Study Abroad

How to Convince Your Parents to Let You Study Abroad

If you're dying to study abroad but your parents are still on the fence, try out these top tips and conversation starters to convince them!

How to Convince Your Parents to Let You Study Abroad

Gaining international experience is becoming more popular amongst high schoolers, college students, and recent grads. These intrepid people like you, not only want to gain travel experience but also want to boost their resumes with experience that makes them really stand out.

The quest of getting approval from parents may sometimes be a difficult one, especially for first-generation university students, or people who come from families that don't travel themselves. As someone who formerly had to convince my own parents to let me study abroad in the Czech Republic, and then approve of my ambitions to work abroad in Chile, here are seven tips that helped me and will hopefully also help you convince your parents to let you study abroad.

1. Assure Your Parents of Your Safety

Your safety is of the utmost importance to your parents and loved ones. In fact, this is probably the thing they're most concerned about when it comes to you going halfway around the world without them.

Luckily, there are tons of international education program providers out there who have local staff on the ground whose job it is to be there for you 24/7. By choosing to go abroad with a program, rather than by yourself, your parents will feel at ease knowing that people are there to check in on you in the case of an emergency.

How to start the conversation:

  • Preface your want to go abroad, with your need to also be safe while doing so.
  • You can say something along the lines of, "While I know this opportunity is far away from home, I found a program with local staff in the country. They're available not only for me but for you too, if we ever needed them." Your parents will be happy knowing that you're considering your own well-being too when they personally won't be there to protect you.

2. Show Your Parents that Study Abroad Can be Cost-Effective

How to Convince Your Parents to Let You Study Abroad: Cost-Effective

Going abroad comes with a price tag, but if you do your research you can find ways to save a lot of money.

When I studied abroad, I actually received university credit for the program I found through my study abroad office. As such, because the program provider was partnered with my school, I was able to use my financial aid package of grants, scholarships, and loans towards my semester abroad. In fact, my semester abroad was actually cheaper than a semester on my campus because my costs of living were cheaper in Prague than they were in DC! Chances are, if you're a Pell Grant recipient or something similar in your home country if you're from outside of the US, you will receive financial aid through a study abroad provider.

In addition to this, there are amazing organizations out there like The Fund for Education Abroad and Diversity Abroad who provide qualified applicants with scholarships to study abroad. For extra scholarship opportunities, make sure to check in with your study abroad office, language departments at your university, and your program provider. To save money on flights I highly recommend student budget website Student Universe or cheap flight search engine Skyscanner. Many people also raise money to fund their study abroad programs with local or online fundraisers. These tips really help to make opportunities abroad accessible to everyone, despite their financial backgrounds.

How to start this part of the conversation:

  • Do your research first and present your parents with the list of specific scholarships and funding sources you plan to apply to in order to finance your experience abroad.
  • Try saying something like "I am going to apply for X, Y, and Z scholarships this weekend, and get a part-time job (if you don't already have one) to pay for this program myself." It will surely impress them that you're making the decision considering the financial impact too.

3. Convince Your Parents Study Abroad is an Investment in Your Education

When parents think of the things they want to provide you with, it really comes down to a safe shelter, food, and education. While traveling is fun and life-changing, parents might not see it as a necessity.

When speaking to your parents in hopes of getting their approval to study abroad, really focus on the educational aspect of the experience, and how it is an investment in your future. By studying abroad in a country that differs vastly from yours, you'll have a leg up in the career world later. You may gain new language skills, understand the ins and outs of another culture, and will become more globally minded. Explain to your parents that these skills will impact you positively for years to come, and will likely help you find jobs easier after university too.

How to start this part of the conversation:

  • After speaking with your university contacts, such as the study abroad and career center, provide your parents with more information about how you can receive credit for this program.
  • You can say something like, "I can also receive university credit for this program, just by doing X, Y, and Z to receive course equivalencies for this." They'll be happy to know that this can further help you in your higher education endeavors.

4. Offer to Put Your Parents in Touch with Your University

How to Convince Your Parents to Let You Study Abroad: Put Your Parents in Touch

Your parents may feel more at ease if they have the opportunity to speak to another adult. It's not that they don't trust you, or don't value the things that you're telling them. Instead, they just might want to hear more about the safety aspect, as well as the reasons to invest in an opportunity for you to study abroad from someone who works in the industry. Your study abroad advisors are there for both you and your family, so don't hesitate to put them in touch with your parents if that will make them feel better.

Don't worry, you're not alone either. When I was in university, I did my work study at the study abroad office on campus and found that many parents wanted to speak directly with the advisors.

How to start this part of the conversation:

  • Showing your parents that you've already taken initiative will show them how mature you are.
  • You can say, "I've already spoken with ____ from my study abroad office. I told them you'd likely have more questions, so here's their contact info."

5. Get in Touch with Alumni to Show Your Parents What It's Like

In addition to speaking with someone from the study abroad office, your parents may have questions for someone who has actually experienced the journey you wish to embark on. Many program providers have alumni ambassadors to connect with interested program participants and their families.

Consult your study abroad office for the contact details from alums at your school. If there aren't any, consult the website of the program provider you're going with to see if there's an alum you and your family can reach out to. As a third option, you could check out reviews here on Go Overseas -- many of these alumni are open to receiving emails from students about their past experiences!

How to start this part of the conversation:

  • Similarly to providing them with a contact from the study abroad office, tell your parents "I also saw that this program has a huge alumni network. Maybe we can organize a time to speak with someone who has personally done the program." They'll feel included, knowing that you were thinking of how to give them ways to have more of their questions answered.

6. Figure Out If There's a Parent Support Group

How to Convince Your Parents to Let You Study Abroad: Support Group

Your parents may feel even more assured knowing that they have a way to reach you at all times. Encourage them to download Whatsapp and to get on Facebook (if they aren't already) so that you can speak with them while abroad. Chances are, that they'll be able to find parent support groups on both of these platforms as well.

How to start this part of the conversation:

  • Remind your parents that technology connects people all around the globe so easily these days.
  • Start your conversation with "There's an app out there called WhatsApp where you can message me every day/week, just like we do when we text normally while I'm at school. We can set up a regular video call once a week, so I can check in while abroad."
  • Use this time to also tell them about parent resources, for instance, "I saw that the program provider I want to do this program with has a Facebook group just for parents. I can invite you to the group so you can connect with other parents whose sons/daughters have done the program, or are considering doing the program."

7. Remind Your Parents: This is Your Dream

If you've made your case effectively, your parents will easily see how much work you've put in to gather all of this information to present to them. Your efforts will prove to them that you're a mature individual capable of studying abroad on the other side of the world.

How to finish strong with this part of the conversation:

  • Remind your parents of all the research you've done, and the real impact this will make in your life.
  • End strong by saying, "This opportunity would mean the world to me and I'd really regret looking back on my life later with having taken this chance. It'll help me enhance my educational experience while getting to see a new part of the world. I might not ever get an opportunity to do something like this again. I know it isn't something you're entirely eager about, but your support would really mean a lot to me. Remember, I'll be back home soon."

Each family is different, and some will be more open to international opportunities than others. It wasn't easy to get my family on board with me studying and living so far away. It actually took a lot of idea presenting, and repetitive follow up conversations to get them to be okay with me living on the other side of the world. I think the important thing to stress here is your own maturity level, and how much this opportunity means to you. The combination of the two of those things will make it easier for your loved ones to be supportive of your decision to go overseas.

As a former study abroad student and as someone who now currently works abroad, I couldn't recommend studying abroad more. It'll change you in ways you didn't know, by shaping not only your travel and career goals but by changing your mindset and making you become a more understanding person.

This article was originally published in October 2012, and was updated in April 2018.