Study Abroad

I’m writing from the train today. This morning, my niece Roxcy and I took the 6:00am to Paris, and then a taxi to Charles de Gaulle airport, where Roxcy boarded a non-stop flight to Salt Lake City. (I snapped the photo above while we were on the train. Even when she hasn’t had enough sleep, Roxcy is as lovely as can be.) Sending an unaccompanied child off on a Transatlantic flight is nerve-wracking. There’s such an instinct to stay with her, to make sure she’s fed and comfortable and entertained on the long journey. And mostly, to make sure she arrives home safe and sound. I will be holding my breath until I hear she’s back in her parents’ care.

Roxcy’s flight today marked 3 months of staying with us — 3 months is as long as a U.S. visitor can stay in France without applying for special visas. While she was here, we enrolled her in the local school with her Blair cousins, she helped out like any member of the family, and she traveled around with us on our adventures. She’s a great kid — kind and smart and helpful. We loved having her around and Ben Blair reported lots of tears this morning as the little ones woke up and realized she was really gone.

Tell me, did you ever have an adventure like Roxcy’s when you were a kid? Maybe stayed with a cousin far from home? Or traveled with a study abroad group? How long were you gone? And If you had the chance, would you offer this sort of experience to your own child? Have your kids ever taken a solo flight? (I think it’s so brave!)

P.S. — My train back to Normandy left at 1:55 in the afternoon, so I had a couple of hours to run errands in Paris. I bought scissors from Muji, party banners from Hema, and macarons for Ben Blair from Ladurée. It was very multicultural shopping. : )

69 thoughts on “Study Abroad”

  1. What a great experience for Roxcy!
    At the age of 12, I flew solo from to Switzerland to spend time visiting family friends. Their daughter and I had become pen pals over the years, exchanging ‘treasures’ like Lisa Frank stickers and movie stubs via old fashion snail mail. The trip was such a success, that I returned two summers later to spend a a month.

    Can’t even begin to explain how these these experiences shaped me. Instilling the travel bug, an understanding of other cultures, and adaptability is now one of my top priorities for raising my own kids.

  2. When I was 17, I’ve lived with my sister & her family in Hanoi (Vietnam) for a few months. We’re all Dutchies, so it was realy an adventure to live in an Asian country for such a long time.. :-)

  3. What a wonderful opportunity for your niece! She is sure to remember her time in France with a smile for decades and decades to come.

    As a kid, I longed to travel abroad. I remember being crushed when I wasn’t accepted to my 8th grade UK exchange, and I begged my parents to let us host an international student for a year (they never agreed). My first trip outside the U.S. was in college, when I spent a semester living and studying in Australia. It was absolutely life changing. I was exposed to this whole new world of travel and opportunity that I never knew existed, plus I learned very practical things like how to manage my bank account and how to take care of myself living in a city (I grew up in suburbia).

    My study abroad experience was the starting point for a lifetime of travel, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I hope that when I have kids I will be lucky enough to show them the world in the same way you are doing for your family.

  4. I’ve never done it but wish I did. When my baby girl gets older, I really want her to be adventurous and brave and I’ll definitely be encouraging her to travel and see what the world is like.

  5. What a lovely picture! It brought back a flood of memories from when I boarded a transatlantic flight as a 16 year old to be an exchange student in Hamburg Germany. It was by far the scariest thing I have ever done. I was a homebody to the core, but I got in my head in 7th grade that it was something I was going to do and I never looked backed. I just made it happen. I went with Rotary International, which was a great organization to go with, in that they help you prepare, watch over you while you are there and even have some things when you return home with others that shared the same experience.
    While the experience was by the far scariest it has probably been the most life changing for me too. That being said, now that I have kids the thought of sending them away for a year would fall into the scariest experience for this mom if any of them would ever want to do it. Definitely, something I would want them to do, but I would have to shut down a part of my brain to allow it to happen. Funny how that works…

  6. The first time I was sent abroad was when I was nine years old to spend the summer with my European relatives. Although petrified at the time, I had a great time and still remember so many moments vividly from the trip. After that my parents sent me back a number of other summers, each leading to exciting adventures. I have to say leaving after living somewhere for so long was the hardest part. It seemed so surreal to return to “normal” life and almost a let down to be back after so many new experiences.

  7. Im jealous! she is lucky. I even complain now that we have no family to visit anywhere exciting. we all still live in the same city! Australia is such a great place to live but once your on the island its soooo expensive to leave! pretty much stuck here! my first plane ride was at 25! I would love to give my kids this opportunity.. but none of them have been on a plane yet either (eldest is 11. hopefully I can remedy this in a few years)

  8. My daughters have been going to Spain for five years now…spending at least one month during the Summers. They both started going at the age of 4. My oldest went the first two times on her own b4 she was joined by her youngest sister (we drop them off in Spain and then return to the States).

    I am blown away by how brave they have been on wanting to take on such adventures, they are still quite young (8 & 5), but they realize how lucky they are to get to spend this time with their grandparents and to get to explore a different culture through them. It has given my daughters a strong sense of themselves and every year all they talk about is how much they want to return.

  9. When I was 14, I flew solo to stay with my aunt in the Caribbean for 3 weeks. I still remember getting my plane ticket money out of the bank and walking to the *travel agent* (remember those?) to buy my ticket, paid in cash. It was wonderful!

  10. I never studied abroad, but when I was in high school, my family hosted a foreign exchange student from Finland for about 6 months. Even though I was still at home, it was very interesting to learn about her culture and to hear how everyday life things were different. It was a learning experience even though I never had the opportunity to do it myself.

  11. Yes! When I was 9, my parents put me on a plane in Anchorage, Alaska, headed to Oakland, California, to join my aunt, uncle, and cousins on a week-long camping trip in Yosemite National Park. I remember it was both scary and exciting – I felt so grown-up and independent! I don’t have kids of my own (yet), but I’d like to think I’d let them do the same. It was such a fun experience to have had at that age, and I look back on it fondly. :)

  12. How wonderful! It is truly a gift for both of you to have this experience. The experiences and knowledge that your niece has received during this trip is not possible in a traditional classroom. I am sending my kids (10,8) to Hong Kong to stay with my sister in-law this July. They have travel frequently including abroad, but this will be the first time they are in someone else’s care. I would love it if they could do this again in future years including other countries.

  13. I wish I could say I spent the summer in France but my trip was not nearly so glamorous. When I was 13, I rode the Greyhound from California to Seattle all by myself to spend the summer with my aunt. It was a great experience but I was scared out of my mind on the bus! My dad was so sweet. He said up all night by the phone and at every stop we made I would call him (these were the days before cell phones). I guess it taught me that I could take care of myself and maybe helped to grow my independence.

  14. I didn’t do anything close to this as a child, but did study abroad the summer for a summer before my senior year of college. It really was fantastic and freeing. Totally amazing that my parents even let me go. I learned so many things about me and being a semi-artist type person, going to a million museums was fantastic. One of my classes was “Survey of British Museums”, the only thing cooler would have been “Survey of French Museums.” My super loving husband took me on a trip for our second anniversary that could have been titled “Survey of Parisian Museums.” Magnifico!

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