerns. You can even Google the local paper, and see what kind of community it is. There are probably people who have studied there before, and you can see what kind of concerns they had, and how they found their experience to be.
In short, you aren’t alone. Fears exist in darkness, and there are many steps you can take to shine light on them. But don’t let fear alone stop you from allowing your child to experience something life-changing. What they’ll get out of it, for the rest of their lives, far exceeds any worries you may have today.
The international student experience is both challenging and exciting. Whether you are a student considering studying in America, their parent, the host family, the Head of School, an international coordinator, or even a potential classmate, there are as many opportunities for confusion as there are to learn. The ISPA is here to help bridge that gap, to ensure that this opportunity and adventure is met with the highest level of success.