Coping With Change

Parents deal with many concerns when sending children abroad for higher studies. Here are some resources to help navigate the transition.

By Steve Fox

April 2023

Coping With Change

(Dimple Bhati/iStock/Getty Images)

Parents, naturally, have a number of concerns when it’s time for their children to leave home to pursue higher education. These concerns are often heightened if pursuing higher education means moving halfway across the world to the United States. 

From campus safety and food options to culture changes, parents worry about how their children will navigate life in a new country, coupled with the stress of completing their studies in a new academic system.  

“There was some sort of stress in letting a 17-year-old go so far beyond his home,” says B.N. Thorat, who teaches at the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai and has three children studying in the United States. “It certainly is a challenge for any parent to let their children go at such a young age.” 

Like Thorat, most parents’ concerns also revolve around whether a U.S. education justifies the investment, housing and food options, educational and emotional support their children can expect, and whether they will be safe. 

Resources for parents 

Fortunately, there is a wealth of information available to parents and their children when they begin the search for the educational institution that suits them best. Often, a prime source of information is the websites of the universities they are considering. 

The United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) offers regular sessions for parents and prospective students on various aspects of life as an international student at a U.S. university campus. It also helps connect alumni with students so they can share experiences with prospective students and their parents.  

“We encourage parents to thoroughly research university websites, attend university information sessions and, if needed, write to the university to resolve their questions,” says Aditi Lele, who has counseled many families as an EducationUSA adviser with USIEF in Mumbai. “EducationUSA advisers are always ready to help parents navigate this process,” she assures.  

Advisers say some parents prefer accompanying their children to their colleges to help them settle in, and understand what the first few days will look like. Bindu and Mayank Tewari, who sent both their children to the United States for higher education, say being on campus themselves went a long way in easing their anxieties. “We dropped the elder child off [at his university campus]. Being introduced, during orientation, to the resources and the strong support system created for all freshmen—both emotional and academic—was very reassuring,” says Bindu. “Learning over time from our son that these systems actually work was further so,” she adds. 

Student safety 

Safety on campus is one of the main concerns for parents whose children will be living on their own for the first time. Most universities have dedicated systems and frameworks in place to ensure incoming international students and their parents are at ease. For example, the Division of Public Safety and Security (DPSS) at the University of Michigan offers a fully accredited police force, event security and ride-alongs to its community. Websites of major universities often provide information on their overall security arrangements along with helpful information like the mission statement of the university police department, information on emergency helplines, campus contacts and annual reports on security statistics.   

Community connect  

Large American campuses usually have several communities for like-minded peers and students. For Indian students, the Indian Student Association is like a home away from home. From helping new students settle in to ensuring they have free food during finals, the association is known to take care of its student community. They also organize cultural dance competitions and celebrate Indian festivals to ensure Indian students do not feel homesick. 

Similarly, the North American Association of Indian Students, a nonprofit organization, connects a variety of Indian groups on college and university campuses to create better resources for Indian students. 

Universities also inform their international students about key services and resources during orientation programs. While all change is challenging, Bindu ensured she was available for her child during the first few weeks of settling in. “The initial weeks are a challenge, so keep your lines of communication very open,” she says. “When the frequency of calls drops, rejoice! Your kids have now settled down!” 

Steve Fox is a freelance writer, former newspaper publisher and reporter based in Ventura, California.


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