My son has just done very well in his exams and my husband and I couldn’t be prouder of him. However, we’ve now got an issue; he’s secured himself a great scholarship to study abroad at a top European university but he’s now telling us he doesn’t want to go. He says that he is scared, that he is worried he won’t fit in and find friends, and that he will miss home too much. We are worried he will miss out on an incredible opportunity and regret this later in his life.
For a lot of adults, the years spent in their university or college are remembered very fondly. But for a young person about to leave home for the first time and take those first real steps into adulthood, the prospect can be quite daunting. Leaving home is one thing, but moving to a different country at the same time can make the experience twice as intimidating.
Like any experience in life however, the worry leading up to it is often far worse than the actual move itself. Your son is clearly struggling with the build-up to this massive change in his life - and really, that’s the word that is at the very core of this issue. Change.
Your son sounds like an exceptionally bright and talented young man, but even the brightest brains can have trouble processing change, or the prospect of it. Younger people are often far more susceptible to negative feelings around big changes in their lifestyle. He no doubt has a comfortable and happy life at home, and lots of friends. The thought of leaving all these things behind to create a new life abroad might be so daunting to him that he would go as far as completely rejecting a wonderful opportunity just to keep his current life in perfect equilibrium.
But, as parents, you have to show him that trying to keep things ‘the same’ he’s only hurting himself, and his future. Accepting and embracing change is one of the main ingredients to success - but all too often, we let brilliant opportunities pass us by because we’re afraid.
Try to keep your emotions out of this issue when you talk to him about it. At the end of the day, you want him to go to university out of a genuine interest in his own future, rather than going because he’s worried that he’ll upset or disappoint you.
The best way to change your son’s mind about rejecting his scholarship is to show him that the benefits of making this move will greatly outweigh the feelings he’s currently experiencing.
Try to pique his excitement about his course, and the experiences he will have studying in an interesting new country. Remind him how lucky he is to have such an excellent opportunity, and also let him know that, even though he will be away from home he will always be part of your family life.
You can show him that, despite the distance between you, you will always be there to comfort him - whether this be through Skype, text message or visiting him. That’s the best part of our modern, interconnected world - ‘distance’ is becoming a thing of the past.
You can also reassure him that he’ll definitely find friends at university. Everyone who begins university is in the same boat, and being in that kind of shared situation allows friendships to develop easily and naturally. And, while the idea of living in an unfamiliar country can certainly feel overwhelming, the life experiences your son will gain will define him as the adult he will become.
Dealing with change is never easy. The only way to overcome it is to embrace it, feel the fear, do it anyway and realise that the thing you feared is not as bad as you thought it would be – more often than not, it’s much better than expected! All your son needs is your support to push through his fears - I’m sure he’s going to have a fantastic time when he gets there.