In another timeline we would have been heading to Europe today.
When Lauren was selected for her study abroad program part of the deal was that parents were seriously discouraged from visiting during the year. And as an educator, I understand that. You don’t want to be a distraction or delay them getting over the homesickness that comes with the territory. Plus any teacher will tell you that the biggest obstacles to education are meddlesome parents, followed by shortsighted and often hostile legislators, generally insufficient resources, and – for secondary or university students – the incessant background hum of student hormones. But as a parent, it’s hard to let your child go four thousand miles away and not visit at least once.
We figured we’d aim for the end of the school year, long after the homesickness had worn off and the holidays had passed. That way she would be well embedded in her new culture and could show us around as the visitors we would be rather than as reminders of home.
We had started the process back in December, actually. You have to get permission from the program and from the host family, and then you have to take care of all the usual things that come with traveling – plane tickets, visas if necessary, and so on. It got complicated when Lauren switched host families after the New Year, but her new family graciously said we could visit. We never did get an answer from the program before the bottom fell out of the world, though, so that was as far as we got.
On the plus side, we didn’t have to worry about fighting the airlines for refunds, I suppose.
It’s a small loss in the scheme of things, at least for us. Europe will still be there when all this passes, and with any luck so will we. It’s a larger loss for Lauren, who might have had to put up with squiring her parents around for a weekend before we moved on to see the other things in that country (you don’t want to wear out your welcome, after all) but that would have been a small price to pay for a study abroad experience that wasn’t supposed to end until June.
She might go back sometime to visit – her host family has said she’d be welcome, and if we can figure out a way to make it work we’ll be happy to do it – but it won’t be the school year with her exchange buddies that she was forced to leave.
We mourn what might have been. We plan for what we want to come.
We’ll be back.