One of the things you may have noticed is that, in order to study in America, one will most likely have to fly. This isn’t true in every case, but the huge majority of students will be getting on a plane. And, it is safe to say, the occasionally frightening nature of flying has dominated the news in the last couple of weeks.

I’m referring, of course, to Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. The mystery of its disappearance captivated the world for weeks, as dark conspiracies swirled and people’s imaginations were given over to the terror of simply disappearing, something that seems incongruous, anachronistic, and practically impossible in the modern world. Finding out, as we did recently, that the plane most likely went down in the Indian Ocean, closed part of the mystery, but obviously brought no relief to the mourning.

I bring this up because many people look at an event like that and determine that they never want to fly. That reaction is human nature, but without trying to minimize any legitimate fear or trauma that may from dreadful thoughts, those concerns aren’t always valid. However, they lead to a broader topic that might stop people from studying overseas: hearing a story and assuming it is true in all cases. This is a normal error, and it is one that parents thinking about sending their children abroad to study needs to overcome.

Flight paths

Flying can make you nervous, but overcoming those- and other- fears, should be overcome to study abroad.
Image from faa.gov

Fear of Flying

We’ve been over some of the common fears associated with sending your child abroad in America: crime, inclement weather, etc. But we haven’t discussed flying. With the crash of Flight 370, many people seem to be focusing on everything that could go wrong. It does seem like there are so many things that can go wrong on a flight. Even tiny little things can add up, as it seems in this theory by a former pilot.

But of course, it isn’t the case that flying is a dangerous method of travel. This slideshow in Business Insider shows that it is actually statistically a very safe thing to do. There are hundreds of redundancies when it comes to airplanes, and the same amount of safety measures. In fact, flying is safer than ever.

The counterpoint to that argument is that when something does go wrong in the air, it is catastrophic, and we can all certainly point to instances where that is certainly true. But the fact is that even in crashes, the majority of people survive, if they follow safety measures and things don’t go horribly wrong.

So why does it seem so scary?

It would have to be a very slow news day to report on all the planes that landed safely. The image above shows how many planes are in the air at any given time during the day. It looks scary, but not once you realize the planes aren’t to scale. At peak hours, there are over 19,000 planes in the air just over the United States alone. And almost every day, they all land safely and unremarkably. We don’t think about those, however.

Instead, we use sample bias. We only remember what stands out, what grabs our attention. And what grabs our focus is something scary. We know that nearly every plane flies its route without incidence greater than a bad movie. But we remember images of wreckage and the gut-punching dread of disappearance. That’s human nature.

How does this apply to my child studying in America

If you are considering sending your child to America to study, or have one already in an American school, you probably have some nerves. You hear about a plane crash and think about your child crossing a dark ocean, or hear about a shooting and want to keep your kid at home. This is a normal reaction as a parent.

But that’s because you aren’t hearing every day about everything that happens according to plan. You don’t hear from your child every time they learn something that changes their lives or meet someone that is going to be a friend decades down the road. These are the small things that will, over time, shape their lives. You don’t recognize these moments the same way as when you hear something immediate and unfortunate.

Studying abroad is full of positive moments- moments of joy and of tiny things that might not seem important at the time, but that add up to create something important. The moments that will make them who they will be when they grow up. None of these events will make headlines or cause comment around the globe, but they are the events, between the lines and away from the glare, that will stay with a child for their entire lives.

 

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.