Advice for Parents
In our globally connected world, where hectic work schedules and unrelenting responsibilities have all but consumed our daily routines, spending a few weeks in another country gives teenagers a unique chance to disconnect, unwind, and develop skills that will benefit them both professionally and personally.
In many ways, the world is a safer place than ever to explore today–with the power of the Internet to conduct more extensive research (or to connect with local guides and new friends). Moreover, intrepid exploration outside well-trodden destinations in Africa or Asia can offer an opportunity to engage with cultures and practices outside one’s own–and invest in communities that need the support the most.
Allowing your children the chance to search for experiences that fill up their youth – much like those experiences you had as a child – very much forms their future.
And travel becomes transformative when it is about sharing experiences and integrating with people, culture, and environments that are different from what you’ve grown accustomed to.
What they’ll learn
In the past few decades, the number of teens travelling abroad has more than tripled. If you’re – understandably – a bit nervous about letting them spread their wings, remember to focus on the overtly positive impacts that volunteering will bring:
- It teaches real-world skills that aren’t found in classrooms.
Students today will be competing for jobs with peers around the world, and those jobs will require advanced knowledge and non-routine skills. Today, cultural awareness and second language proficiency are two skills that companies drastically need. Travelling abroad can help students hone both, which immediately sets them apart in today’s competitive market.
- It builds global friendships and connections.
One of the most enriching experiences of volunteering abroad are the friendships made with people from around the world. Many of these friendships continue long, long after they return home. Your child will also likely be around others who are looking to take what they’ve learned from their project and apply it to their eventual studies and careers, which can greatly expand their global and professional networks.
- It develops confidence and independence.
Adapting to culture shock, trying bizarre foods, and figuring out a new public transport system are all part of the experience! We’ve found that volunteers often return home with a renowned sense of self-confidence in their abilities to problem solve and adapt to life’s challenges. And this is a great mindset to have!
Why they should go
In an age of impersonal digital media, building social connectedness through actual human interaction can bring out the best in a person. In addition, taking a break from our highly frenetic, fast-paced lives and diving into straightforward, basic, and tangibly significant work might just be the recipe for meaningful renewal we so constantly seek.
If giving your child the opportunity to see the world, and gain a life-changing experience in the process is of value to you, have them join a High School Special Project in 2018.