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Scared about your child’s pending departure for university? So is she.

Leah has never been to the US before. Neither have her parents. Yet, she’s going to be heading there in two months to spend the next four years of her life…and maybe even more after that.

Does it surprise you that Leah and her parents are just a little bit scared? Me neither. Not one bit.

I admire my families and the decisions they take. Being “international” or an expat or a third-culture-kid can also mean not really having that one place that is “home”. My families worry about their passports, who will hire their son after graduation and in what country the parents will be living next, perhaps not a country where their child could come back to and work and find a career. Perhaps not one where she would like to. There are so many factors that are seemingly out of their control.

And now their child goes off to a foreign land to live, study and…what can they control?

Of course with this process there are no guarantees. Not on “success” and not on careers and not on happiness and not on the future. And, when you read that sentence you realize we are talking about life itself; that there simply are no guarantees. But, that without risks you’re limiting your options and experiences. It’s the same approach my students and families take with university. It’s a leap of faith but one that they’ve prepared and controlled as much as they possibly can up until this point and one that they have to continue to have confidence in.

When Leah’s mom called me last week she said Leah cries a bit at night. She is going to an exceptional university in the US. It was the first school she named to me when we first started working together and remained on her list the entire time throughout the process. It had always been a dream for her to attend this university; and, now it’s happening. And, now that it’s happening, she’s terrified. And, so is Leah’s mom.

“It’s just so scary for us. We’ve never been, Jennifer.” her mom says to me.

There’s no belittling those very real, very natural fears. And, it’s easier for me to hear [and then counsel] my families than it is for them to feel and experience those fears.

Yet, my families can be reassured during these times of angst and fear about the quickly-approaching future. They have gone through the process properly and all of them—parents and Leah alike—can easily reiterate to themselves why Leah is going to the university she has chosen. She’s spent months, if not over a year, dedicated to this. And, thankfully she has. Because once that reminder is brought to the forefront, once the parent and the student remind themselves—oh, yeah!—why this university is such a fabulous fit for them and why they are so thrilled to be going, the nervousness starts to abate. That nervousness will come back, off and on throughout the summer, but it’s important to remember. And to remind oneself of why you’re feeling that way and why you’ve taken the decisions you did. Likewise it’s important to manage these emotions and keep them in check, not letting irrational thoughts usurp what should also be a very exciting, thrilling, happy time for all of you.

I saw Leah’s mom today. She’s happy. Nervous. Leah is, too. But, she did say this to me: “I’m so glad Leah’s going away for university, that she’s taking this risk. I know she’s going to grow immensely from it. But for now we have to deal from time to time with the sadness of her soon leaving us.” A life’s rite of passage.

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