Daughter Wants to Study Abroad

Dear Robin:

My daughter “Kim” is entering her junior year of college this fall. Last spring she told her mother and me she wants to spend the third semester of her junior year studying in Italy. Her mother and I are divorced but do our best to get along for the sake of our two kids.

(OK readers, here I will admit this is a new and improved version of an old blog.  I am heading into the recording studio this morning and am severely pressed for time!)

Her mother is all for the idea and feels that I should pay for everything. I am already struggling with the college costs on top of alimony and my ex has not contributed a dime to either of our kids ever, nor does she work.

I am worried that a study abroad program will stretch me financially to the breaking point so I’d like to say no. Kim’s mom strenuously disagrees and holds that studying abroad is a wonderful opportunity for our child. My daughter is begging me on a daily basis to make this happen.

Should I tell her no? Should I say yes and pay? Or should I say fine, if her mom pays? We generally try to stay on the same page for our kids but for this issue we can’t agree. Time is ticking here so your advice is highly anticipated!

Brian

Dear Brian:

Studying abroad in Italy is indeed a fantastic opportunity for any college child, unless that child happens to be Meredith Kercher.*

Thank you for giving me additional information about your family situation via text. Readers, here are some things you should know:

1. Kim gets good grades and is on track to graduate in 4 years, although she has yet to identify what she wants to be when she grows up. She majors in Political Science, meaning she is planning a career as a waitress or advice blogger.

2. Much like her mom, Kim has never held a job of any kind. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, maybe because it’s a lazy apple and falling far from the tree would require a little effort in the roll. During the summers she hangs out at home during the day and parties at night with her friends.

Dad still pays child support, also known as “Beer Money” and “Cash for Plan B Contraception.”

3. Brian works on commission in a field that is still recovering from one of the following (please select based upon your political persuasion and your limited understanding of how the economy works):

a) Fucking Clinton; OR

b) Fucking Bush; OR

c) Fucking Obama.

His income is 20% lower than it was at the time of the divorce but his alimony and child support remain the same, despite an effort to engage Baby Momma in talks to give him a break until he recovers.

How would she pay for the French manicures, fancy clothes and vacations if she did that?

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Brian is smart enough to know he will throw good money after bad seeking a reduction in a process that will last at least a year and get him no relief. He is smart that way because he reads my blog. Good man!

Brian, I applaud your efforts to get along with your ex-wife and make decisions together that impact your children. Your concern about not being on the same page in this case is noted and hereby dismissed, because you ARE on the same page. Unfortunately, it is the wrong page. Please proceed to the following chapter:

Chapter 1: In which Kim grows up and throws away the tiara her mother is planning on handing down to her.

You have given your daughter an incredible gift: a college education unencumbered by the crushing student loans that so many young people struggle with today.

You have done so in the face of economic adversity brought on by Clinton, Bush, Obama and your selfish and lazy ex-wife’s refusal to re-enter the workforce, despite the fact she was a very successful lawyer who “retired” from practicing at the age of 38.

Advice:

Tell Kim that by all means she should go to Italy and study!

Sit down with your daughter and add up all the extra costs associated with this program. Don’t forget to factor in some extra money that should go into an emergency account in case she winds up in some sort of trouble, because American kids ALWAYS end up in trouble abroad.  See: Amanda Knox.*

Help Kim find housing, and make sure she budgets enough for a decent neighborhood. You don’t want her living in a spaghetto, after all.

Put every penny on a spreadsheet and then add at least 15% because of the fluctuating Euro.**

And next, you utter the following words:

Voila, darling! Here is exactly what you will need to enroll in this program. I encourage you to get a job and earn the money to pay for it, because I cannot. Alternatively you can ask your mother for the money, although I suspect her enthusiasm for your Italian adventure ends at the point where her Louis Vuitton wallet must open.

It is high time for you to be an active participant in your own economic reality. I love you but I know you can do more to help our family and help yourself. My friend Robin worked 20+ hours a week in college and law school and she isn’t all that clever, so I know you too can get a job and continue your studies.

I will support you emotionally in this endeavor but cannot contribute any money. Beyond the financial issue, there is a much more important one of teaching you the crucial lesson of how to work for what you want. Studying abroad is a luxury and not a right. I think in the end it will mean far more to you if you earn that luxury through hard work.

That’s it, Brian!

Stand firm, my man.  Stand firm.

Your daughter is surfing the precipice of a dangerous wave: on one side is maturation into a fully-realized and independent woman, and on the other is the solidification of an already healthy sense of entitlement and PMS (Princess Mentality Syndrome).

Someday she will thank you for this, as will her future husband.

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*For those of you sleeping under a rock for the past few years, blissfully unaware of the “Foxy Knoxy” trial, please click here: Murder of Meredith Kercher.

**I know nothing about the Euro but I thought this might make me sound financially knowledgeable.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Kathy

    My step- daughter applied to oxford University her Junior year of High School. She was accepted. However, she wanted her father and I to pay for this. I explained that we had no desire to live in a discarded cardboard box in order for her to pursue her dreams. Make your own dreams come true is the family motto.

  2. Greta

    I agree, it’s high time for the daughter to take steps toward her own financial independence. It’s alarming that this young woman doesn’t seem to have a clue/any interest in this matter; by her junior year of college she should have taken at least a basic economics course, or stumbled across some mention of the living wage, pay gap, etc in a sociology/anthropology/women’s studies class (or her FB feed, ffs…) I presume she is an early 20-something, and intends to secure housing and employment upon graduation? Ugh. As a late 20-something, I’d really like this gal to stop making our younger demographic look so bad.

    When I was a junior in *high school* I’d managed to save up nearly enough to travel abroad for a month, just between babysitting gigs & summer jobs. To cover the rest, I hosted a neighborhood garage sale, where I asked people to drop off their unwanted junk with me, with the understanding I’d haul off whatever went unsold (sparing them a dump run), and whatever did sell was essentially their “donation” to my travel endeavors — I made $700 in one day! I hit up my church, local Lions/Rotary/Toastmasters chapters and offered to speak about my experience in exchange for a little funding help. And this was before the days of kickstarter, gofundme, et al.

    If she’s not at all used to making/spending her own money and has zero motivation to do so, perhaps the parents could figure out some kind of matching arrangement to incentivize her/wean her off the “child” support. For example, for every dollar Daughter saves toward her travels, maybe Mom & Dad chip in 50 cents each. (Or if Dad is unable to contribute anything financially, he needs to tell his daughter to approach her mother with such a proposal, Excel spreadsheet in hand.)

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