A few weeks ago, I wrote about the dangers of sending your child abroad for their first degree. From the feedback I got, I feel there is need to further explore this topic.
Parents often underestimate the cost of foreign education, leaving their children struggling desperately ‘out there’ to make ends meet. Unfortunately, life in foreign cultures can be cold and isolated, leaving many students depressed and home sick as they try to adapt.
The truth is often masked because the students who do manage to come home to visit are from the small percentages that are fortunate enough to succeed.
And so we gawk at their stories and admire their achievements. Sometimes however, we sense that all is not what it’s made out to be. Most of us, for instance, know of at least one person who went abroad to study years ago and has not been able to visit since.
Recently, a local daily highlighted the plight of five Kenyans who won scholarships to study in the Ukraine and how they have languished there for the last two years.
Because of the visibility of the successful few, however, more Kenyans continue to send their sons and daughters abroad each year, ill-prepared to survive where they are going.
My own experience as a student abroad was studying for a Masters degree in the US in the late 90s. My wife was a student at the same graduate school.
We were shocked to meet young Kenyan students driving expensive cars and living in plush apartments. With time, we realised many of them maintained these outward marks of success through credit cards, and that monthly payments left them with barely enough money to eat. Many of these students had not even completed their first degrees despite being in the country for many years.
My strong recommendation is that unless you have relatives in the same city who will commit to care for your child, encourage them to do their first degree in their home country.
By the time they’re enrolling for their Masters, they will hopefully be more prepared for the tough challenge of succeeding in a foreign culture.
Which is the point of this article. Parents have a major role to play if their children are going to be successful in their studies abroad one day. We must prepare them for life as independent adults. What do they do during their vacation time? Have they held part-time jobs or do they run a business to earn a living? Do they know how to budget? Are there some values that they will never compromise on?
These and other questions need to be addressed while children are growing up. And once they begin to prepare to leave, parents and students need to be as fully aware of what it will take to thrive in another culture.
Pastor M is a leadership coach, author and the senior pastor at Mavuno Church. Follow him on twitter @muriithiw or like his Facebook page, ‘Pastor_ M’