Effects of Foreign Travel on Child Development

Children who are given the opportunity to experience foreign travel can reap many benefits and a few risks associated with that travel.

Benefits

  • Hands-on learning on subjects such as geography, history, economics, government, and languages.
  • Increased appreciation for the subjects listed above (i.e., “I walked where Julius Caesar once walked!” or “The ancient Greeks had a bunch of words for our one word ‘love’; each one of the Greek words meant a specific kind of love, like the love you feel for your parents or the love your parents feel for each other.  How cool is that?!”).
  • Increased creativity (i.e., studies have shown that creativity increases when kids engage in foreign travel, perhaps because the kids become exposed to a greater variety of options than are available in any one culture).
  • Ability to identify the interconnectivity of information and people groups (i.e., how US President Woodrow Wilson affected the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, and how the US and Russia have each shaped their own unique versions of that involvement).
  • Increased global perspective (i.e., “That policy didn’t serve the US well, but we did get to help the people of ___other country___.  So, I guess the policy was both good and bad.”).
  • Increased academic performance (i.e., studies have shown that academic performance improves when kids travel to foreign destinations).
  • Ability to consider the perspectives of others (i.e., “Here, we make eye contact when we greet people, but there, they think that’s kind of rude.  The whole not-making-eye-contact thing that we think is kind of suspicious seems like respectful behavior to them.  It was neat learning what they thought and why they thought the way they did.   I guess neither way is right or wrong, just different.”).
  • Ability to be less judgmental, more tolerant, less fearful of people who may be identified as “they” rather than “we” (i.e., when kids get to know foreigner peoples, kids begin to see that the foreign peoples have more in common with the kids than the kids thought they did, and when the differences are examined, an appreciation for the differences and the rationale that supports the differences may be developed).
  • Increased global savvy and consciousness.  From cultural sensitivity to environmentalism, kids’ foreign travel can set the stage for being a more conscientious resident of this planet and of this country and can also be a solid foundation for adult professional success in this increasingly global economy.
  • Increased openness to new experiences and sense of adventure.

Risks

  • Potential exposure to geography-specific illnesses and illnesses from the re-circulated air on airplanes.
  • Potential exposure to higher crime risks in some areas either because of being kids, female, non-white, American, etc.
  • Potential exposure to acts of terrorism, hijacking, etc.
  • Potential risk of unintentionally violating local laws and ending up in legal trouble.

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