Everyone would agree that finding the right school is one of the most important pieces of a family relocation. But what about other aspects of your child’s life abroad? How can you make the most of life in a foreign country, with experiences that are not necessarily taught in school?
• A new language
One of the first things to consider, before you move, is what language is spoken in your host country. Even if your native tongue is widely spoken, learning some of the local language will make your child’s experience infinitely richer. Imagine the satisfaction of being able to understand what is spoken and written around you, as opposed to relying on others to speak your language. Most home country libraries and bookstores offer many language books, videos, and CDs. Websites and online programs are other options. Instruction is available for all age levels. Early exposure will heighten your child’s experience and ease assimilation.
• Daily activities
Culture shock can result from moving to a place where what you encounter daily is vastly different from home. One such element takes the form of children’s activities. Was your child in a highly structured environment at home, with lessons and activities every day after school? Will her host country schedule align with that, or will she find herself with more free time to fill independently? What about socializing or celebrating with other children and families? In some countries, lavish birthday parties are the norm, with everyone in the class invited. In others, a birthday may pass quietly, with just immediate family. Knowing what to expect ahead of time can help your child prepare mentally, and to take action if necessary.
• Local venues
Nothing immerses you in local life like attending a performance or museum. Traditional theater performed by your host country’s masters or a fascinating trip through an experiential history museum can sharpen your child’s cultural understanding. Take advantage of the unique offerings your location has to offer. Of course, certain countries lend themselves to one-of-a-kind experiences. Who wouldn’t take the opportunity to hike Machu Picchu while in Peru? Or visit the Great Wall while in China? Or visit a natural thermal pool while in Iceland?
One of the great benefits of living abroad comes from outside the borders of your host country. It is travel to other locations that would be out of reach from your home base. An assignment in Santiago, Chile means your family may travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina or Rio de Janeiro, Brazil more easily than from your home in London. A Canadian family on assignment in Istanbul might take a ferry trip to Athens… or a train or flight to any number of other European destinations. Travel to nearby locations enhances the opportunities offered by a family relocation.
An international assignment can change a child in positive ways. Heeding these tips can help make it a rewarding, exhilarating experience that creates wonderful memories while shaping a young life.
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