Thursday, April 1, 2010

At What Age Can Someone Study Abroad?

There has been a lot of press the past week or so about the University of Connecticut denying a 13 year old student to participate on a three-week study abroad program to Johannesburg, South Africa (a required component of an African field ecology class).

I'm not going to weigh in on that discussion here but want to know what IHEC Blog readers think about this?  Is 13 too young?  My best friend went on a two-week class trip to France when she was 13...was she too young?  Would I allow my kids to go on a two or three week trip abroad?  I think I would.  You can read a more detailed article about this student here.  Leave a comment if you have an opinion!

Photo credit: DaveBleasdale

9 comments:

  1. Hm, this is an interesting case--thanks for posting about it! As for the question of when I would let my child study abroad, I think it depends a lot on context. If my hypothetical 13-year-old wanted to go on a short-term study abroad program that's designed for young teens and has adequate support and supervision, I'd be very supportive. But I wouldn't be comfortable sending my 13-year-old on a program that's designed for traditional-age college students, with a fair amount of independence and emotional maturity assumed.

    Also, just an FYI, the link near the end of your post is broken.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I certainly believe a 13-year-old is old enough to benefit from some type of study abroad. However, when you are taking a group of students from 18-22 years old and there is one 13-year-old that wants to join, I can certainly understand the issues. However, when the mother is willing to come along at her own expense, I think some kind of accomodation could be made.

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Becky ~ Many thanks for your comments! Thanks for the tip on the broken link. I couldn't find the original article so linked to a different article. This new article does't talk about the measures proposed by his mother which included signing a statement not holding the University accountable for any problems and offering to accompany her son on the trip.

    ReplyDelete
  4. @interculturaleyes ~ many thanks for your comments. I agree that having a 13 year old along on the trip certainly adds a new dimension to the course but I think that happens on the U.S. campus as well. I also think that the accommodation offered by his mother that she would attend on her own expense certainly makes a stronger case for participation.

    ReplyDelete
  5. FTR...the best friend I refer to in my post who studied abroad when she was 13 is my wife!

    ReplyDelete
  6. i would think that the professor - and study abroad programmers - would look at the student, his academic maturity, and move forward as promised. he might get more out of it than the rest of the students -and his family is extremely supportive.

    ReplyDelete
  7. As a risk manager, my question is that if the Mom goes, is she or isn't she part of the group? I used to have this issue when a faculty member wanted to bring 'a friend or significant other' on a short term program. The extra person paid all their own expenses and usually didn't purchase medical/evac insurance/repatriation insurance that all students and the faculty member were required to carry. So, in the event of an emergency evac-my responsibility is to get the students/faculty out. If there isn't room on the transport, the extra person would have to be left behind. Also, if the extra person got sick/hospitalized, my faculty member's first responsibility is to take care of the students. Technically the extra person isn't part of the group.

    Also, what if the parent's behaviour effects the course (late for buses, interferes with lectures or field experiences, gets drunk in the hotel and is asked to leave)? What if they decide to parent the college age kids or act as an unofficial chaperone? If the parent made it a negative experience for the other students, would they have a legal argument for a refund or other recompense?

    I would think the only way the school could cover their butts is to require that she enrolls (and pays) for the course. Then she carries the correct insurance and has to hold the the Behaviour Agreement & Release.

    Other issues to consider-- visa or entry requirements and qualifications of orgs in country. Children under 18 sometimes must travel with a parent or have a letter from a parent. The group/organization/institution/field site may not be able to have minors on site.

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Penny ~ Many thanks for your comments. You raise some really good and important points about this situation! What do others think?

    ReplyDelete
  9. In my opinion, I think that 13 years old is too young to study abroad.At least 16 years old.

    ReplyDelete