Sometime during my daughter’s sophomore year at UMW, she asked her mother and I to attend a study abroad fair/information center at the school.
She is the youngest of our four kids, and the only girl, so we have not made a habit of saying no very often. I will say that her Mom and I own a small business together, so a good part of our income comes from the music business, and 100% of our income is show or commission based. In other words, I didn’t think studying abroad would be economically feasible and told our daughter so.
Nevertheless, since we only live 90 minutes away, it was easy to visit and a nice opportunity to see our daughter. There were lots of tables, each with representatives, many with glossy, four color displays and some tremendous opportunities from three weeks to a full semester. Some seemed more tour/vacation oriented than others and the prices were all over the place.
On the far left side of the meeting room were four or five less flashy tables with some handouts and a person or two to answer questions. As I recall, the options were England, France, Japan, Hong Kong, China, and Italy. What they all had in common was that they were dedicated to promoting an actual exchange program, at least in financial terms.
There were also people there from UMW’s Center for International Education (CIE). As you can imagine, I had enough trouble emotionally sending my baby daughter away to college (even 90 minutes away), so just the idea of her going to a foreign country was not something I had even considered.
My daughter seemed very interested in the opportunity in England. I told her it didn’t make a lot of sense to go to another country where they primarily
speak English, and, since she had a couple years of high school French, and two more years at UMW, why not at least investigate that program?
We spoke with the representative that day, spoke some with the UMW folks, and made a second trip to have an actual meeting with the CIE staff. The information we collected and the general warm feelings from CIE (even a young man who had just returned from the Paris experience), convinced me (finally) that maybe this was a good move. I did say that a semester alone made little sense to me… let’s go for the whole year.
Paris is part of the MICEFA program, basically a clearing house type of organization. For the first three weeks or so, 50 kids stayed in a hostel together in Paris, had French immersion classes every morning, went on tours in the afternoons, visited the individual colleges they had chosen, worked on their schedules, found somewhere to live (LOTS of different opportunities there), and forged relationships.
When my daughter experienced some trials and tribulations, both MICEFA and UMW were there to help point our Eagle in the right directions. Consequently, she loves Paris, loves her friends, loves her tiny apartment, has learned to “adult” even more than at UMW, found an internship she enjoys, has been to Normandy, Brussels and Portugal already with friends, and has no interest in coming home for Christmas between semesters (so Mom is going over for 11 days).
The total price is very close to what we were spending in Fredericksburg, and I guess it really is the opportunity of a lifetime. I’m a big fan of CIE, MICEFA, and UMW. Her Mom, myself, and especially our daughter are delighted with the experience.