Thinking Globally

by farrah on October 18, 2013 · 10 comments

Last night my husband and I had a different date night. He received an invitation a while ago to attend a dinner in Amsterdam hosted by his undergrad university alumni club. The purpose of the event was to discuss the University of Virginia’s role as a university with a more global presence and attraction for students abroad. As an alum living overseas- my husband was invited and I tagged along. Hey, it was a free dinner, a chance to dress up- and woah! adult conversation. Count me in.

The Water Planet

A conversation

It was a very small party: there was my husband who graduated in the 90s, our hostess who was a graduate in 2012, two gentlemen than graduated many, many years before that- and our invited speaker. He was formerly faculty with UVA in the political science department but was now in this new position going abroad and reaching out to different places around the world with the hopes of learning how to attract top students for Virginia.

On many levels, I thought the evening was enlightening. Of course at first I was a little rusty with my conversational ability- hey, I’m used to speaking to people who have a combined age of 10 all day- and couldn’t really express myself very well. But once I got going (and maybe the two glasses of wine helped) I really enjoyed myself. Talking about studying/living/going abroad is exciting and something that we really hope and want for our children as they grow up and start thinking about attending a higher learning institution- or going abroad to experience life in general.

We discussed the merits of studying abroad as a college student. One of my biggest regrets by attending Michigan State as an undergrad in the 90s was that I didn’t take advantage of the huge study abroad program. What an experience to have: engaged in learning n a new environment, new culture, new everything. We also discussed the possibility that some study abroad students might also not truly get that ‘abroad’ feeling due to sticking too close to what is familiar- and I have heard this same experience can also relate to expats. If you only socialize, shop or mingle with other expats- what kind of experience are you really getting?

Why do people go abroad to study or live?

One of the guests was originally from the Netherlands. He decided upon Virginia because he wanted the ‘quintessential American university experience’. When you think of UVA, you think of Jefferson. You think of Poe (well, I do anyhow) you think of the beautiful Virgina campus, trees, grounds and all. Students come from abroad to experience this very ‘American’ place. In the minds of some abroad- this is the American college experience.

On the other hand, we asked each other what’s it like looking back on your home country once abroad- or specifically looking ‘back’ at America in general. Our native Netherlands guest said an impression he always had of America was that people there all seem ‘so happy’ and don’t want to leave.’ It’s a big place, there’s so much to do and see. We portrayed contentment with staying where we were.

Interesting considering my one main goal in life was to escape and see the world an ocean away. Were we really all ‘so happy’ at one point that people got the impression that we didn’t want to leave? Is that how it is today?

The world is getting smaller. The time to go abroad is now.

We talked about how it’s necessary for people to see what they can of the world now. When you go from one place to another- you see the same stores, can eat in the same chain restaurants, can do many things similar to how you can ‘back home’. While I do agree with this to an extent- we are clinging on just a little to the differences from back home in the states. But he’s right: you gotta go now. See the world before it all becomes the same. In other words: GET YOUR KIDS OUT IN THE WORLD!

Our speaker pointed out that he was hopeful one day his job would not be necessary. If his position was eliminated it meant that he had done his job well and people were attracted to UVA from all over the world without his having to go around and wave his arms around saying ‘We’re here!’. All in all a good night out with some great opportunity to think globally.

What do you think? Have you ever studied abroad? Would you be receptive to your child telling you that they wanted to do this some day?




{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Olga @The EuropeanMama October 18, 2013 at 8:37 am

Oh don’t forget that people go abroad and then they meet a man and move abroad with him…not that I would ever do such a thing… but oh wait! I did! I met my husband when I was an Erasmus student in Germany… and then I met a wonderful German man. The rest is history!


2 farrah October 18, 2013 at 9:55 am

Ha! And a very nice history at that 🙂


3 Jennifer F- American Mom in Bordeaux October 18, 2013 at 8:42 am

Great post!! It’s so spot on as why I love that fact that we are choosing to raise our children now in France. They get that different perspective. They have friends originally from North Africa, Spain and of course France – they see differences in how these kids interact as compared to their American friends. They are learning that one is not better than another -it’s just different.

I lived with a family in France one summer for a month when I was 16 and then studied abroad in England when I was at college. I loved both of those experiences and I know they both changed my life and perspective – just like living in France is doing now. I look forward to when my children will want to study abroad and hope to encourage them to follow their dreams of traveling. My oldest daughter (12) is already inspired by a young Californian couple who moved to Nicaragua to make a difference in the education of the youth in that country. She eagerly reads their blogs and loves following their adventures. It moves me everytime she shares about how she wants to do something similar! I know at 12 – I wasn’t that worldly in thought!!

Thanks for another great post!!


4 farrah October 18, 2013 at 9:57 am

So lucky- I really wish I would have done that. I can’t even imagine seeing Europe whilst kid/tie free. You know? This is a great experience, but at the same time it’s totally different. Glad you have been able to do this with your kids!


5 Ann October 18, 2013 at 8:44 am

Awesome! This is something very close to my heart. I did study abroad, but only a short term trip, to China. But, working in student travel I saw how it impacted students. I eventually worked planning study abroad programs through a university and was happy when they were willing to have me telecommute when I moved here. I think it’s so important for students and wish that more people took advantage of the wonderful programs available at most universities. I think UVA is also the school in charge of Semester at Sea, which would be an amazing experience.

That said – there’s NO WAY I’d let my kids go abroad in college. Ha ha. Just kidding. As part of our savings plan for our kids, we are budgeting for a year abroad.

This must have been such a great conversation. I hope our own schools have a meetup like this.

Also: interesting perspective on American happiness keeping them from wanting to go abroad. I worked at one of the largest universities in the US, yet there was a tiny percentage of students interested in even learning about study abroad, and only a small percentage of those students actually did it. I really hope that as this world continues to be more global college students and their parents see the importance in this. Yes, there’s a lot of beauty and diversity in the US, but going abroad helps people appreciate that more anyway. I can go on for years… I’ll stop now.


6 farrah October 18, 2013 at 9:58 am

It was a great conversation. And I was torn between feeling regret for myself and hope for my kids. What’s funny is I must have said that a couple of times though since one of the guests said ‘But you’re here now, right?’ So yeah. Better late than never 🙂


7 Mrs. Chasing the Donkey October 18, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I never had the chance to go abroad until in my 20’s. I’m an sure that Vladimir will be telling me he will be off exploring the word when he can – and that makes me happy. For then I know I raised him to know that the world is bigger that the four walls around you.
Glad you had such a great night xx


8 farrah October 18, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Hey, maybe he will bump into my boys? That would be a fun time I’m sure 🙂


9 CK October 18, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Yes, yes, and yes (studied, worked, and lived)!!!!!! Only regret is not stuying abroad longer! When I did my Masters, some of it was here (local) and the rest was in Europe… the best part is that my class was very international (Canada, Europe, Africa, and China)!! Although the study abroad part was not long, the whole Masters felt so international and I learned so much from those who came from other countries!!! Definitely encouraging our little one to experience the world when it’s time for university!!!


10 Jen October 19, 2013 at 3:14 am

I didn’t study abroad (in the sense you mean, I have taken a couple of college courses while already living overseas) but I was lucky enough to take a few trips to France as a child, which was when I knew I wanted to live overseas. It only took me until I was 21 to do it and I’ve never looked back.

But now that I have kids I can’t bear the thought of them moving across the world at such a young age! Since they both have European passports they will certainly have more options than most. Let’s just hope they don’t pick Antarctica.


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