Studying Abroad In Times Of Covid

The Madrid Metropolitan catches up with “honorary” Madrileña Mairi Murphy to talk about the value of study abroad programmes in these challenging times.

Mairi Murphy, defines herself as “Celtic” (Scottish / Irish) & is mother of four children aged 9 to 17. Her professional career took her to many different countries before settling in Madrid and starting her own international educational consultancy firm Native English Experiences in 2011.

Mairi who is trilingual, started her “independent” travels at the grand age of 12 (to France) and promotes foreign educational experiences among the teen generation, offering personalised attention to each parent and working hand in hand with schools for authentic school exchanges.

Why do many parents decide to send their children abroad to study?

“The most obvious reason, of course is language acquisition; the best way to learn a language & improve in fluency and become confident, is to live in the country”.

“They know that we have to prepare the next generation for the next step up; to be competitive is not just all about speaking English well, it’s about being independent, exposed to cultural diversity, self aware… All these factors are of utmost importance for roundness of character and I personally believe, crucial for the next generation.”

Do you believe there is an ideal age to go abroad for studies?

“No, I don’t. Every child is different; there are 9 year olds that are super adventurous and already independent thinkers who may be ready for a term or year abroad and there are 16 year old home-bods.”

“It’s a wonderful investment for their future, but it’s important that your child is not forced against his/ her will on an experience abroad”.

What factors should a parent consider in deciding whether or not to send their child abroad for studies?  

“That’s a big question!

Performance at school is a big one for the teens; are they able to take some time out? will they drop in grades, or increase?

Will he/ she excel in fact upon return & come back motivated, more resilient? What’s next, IB/ A-levels/ Spanish bachiller? Do they want to study in a Spanish university, a foreign one, or none at all?… Parents must look at what year group is actually possible – not all year groups admit new entries!

And lastly, depending on the circumstances, don’t forget about officially convalidating studies if the student is returning to Spain for example.

And what of COVID and travelling for education, Mairi, what’s happening in other countries regarding schools? 

“Of course with the lack of visibility last year, I only recommended students go abroad if there were no possibilities to hold off for the following year, but depending on ages/ school years, some parents decided it’s “now or never”.

On the whole, boarding school are managed excellently; constant testing is done on-site to identify any possible positive cases immediately and subsequently isolate them (on-site) & thus avoid any spread, classes as normal for all.

In the UK and Ireland, schools were just opening up in March and students have done online learning, however the residential students have had full & exclusive run of all the fabulous facilities onsite.

And in Canada where the format is mostly home-stays, the school districts I work with run an airport based lateral testing programme, which ensures an incoming International student only confines for 24 hours (under school supervision) till they get a negative result, then it’s 100% integration in the study programme.

Of course education in Canada, fully incorporates the great outdoors – space is a luxury that we do not have much of here in Europe & with the fabulous array of optional subjects to choose from which sponsor motivation in studies and permits hands on experience, it’s a very interesting option for students of any nationality; robotics, forensics, cyber-security, architecture, engineering… and yes, I’m talking about high school”!

Thank you Mairi!

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