25 TIPS FOR PRE-EXCHANGE PARENTS
Inspired by my daughter’s humorous – albeit very slightly irreverent – blog post on 25 tips for students considering applying for Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE), I thought it may be helpful to provide the parent’s perspective of the process and the first month they are away. So here goes:
- The ten months before they go there are many commitments not only for the child but also the parents in terms of briefings, paper work and social interaction. If that is not for you then you need to let your child know early.
- I am not going to list all the things we had to get done but will say I was running of multiple lists and mind maps. This is my idea of heaven but others may be able to keep it all in their head while for others the whole thought of that much work makes them feel ill.
- Make the last few weeks enjoyable and calm as you can while still plugging away at the jobs. Host presents, pin making, farewell party’s to friends and family, hair cuts, dentist appointments, underwear shopping, packing, etc, etc, etc. I had a few weeks leave up my sleeve to have before and after she left and it was time well spent.
- Try and be packed 4-5 days before so you can not only optimise the space and weight available but mostly because people start dropping in to say their farewells and you WILL run out of time to pack properly.
- Inspired by an idea my sister-in-law had (her daughter, my niece is also currently on RYE in Italy), I pitched a story about the kids in just our region of the coast to our local newspaper. It worked and the kids were featured. As someone involved in student career development in higher education making the most out of this opportunity to contribute to their employability and provide artefacts for their eportfolio is worth considering.
- Remember the siblings of the exchange student are trying to navigate all this unusual busyness and focus on the exchange child as well as being worried about what life will be like after they go. Extra cuddles may be needed.
- The luggage limit will be mostly taken up with host gifts, pins, and vegemite. While we kept to the Rotary-encouraged limit of 20kgs, once we got to the airport and realised our daughter’s bag was being checked in for the whole way to her destination of Copenhagen and we could have 30kgs, we did some quick baggage reshuffling to get some of the heavier items we had into the main bag and out of the boarding luggage.
- Remember you can take all these as separate items on to the plane: 7kgs on board luggage, handbag (no weight limit on that one, hint hint), laptop, camera, and your heaviest jacket (the kids will be wearing the green Rotary jacket). When weight is at a premium, these items separately will be your friend.
- Book your vegetarian meals with Terra Australis beforehand. Even if you are not vegetarian, I would recommend you are for the flights as they are lighter meals for your stomach, you get served first which then means you can get to the bathrooms first and, importantly, get to prepare for a nap first. Crafty vegetarians!
- We booked a car spot at Sydney International Airport to lessen the angst on arrival. Anything that lowers the stress levels is worth it.
- The goodbyes at the airport… yes there were tears. In the end I was much better than I imagined and, in fact, it was the night before that I was howling, but as they say, there cannot be great sadness where there is not great love. Arki was very brave and for that I thank her, as I don’t think my heart could have taken it.
- At the time our daughter and niece were to go through the departure gates (aka The Wailing Wall) there were 66 other RYE students heading to Europe too. So with all the kids, the immediate families and the amazing Rotarians from the district who came to say their goodbyes, there are a lot of people at the departure gates. Saying our personal goodbyes away from the gates and a little earlier made it a little easier.
- Have the child go through the gates early if you would like them to claim any duty free refunds.
- If you are not from Sydney then consider staying in Sydney the night they leave so you not only make the most of the trip to the big smoke, you also are not going home sad to your house where the missing sibling/child will be obvious.
- The social media for parent’s thing… It’s has not been my thing. But it now is my thing…for the next year anyway. The things you do for love, hey?! My personal preference is to not have notification alerts on my social media feeds but it does require me checking into the various channels a lot. Facebook, Instagram, What’s App, email, her blog; it’s a full time job on top of the one I already have!
- My sister-in-law and I felt like we both flew the plane all the way to Europe. We didn’t sleep a wink the first night while they were in the air. Love is a verb after all.
- That first Skype call when they land is sweet relief.
- From the point they leave the airport you look at the world clock on your phone constantly. It will lessen as the first month goes on.
- The new NEW after you get home… the empty bed (which her younger sister quickly moved into), not being able to leave the younger sibling at home alone as the older sibling is not there, the three plates instead of four at dinner time…you do adjust but the oddness takes a few weeks to subside.
- The first postage to Denmark was an expensive lesson. Know you weights and costs and don’t go to the post office at 4.50pm. No one appreciates that you have been at work all day and you need to get this package to your daughter to celebrate her 16th birthday in another country far, far away. Worried about the staff and other customers you pay the $70 postage!
- You will get into a rhythm with the communication and time zones in a few weeks.
- Don’t worry what others are doing in terms of the type and amount of communication. Work out what works for your child and you in terms of contact. For us a weekly Skype and daily messages of goodnight and other bits have been working so far.
- The first month flew! I didn’t expect it to go so quickly. Nor to see how much the kids had to do and learn in the first month. They are already more resilience, independent and grown up after the first month alone. I can only imagine how much they will learn and grow over the year.
- There will be ups and downs. There has been sad tears, but luckily ours have all been at different times and so we have been able to support each other.
- But there has also been happy tears and funny tears…over barbeque sauce but I will leave that to Arki to explain.
Well that is our experience so far. Good luck, and go for it. I cannot think of a better reward for a good kid than having this experience.
Proud Mumma of Arki