My parents have always been a bit on the overprotective side. Be home by 10, don’t go anywhere alone, can I talk to your friend’s parents before you hang? So when I was in my second year of university and told my parents I wanted to spend six weeks of my summer break on a Global Citizen project, volunteering in the Philippines, they were a little apprehensive.
Thankfully, using my top-notch sales skills gained from working a Christmas casual retail job, I was able to convince my parents to let me go on exchange. Here’s what I told them.
1. “I’m going to a safe country.”
Despite the fact that my parents were born and bred in Sri Lanka, they were unsure about me going to the Philippines, a country that I had never been to, in a region of the world that none of us had ever experienced.
I spent a lot of time researching what the Philippines is truly like as a country, and what daily life is like. I read a lot of blog articles, I watched travel videos on YouTube of people who had gone to the Philippines before, and spoke to the one or two friends I had who were from the Philippines.
I also read up on the Philippines on Smartraveller, an Australian government website, which explained the levels of caution you need to display in different regions of the Philippines. So I showed my parents both the government’s data as well as some of the other resources I had looked up, to show my parents that life in the Philippines was safe, and something that I had put the time into researching.
2. “Here - you can speak with the people who I’m staying with.”
The great thing about AIESEC is that it’s run by people like us - youth from across the world - who understand what it’s like to have parents who are unsure about their kids going on exchange. I spoke to the AIESECer who was in charge of the project I wanted to go on, and he offered to have a Skype chat with my parents to alleviate them of all their concerns.
While my parents didn’t take him up on his offer, I did make a Whatsapp group with my parents and the Filipino AIESECer so they always had that constant point of communication, which acted as a good safety blanket for my parents.
3. “I can look after myself while overseas.”
When I told my parents I wanted to go on exchange, I was an eighteen-year-old who still lived at home and was still on his learner’s permit. I didn’t exactly have prior proof that I would be able to look after myself on my own in the Philippines.
To address that concern, I started doing little things day by day to prove to my parents that I was willing to put in the effort to learn how to look after myself properly, even if it was doing things as simple as budgeting for my trip or cooking for the family more.
The other great thing I mentioned to my parents was that I wasn’t going to be living on my own, but in my particular project I would be staying in a house with nine other people from around the world, so we’d all be able to look after each other and learn together.
4. “I’ll keep in touch online.”
As is often the case with eldest children, my parents were quite clingy and didn’t want me to be away from home for so long, especially over Christmas. My parents, like many others, aren’t exactly the most technologically-in-tune so didn’t quite grasp the concept of being able to remain connected while being physically apart.
My parents already knew how to use Skype, and I promised that I would Skype them a couple times a week - and I kept that promise. That allowed my parents to connect with me, and for me to show them my life in the Philippines so they could be more assured that things were fine. I told my parents that I would keep a blog while overseas and gave them the link, so they could stay in touch with my thoughts and experiences outside of these calls.
Before I left, I got a notification on Instagram saying that my mum had followed me. While it at first caught me off-guard (because since when did she know about Instagram?), it at least gave her another touchpoint with which she could stay connected with me, which addressed one of her biggest concerns. And for those super clingy parents, there’s always Snapchat that you could introduce them to, but I wasn’t willing to go that far!
5. “If anything happens, I have a plan.”
The final thing I did was create a plan in case anything went wrong while in the Philippines. My parents had the contact details of myself, a friend my mum had in the Philippines, my Filipino AIESEC Buddy, as well as a few of the people I was living with, so there was always a way they could get in contact with me in case anything went wrong.
I purchased travel insurance with my parents and we walked through together what steps I needed to take in case there were any issues, and I registered my travel itinerary with Smartraveller, which would alert myself and my family in case of any emergencies, such as a typhoon. I was well-acquainted with the emergency phone numbers in the Philippines, and did a lot of reading on things to do in an emergency. Overall, I was prepared and my parents felt I was prepared too.
It definitely wasn’t easy convincing my parents to let me go on exchange, as there were so many factors I needed to address. However, in the end, my parents gave me the green light, and in turn I was able to have a truly life-changing experience teaching in an orphanage in Manila.