Friday, April 13, 2018

My Daughter's Adjustment to Life Abroad

As a teenager, it is hard to leave friends and family behind and start over in a new place. Especially when you are in high school. I thought it would be easier for my daughter if she went someplace warm, with lots of family, somewhere she had been before-so in July of 2017 she went to live in Guatemala. At first, there were lots of tears, arguments as to WHY, and negative thoughts. She had just finished her Freshman year in Maine, and was in the top 10 percent of her class-and here I was, sending her to a place she visited every Summer vacation but had no real firsthand knowledge about. Granted, she is a dual citizen of the US and Guatemala, due to my being American and her dad being Guatemalan. I explained the positives, warm weather year round, a different school experience, additional fluency in the Spanish language, new friends, and a closer proximity to her dad's side of the family. The negatives of course were leaving home, her grandmother, her Dad, her friends, teachers, brother and nephews and a whole lot of things that only she understood. She was worried about her grades, school in a foreign country and how well she would do. To make matters worse, the Guatemalan school year for Guatemalan schools is January to October. I planned on making her start school in July, halfway through the year and to make matters worse, repeat her Freshman year. Basically that was a trial run for her, and while the first month or so there were plenty of tears and frustrations, she eventually found and made new friends, joined the school band and began playing a new instrument called the Lira which took the place of her beloved flute she played in band back home. Her grades were decent, and she actually graduated from Basicos, 7-8-9 grade education, got a class ring for it, and took entrance exams to get into the private school she is currently in now. Due to the Guatemalan system, the Ministry of Education made her learn some new classes and took her US transcripts and applied them to equivalent Guatemalan classes. As a 10th grader now, her new school assisted with this so she would be current and up to date. Amazingly, she finds school harder in Guatemala than back in Maine, due to the number of classes and the strict grading. Perhaps not all schools are like that, since I know the public system is not very good unfortunately. For years, she wanted to be a teacher and had advanced classes back home, which actually help her out math-wise here. While in Guatemala she discovered a new career, that of graphic design and architecture which is what she is pursuing. Back in Maine, a 4 year teaching degree would have left her in debt as the costs ran about $25,000 yearly not including room and board. In Guatemala the University of San Carlos is low cost or free, although you will need to pay for materials and other incidentals. There are also some expensive schools there, for expats and their families, so it all depends on where and what you want to study. It makes me sad to know that her friends back home are studying but also doing drills to protect themselves from a shooter situation in the school. You don't see that in Guatemala, and schools are pretty much locked down with security guards or huge metal doors. Yes, there are dangers from gang members, robbery and other things you will find in a large city in any place in the world. And the traffic accidents with both vehicles and pedestrians are on a daily basis, which is scary. But she can study and concentrate on her studies, not on whether someone will come in to shoot her during class. After the Florida incident, there were 3 students, all known to her, who were arrested for threatening/terrorizing the school. And that is just in her school, other reports throughout Central Maine and Maine in general showed a rise in bomb threats, shooting threats etc... which is sad because schools were evacuated or closed. So, I'd say after some tears and pretty decent arguments she has adjusted okay, and looks forward to going back to visit friends this November. She also knew that if she wanted to return she could at any time. But she gave it a shot, and found out that she likes it and wants to continue where she is. I am happy that she has adjusted nicely and fit in with other students and is doing well in school despite the challenges. Moving from a small city in Central Maine to a huge city like Guatemala City also has its own set of challenges and advantages and disadvantages but I'll leave that for another post.


areyoukiddingme said...

Sounds like you did a good job of scheduling so that she could get her feet wet and make a smooth transition. I'm glad she likes it and that her horizons have broadened.

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