January 19, 2009

Ever been a foreign exchange student?

My son is taking Arabic in school and was shown a scholarship program that will basically pay for airfare, school, room and board in a foreign country depending on the language. His choice is of course, Egypt (and the Middle East). If he gets picked, all he has to take is his luggage and spending money. I asked him why can't he go to China or Russia? He says that he'd probably have to take a year of the language to get some basic understanding, but that's not what the website says. He seems to be mesmerized by the whole Arab thing and at 15 years old he is still very impressionable.

Of course I have concerns for safety in a place like this, but hey, things happen everywhere, not just he Middle East. I also have to confess that I worry about the possibility that he might get just a bit too much Arab/Muslim propaganda that tends to very anti-Israel--I'm sure the teacher he has touches on these things a lot, I've heard him comment on the whole Gaza events.. I've talked to him about these things and tell him he has to have an open mind and understand that each side has many valid points, both are probably right but both are probably wrong too, it is nice to know all the points of view.

Whoa...I went on a tangent there, but I think it is important.

Basically everything the program looks good, he meets all the requirements and already has a passport. Mom says she'd probably be ok if he went for the Summer, I say I can handle a semester but he thinks he could handle a whole year if necessary. I think the experience regardless of how long he goes for would be priceless and the type of exposure he'd have to the world would not be learned anywhere else. He seems to be very into politics, sociology and is seriously considering some kind of career in Political Science and this trip would be a chance of a lifetime, but I want to make sure I touch on all the possible points, and ask the right questions if he gets selected, I'm sure we'd have to meet someone about this in person. So any ideas/thoughts, perhaps bad experiences that you can relate?


  1. I haven't been a FES but I did live in Bangkok, Thailand for 5 years starting when I was 13. Living/studying abroad is an invaluable tool and asset to have. If your son has the means I highly suggest it especially if he is going into Poly Sci. I would recommend a year however. At 15 it will help him establish independence and help him deal with the socioeconomic dynamics found universal. While the ME is slightly more dangerous than China or Russia, depending on where he would go, is not as bad as the media shows. He will learn to speak colloquial Arabic which is far less difficult than formal Arabic and will help him in the future what ever path he chooses. I would be concerned about the Arab/Israeli biases but if your son is grounded it shouldn't effect him badly. I actually find that when you truly immerse yourself you see the good and the bad of that culture so he may see the difference of both sides and be able to weigh in with a balance view. I would also suggest a year as that isn't as long as you think. Hope he'll get the chance to go. Sounds like fun to me! :)

  2. Thank you for your input, I do believe any opportunity like this-even it being the chance to live overseas should not be wasted.

  3. Wow, what a fantastic opportunity!!!

    I think you're absolutely right to remind him that "he has to have an open mind and understand that each side has many valid points, both are probably right but both are probably wrong too, it is nice to know all the points of view." He sounds like a bright kid and will probably consider this message.

    I think it's a very good sign for both his natural deisre to learn and your skill as a parent that he would even want to tackle such a challenging assignment. OTOH, it's true kids can be foolhardy, and you're right to encourage him to be as safe and careful as possible.

  4. Thanks for your input Chanson, I know living abroad as you do probably does give a person a different perspective of the world than the "all-American" way and in my point of view that is a very positive thing!