Studying abroad is more popular than ever and there is no doubt that it is an enriching and often life-changing experience for young learners. European families make huge investments each year to ensure their children have the best possible chance of improving their English in order to help them in their future careers. But what is the right age to send your child abroad without you?
The honest answer is that is really depends on the individual child, and there are many factors to consider such as;
- their willingness to be away from home without their parents.
- their level of maturity.
- their reasons for wanting to study abroad.
- how independent they are.
These three points should be top of your list of consideration when making this important decision:
- Choose your language/activity provider very carefully.
- Do not consider a Study abroad trip as an alternative to childcare arrangements.
- If your child is not motivated, you are not investing your money wisely.
Study Abroad trips are a huge investment for families, especially for those families who have more than one child. You wouldn’t buy a car that you knew would only last a few months before the engine seized up and you wouldn’t go on a skiing holiday where there was no guaranteed snow, so why send your children on a Language Programme with a Language Provider who provides a sub-standard quality of service?
For me, the number one consideration when choosing a Language Provider should be SAFETY. Before anything else, you want to know that the Company you are dealing with is reputable, has adequate insurance (as well as all of the subcontracted service providers they use), that they don’t take unnecessary risks with your children, and that they are providing high-quality, varied and educational activities to their students.
The first point seems obvious, but often parents choose their Language Provider based on cost, but as with everything in life, you really do get what you pay for. The actual content of the English Lessons is generally much the same with each provider and you will easily be able to find out which curriculum they follow on their website, however more important questions you should be asking before choosing your Language Provider are:
a) Does the Language Provider fully vet and DBS (Criminal record check) their host families and their homes on an annual basis?
b) Do their host families provide the Language Provider with annual Gas Safety Certificates for their homes?
c) What is the maximum number of students per host family?
d) How many bathrooms are available vs. how many people are going to be living in the host family home at one time?
e) Are the host family homes clean, appropriate, spacious enough to accommodate language students, or are their families more financially motivated than eager to engage in a cultural programme? (Shocking side note; I have heard of companies whose host families accommodate their students in a garden shed!)
f) What kind of meals do they plan to provide for your children? Do they eat meals together every day as a family?
g) Do their host families reserve communal areas of their homes ‘just for family members’ … this last point should be a big red flag for you as it shows how included your child is going to be in family life.
h) Are their students allowed to walk home late at night from evening activities?
The European summer holidays are very long, particularly in Italy, Spain and France, which means parents often struggle to find adequate childcare arrangements during June, July and August, and as a working parent I totally get this… however… Study abroad programmes should NOT be considered as a babysitting service for your children.
It’s easy to spot which students on a programme have been forced to come by their parents, and which ones are their because they genuinely have a desire to learn. The former are unmotivated, often troublesome, and require a huge amount of time and effort in terms of their behaviour management. Often these students take unnecessary risks with their own safety because they are unhappy about being part of a programme they did not choose to participate in, and they tend to want to separate themselves from planned group activities or engage in illegal activities whilst away from home. They do not enjoy their time away; they make their host families feel very uncomfortable and have a very detrimental effect on your Language Provider’s relationships with their service providers.
Those students who have a genuine desire to learn make a huge effort to integrate, learn and make the very most of the wonderful opportunity afforded to them, which ensures their Language skills improve faster, form positive and often life-long relationships, and grow more as individuals as a result.
So, in answer to the question – it has nothing to do with age! Having considered all of the above, as a parent you are best equipped to know which category your child fits into, and only then can you decide when the best time for them to study abroad will be.