I’m the mother of two young children, and I don’t envy the person competing against them –whether for a job, degree, or date- in 10 years.
I don’t mean to brag. Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m the last person to place my kids upon a pedestal. They have sticky fingers, toothy smiles, and needless tantrums just like any other.
But facts are facts. When I compare their credentials to your average kid in Canada or the U.S, there simply is no comparison.
And they’re not even 10.
I’m Australian by birth, though I’ve lived, worked, and raised my family in Panama since the early 2000’s. As both a Mom and a real estate investor, I’ve traveled the world extensively- looking for the best place to accomplish my goals for my family as well as my investment and consultant career.
It was important to me that my children grew up in the best possible environment- one that permitted them a myriad of opportunities, the “best of all worlds,” so to speak.
Needless to say, Panama won. And here’s how my children are reaping the benefits.
There once was a time when speaking English (and speaking it well) could get you to the top of the career ladder. That time is nearing its expiration date.
Businesses are no longer bound by the international boundaries that encircled past generations. With the advent of technology comes global accessibility- wherein the perfect client, business partner, or new hire is often sitting thousands of miles away.
So, who do you think poses more value? The person speaking two, even three languages? Or just one? I know who I’d place my bets on.
My children and their peers speak English and Spanish fluently (mine have actually moved onto their third language, French.) Though their core classes are in English, their school curriculum treats Spanish as if it were no more disposable than math or science.
North American institutions are destructively inadequate when it comes to language requirements. They operate under the outdated and unrealistic assumption that North America is king on the global stage- that it’s the job of other nations to cater to them linguistically. Talk to any successful corporation and they’ll affirm- that’s simply not the case! Anyone entering the job market- whether today or in 10 years- will find themselves at a disadvantage if they’re monolingual. It’s comforting to know my children won’t be one of them.
Being raised amongst different cultures has a subtle yet crucial and lasting effect.
Children who grow up enveloped in diversity tend to be more compassionate and open-minded individuals. They’re not tied down to the tendencies or biases of one culture.
Instead, they get to experience multiple worldviews, and fashion together a hybrid of perspective that works best for them.
My children live in an incredibly diverse atmosphere. Their peers include Americans, Canadians, Latin Americans, Europeans, Asians, Middle Easterns…. cultures from across the map. When I watch them at play, I see them connecting deeply with other children regardless of their background- and being genuinely interested in (rather than affronted by) cultural differences.
Health and Exercise
When my friends and family from North America come to visit, they frequently comment on active lifestyle of my children. They’re not sitting in front of a TV or computer screen all day- why would they? Panama is gorgeous year-round, and the natural landscape provides endless activities for them to appreciate.
Swimming, surfing, fishing, kayaking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and those are just the outdoor hobbies. They’ve also attended classes for dancing, music, and art…. Not because I made them, but because they wanted to. It’s what all their friends were doing.
As for the cost? Recreational hobbies are so cheap in Panama, it doesn’t hurt my pocket to let the kids try out whatever they please.
You’ve heard the old adage before: Life is what happens when you step out of your comfort zone. And so is personal growth.
Kids who grow up predictably- that is, doing the same thing as everyone else- are at a disadvantage to those experiencing the new and unfamiliar on a regular basis. International kids frequently find themselves in situations that activate and utilize new parts of their young and influential brains. This allows them to perceive and experience the world in different ways- and be more comfortable with unfamiliar situations in the future.
When it comes time to think outside the box, as so many successful people do, it comes secondhand to the kids that have been living outside the box their whole lives.
I want the best for my kids, as all Moms do. As I watch my children flourish in this unexpected and advantageous environment- I can’t help but wonder what all the other Moms are waiting for.