On the days when I’m not traveling for work, I’m home when my kids get home from school. The routine is always the same. My two middle schoolers bust through the door, yell hi, plop their backpacks down, and throw their binders on the table to start homework. On this particular Monday I finished working before they walked in from school. I actually had a few minutes to cut up some apples for us as a snack and was standing at the sink when my 13 year old daughter, Emily, said:
“Mom,” her pen paused in mid-air over her paper as she crunched through the apple slice in the other hand. “Do you think that me going to Haiti was a pivotal moment?”
“In what way?” I asked.
“Well….it helped me develop a love of Haitian art and culture. It taught me to care about people in developing countries and share their work with others to bring awareness about the importance of job creation.”
“Well then yes, I would say it was pivotal for you,” I told her as she went back to working on her English assignment.
Emily’s trip to Haiti was just as pivotal as my first trip in 2012 and every subsequent trip in the years that have followed. I’ve been to Haiti so many times now I’ve lost count unless I flip through my passport but admit that when I was first presented with the opportunity to visit Haiti just two years after the earthquake, I went out of sheer curiosity.
No one understood why I was going or what it had to do with my blog about technology, parenting, and education but what started as curiosity has developed into so much more. Through my trips I’ve found purpose. Through my blog and social channels, I’ve created awareness about a beautiful country and resilient individuals who so desperately want to work and earn an income through traditional Haitian handicrafts. I’ve been able to connect amazing individuals who are united in their desire to bring sustainable jobs to communities. I’ve used my corporate connections to benefit artisan communities I work with. Most importantly, I’ve taught my kids to be curious and to care.
From working with artisan groups in Haiti to spending a couple days of our vacation volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand this past summer, and always searching out local business owners to support during our travels, my kids know what it means to be global citizens. At 11 and 13 they understand how meaningful actions can improve the lives of all people everywhere in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
As a parent, I want the best for my kids and as a former teacher, I know that means educating them beyond the classroom. Through our family travels around the world, my husband and I have been working to develop their curiosity and confidence as travelers. As hard as it can be to let go and let our children be independent, we hope that we are preparing them to spread their wings and experience the world on their own.
Our 11 year old has already talked about how my husband and I can drop him off to spend 5 weeks volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park before leaving to explore parts of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos we haven’t visited yet. Emily thinks beyond high school to college, and the possibility of studying abroad as a computer science major.
Even though I didn’t study abroad, I want my kids plotting a course of study that will take them to another part of the world. I’ve seen the transformative effects of travel on my own life and I know that study abroad has the potential to do the same for my kids. I want them to have the opportunity to acquire skills and knowledge they need to contribute to a global society, learn to solve global challenges, and compete in a global economy. After all, if the United States wants to remain competitive in the 21st century, we must prepare our kids for the global workforce through learning opportunities that contribute to their global citizenship.
This post was inspired by my invitation to attend the Travel Bloggers Summit on Study Abroad & Global Citizenship. All opinions are my own. To learn more, visit the website and follow the hashtag #StudyAbroadBecause.