This post from the New York times raises questions for expat parents. Would you make the same decision for your kids, and why?
Would You Like to Live in Another Country?
By HOLLY EPSTEIN OJALVO
By SUSANNAH L. GRIFFEE
A New York Times reporter moved his children from Brooklyn, New York, to Moscow, Russia, and enrolled them in a local school, where all classes were taught in Russian. The three children had no prior knowledge of the Russian language and struggled to learn, but eventually spent five years at the school. How would you react to moving to a foreign country and attending classes taught in a different language? Would you want to try living abroad?
In the article “My Family’s Experiment in Extreme Schooling,”
Clifford J. Levy describes the experiences of his three American children as they first struggled, and then began to excel, in a local Russian school, New Humanitarian:
In those first months, our kids found themselves bewildered and isolated. Danya was a typical oldest child, a coper who rarely lost control. At night, though, she had insomnia. In class, she braced herself for that moment when she was asked for homework. She sometimes did not know whether it had been assigned. During Russian grammar, the words on the blackboard looked like hieroglyphics. She tried to soothe herself by repeating a mantra: “It’s O.K. to feel like an idiot. This is going to take time.” But she felt betrayed. We had assured her that children grasp language effortlessly, and there she was, the dumb foreigner.
Somehow, as the second year was melting into the third and fourth, life at New Humanitarian became normal. Danya was going to the coffee shop with her friends Masha and Dasha. Arden was excelling at Russian grammar, perhaps because she learned the rules from scratch, unlike native speakers. Both girls were at the top of the academic rankings. Emmett, still too young to be rated, was also thriving.
When I dropped them off in the morning, I was amazed as they bantered with other children. They no longer translated from English to Russian in their heads — the right words tumbled out. On the streets of Moscow, they were mistaken for natives.
Students: Tell us how you would feel if you had to attend a local school in a foreign country. How would you adapt? What would be the benefits and drawbacks? Do you think the reporter made the right decision to send his children to a local school, instead of an English-speaking international school? What cultural adjustments do you think you might have to make? If you’ve already had such an experience, what was it like?
Susannah L. Griffee is a New York Times intern and a student at New York University.