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Should I send my child abroad ?

Should I send my child abroad for education? This is probably the question topmost in the mind of every parent. My simple answer would be to first determine whether you child is:

a) hardworking
b) emotionally mature
c) adaptable
d) intelligent
e) independent.

The reason why I state these qualities as essential is because when a person goes abroad the whole system around them changes. To cope with such a sudden change in the environment, the skills listed above are required to harmonize with the foreign world.

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Living in a foreign country:

Adjusting in a new culture

I arrived at San Francisco airport at two in the morning, my first time abroad. I was apprehensive, but also secure in the knowledge that I would be met and Mr Fred, my Rotary Club counsellor would show me the ropes. The plane arrived, but Mr Fred did not. I had no idea what to do, so I went up to the airline staff and told them about my predicament. They told me to page for Mr Fred. I found out about white courtesy telephones and paged for Mr Fred. But he proved elusive. I was close to panic, but decided to call him at his residence at two in the morning and find out the details. So I walked up to this person and requested change for ten dollars. The person gave me a strange look and said rudely "use a change machine". Now what is the change machine? I asked this from another gentleman and he directed me to one. So with all my hand baggage (and it was quite a lot) I trudged across to the change machine only to find it did not accept ten dollars. Now the Indian Government had not issued me a note of lower denomination, so I was stuck on the airport for the night.

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You find and you will seek:

Travelling and that too travelling abroad is quite an adventure. For many people the initial few days and months are quite traumatic. A strange culture, strange people, different laws and ways of behaviour. If someone tugged the carpet beneath us, we will not only fall down but also feel disoriented. Entry into another culture/country is thousand times worse. Yet the simplest and the most obvious solution to the problem is curiosity. When in doubt ask questions from the appropriate people. In most of the western cultures you are required to make your enquiries from the appropriate office/booth. Just like the change machine. When you are still in India, before leaving for the other country, spend some time in the information sections of the embassies. All countries have extensive libraries which introduce people to their culture, local customs and laws. Try and read or see some film on that specific country. You might be forearmed with knowledge. Reading will familiarize you with many new aspects of the culture that you will be entering.

But when you are actually there you need information on a day to day basis about living in that specific country. In the company you join try and become friends with someone as soon as possible,. Many people are curious about foreigners but are themselves shy about approaching them to make friends. Since you need a lot of help in the initial period go ahead and give that first smile. If you seem approachable and pleasant, many people will go out of their way to help you.

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Open your eyes and look:

Keep observing the native people and see how they behave with each other. Observation will help you to learn all lot more about the non verbal cues of a society. For example in many eastern cultures the junior employees will not look directly in the eyes of the boss, to show their deference for authority. Whereas in America if you do not look a person in the eye they will suspect you of hiding something or being untrustworthy.

While you are interacting with people either at work or in a social situation keep observing how people behave. In the US for most part the waiters or other lower staff are treated with equality. So if you behave in a demeaning way you might be up for some reproof. These are but examples of how various cultures are different. But if you want to adjust then you in many ways will have to adapt to the local customs and norms.

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To each their own:

Easier said than done. You will see many things which are different than they are back home, but as mentioned earlier each society has a different way of dealing with a situation. Just like a person from Japan or any other country cannot come to India and openly criticize anything. We cannot go and start judging societies and their way of doing things. When I was first introduced to the complete dependence of the developed countries on machines, I was very impressed. Coffee could come out of a machine, from one hole the cup came, then came packets of sugar and coffee from another slot and then hot water. But later this very dependence on machines started to seem very inhuman to me. Now I enjoy the little interaction with the "chai wallah" and can understand why in India the coffee machines are equipped with one or two people - our need to give employment to people is greater.

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Grin and bear it:

Though it is a cliché, nothing can be more important. Retain your sense of humour and many of the changes, problems and different experiences will start to seem exciting.

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