Do children benefit from living overseas? Most British expats seem to think so. A new survey just out from the British bank NatWest and the Centre for Future Studies says 67% of British expats believed their children had received better education abroad and a resounding 93% thought expat life had benefitted their children.
Our family’s personal experience would echo this. My son had just turned 9 when we first went overseas and he was educated in 5 different schools, in 4 different countries (including our home, Canada). To be fair, the overseas schools he attended were all private, very expensive and full of middle class children, so I have no doubt those factors had the most impact on the quality of his education, rather than the fact that they were overseas. However the experience of living overseas, that is the education he got outside of school, was priceless and will no doubt affect him for the rest of his life.
For example, while living in Azerbaijan his daily chore was to take out the garbage to the huge rusty bins located in our apartment complex’s inner courtyard. He came back one day and told me a boy of about his age was picking through the garbage looking for something to eat. From then onwards we carefully separated any edible leftovers, worn clothing or broken toys. Yes, he had seen poverty on the news and Discovery Channel, but this kind of up-close-and-personal encounter left a deep impression on him.
Even though we came from Canada’s most culturally diverse city, the kids he met overseas were different. Immigrants to Canada all want to “become Canadian” and while they may retain some of their heritage, they do change. Living in a country where you are the foreigner and must adapt, is a very different experience. I think it has given him (and us) a much bigger world picture.
Anyone who’s interested in reading more about the impact of expat life on children should research the term TCK (Third Culture Kid) and check out some of the links on my resources page.