In August 2003, I traveled from Jamaica to Florida with my daughter so she could embark on her journey to further her education. It was indeed a “bitter-sweet” experience. It was sweet because I knew she would be pursuing an education that would make her a successful and a better-rounded citizen in society. However, it was bitter because I would be separating from my one and only child for the first time ever since I gave birth to her, especially for such a long period of time.
She started university at the tender age of 16, so she was still my little baby girl and this made me even more concerned about how she was going to survive without me being there for her. The hardest and saddest moment was when I had to leave her and return to Jamaica. We hugged each other and cried before I left for the airport and that was the most heart-wrenching feeling I ever felt in my life. I was leaving behind my precious baby in a new world all to herself. I had to console myself with the thought that this transition in her life was necessary, in order for her to have a bright and successful future.
When I returned home to Jamaica, back to our house and back to an empty room filled with just her pictures, trophies and old clothes … I cried even more and I have to say, that first month was the most difficult for both of us because she was homesick and I was going through separation anxiety. I made it my point of duty to speak with her every single day, sometimes even up to three times a day! Thank God for technology because we not only spoke on the phone, but we also sent emails, Skype, used msn messenger and eventually, I even got on facebook. I sent her care packages for the first few months with her favorite Jamaican food, music, souvenirs and clothes.
During the holidays, we always reunited, whether she traveled back home to Jamaica or I visited her in Florida. I remained extremely close with her for the four years she pursued her Bachelor degree. We made decisions together, celebrated together (even though we were thousands of miles apart) and even cried together when times got tough and I mean, really tough! But, God saw us through and I was the PROUDEST mother in the entire universe on her graduation day. I cried tears of joy when I sat in the crowd and saw her walk across that stage to receive her first degree.
She went on to pursue her Master’s Degree and even after four years of separation and not really being around each other much, our bond grew stronger. I even realized that she was more mature, responsible, focused and was now more than capable of making her own decisions.
Today, she now works at the College of Business & Technology (CBT College) as the International Student Advisor and I am extremely proud of her! I give God thanks daily for His blessing and direction over all these years because sending my one and only child to further her education in the U.S. was the best decision for her life.
As a parent of an international student, my advice to other international students’ parents is:
- Keep in touch with your child/children on a regular basis.
- Be supportive and encouraging.
- Provide them with love and affection. Do not neglect them.
- Visit them or allow them to visit when convenient.
- Develop a relationship with the school’s faculty and staff
- Become part of the school’s Facebook community so you can keep abreast of the school’s activities
- Research student housing with your child
- Go to orientation day and tour the campus
- Visit your child at the school during Holiday activities
- Send your child “Care Packages”
It will be difficult but once you maintain a strong relationship and communication, then both you and your child will be very elated at the end of a successful road.