K12 to STEM Career
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Why our kids spend their summers studying abroad

“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” — Benjamin Disraeli

A missed opportunity

Back in the late 90’s, Michigan State University was a pioneer with its Study Abroad program.  For essentially the same price as tuition, students had the opportunity to take classes and experience life in a different country.  I should have taken advantage, but ultimately didn’t, for not great reasons.  I had a great summer internship at GE Medical Systems, which meant I’d have to study abroad in the fall or spring.  I was having such a good time in college, that the thought of being away from campus made me concerned I would miss out.  Stupid!  I especially regretted it when two very close friends took advantage, by studying abroad in London, and then moving onto Ireland.  The stories, experiences, and new friendships they made in that short span of time were clearly transformative.  I was happy for them (and a bit jealous).

Kids studying abroad

That missed opportunity inspired me to have my own travel experience; a three month Europe backpacking experience which I’ll share in the future.  But traveling abroad and studying abroad aren’t the same thing.  Living abroad immerses you into the culture, food, language, traditions, transit, and spirituality of the host country.

I’m determined that my kids won’t make the same mistake as me.

Successful people who have lived abroad

"…the exchange of students…should be vastly expanded…Information and education are powerful forces in support of peace. Just as war begins in the minds of men, so does peace."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, former US President

This isn’t just personal.  Many successful people have extolled the value of immersing yourself in another country or area. President Bill Clinton studied in Oxford, as did Harper Lee, the author of To Kill A Mockingbird.  J.R Rowling studied in France, as did Academy Award nominated actor, Bradley Cooper.  Even Ghandi studied abroad!

Summer’s on the banks of the River Rhine

Rabia is German, and her parents & brothers still live in a beautiful town called Neuweid, on the banks of the Rhine River.  Every two years, I’m left home alone for the summer, while the kids live with their cousins in Europe.   I miss them tremendously, but its such a remarkable experience.  Their German & Pushto improves significantly in a non-English environment.  For the first month back in the US, Khadija answers my questions in German, and I don’t think she even realizes she’s doing it.  In addition, the bonds developed with their cousins will last a lifetime.  Rizwan’s picked up an appreciation of cars from his cousins.  My kids have accompanied their cousins to school, a fascinating opportunity to see how learning is conducted in other parts of the world.  Plus, the German kids loved the opportunity to practice their English with these two Americans.

The last reason why studying abroad has been great for my kids is it gives them a greater appreciation for living in California.  While they absolutely love their summer experiences, sleeping in their own bed, surrounded by toys and books they’ve had since they can remember, is something special.

How can you enable a studying abroad experience for your kids?

So my kids are fortunate to have the opportunity to live in Germany every two years.  A coworker in Apple has a similar situation where his daughter spends every summer in Italy.  The trick here is to take advantage of family that lives in a different area from you.  Offer to have their kids stay with you one summer, and then send your kids over there the next year.  Obviously, the older the kids, the easier and more practical it is to pull this off.  Admittingly, the fact that Rabia’s day job is “President of Khan Manor”, gives us the flexibility that most others don’t have.  The key point is “Take advantage of the opportunity if you have it!”  The experiences and memories your kids will create during these times will last a lifetime.

"Simple exchanges can break down walls between us, for when people come together and speak to one another and share a common experience, then their common humanity is revealed. We are reminded that we're joined together by our pursuit of a life that's productive and purposeful, and when that happens mistrust begins to fade and our smaller differences no longer overshadow the things that we share. And that's where progress begins."
- President Barack Obama

About the Author Iftikhar Khan

With over 16 years of Operations Leadership at Apple, Iftikhar has had pivotal roles in launching the iPod, iPhone, iPad & Apple Watch. In late 2017, he launched k12toSTEMCareer.com with the goal of becoming a better parent to his children, Rizwan and Khadija. Today, over 1214 people follow Iftikhar's writings around STEM & Parenting. Read Iftikhar's personal story about his journey from an Introvert to a Director at Apple.

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