“His name is Mouadh and he is from Tunisia but he lives in Rennes!” our seven year old Emmett reported breathlessly, fresh from a game of soccer on the beach with his new friend. While on vacation in France this summer, I was reminded why it’s so important to us to take our kids abroad. Though international trips admittedly present greater challenges than vacationing in the U.S. – like the expense, jet lag, and unfamiliar foods - the chance for our kids to see how other people live, encounter other cultures, tastes and languages makes it high on our list of priorities. We feel traveling abroad gives them a sense of being world citizens that will broaden their opportunities and help them excel as human beings. I lived in France for seven years as an adult, and my husband lived in Israel for three years. We both feel those were some of our best life experiences, and want our kids to have a taste for seeing the world too.
Emmett speaks decent French and fluent soccer, the international language of boys. During our two weeks in France (and with a little prompting from us) he kicked soccer balls with a pair of Austrian boys at the Eiffel Tower, taught American football to Barnabé, a French kid who lives near Chartres, and held a regular soccer match on the beach with Mouadh, a Tunisian boy living in France. Emmett and Mouadh communicated in a mix of French and English; Mouadh spoke the best English of anyone in his family and loved learning English. We were very touched when he, his mother and two sisters came to the beach specially to find us to say goodbye. They were leaving for Rennes, heading back in time for Ramadan. That’s how Emmett learned what Ramadan is and we had a great conversation about Islam and Muslim practices.
As I write this at 2:30AM (up with jet lag!) and know our whole family will be tired for the next few days, it helps to remember Mouadh, the Austrian boys and Barnabé - and the reasons we choose going abroad over going local.