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The Challenges Your Family Faces When You Study Abroad

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On Sept. 10, 2018, I said goodbye to Jenneh, my wife since March 2016, and our two children, Blesseth (2 years old) and Blessing (3 months old), for a challenging adventure to Beijing.

Study abroad called me away with the promise that allows me to return to Liberia and be a better provider for my family and a productive member of Liberian society as we continue to recover from political and economic uncertainties.

I am studying executive business administration at the University of International Business and Economics.

The program is designed strategically to equip students with managerial skills and innovation ability in both business and corporate levels.

China is incredibly suitable to achieve this objective because of its unique competitive business environment, which promotes entrepreneurship and international trade.

My study in China will broaden my understanding of the business world and enhance my managerial skills to be able to educate Liberian entrepreneurs and those whose businesses are failing because of high interest payments on bank loans and inappropriate business knowledge.

I hope to provide them the fundamental basis of business practices.

When I received my Chinese visa and plane ticket, I walked up joyously to my wife to share the good news.

She was curious about the duration of my study leave as I was explaining the details of my departure.

She asked me in a still voice, “How long is the study program?” and “When are you coming back?”

I replied, “I’m going for one year and returning after the completion of my studies.”

Jenneh felt heartbroken, knowing that she would have to face serious economic challenges without my presence. She is counting down the days for my return, as am I.

My 2-year-old son, Blesseth, also felt the pain of losing me. For days, he insisted on asking me to take him along to places.

It seemed as if things were falling apart for me. I could not imagine that my little son precisely knew I was about to leave him. His behavior made me feel homesick, even before I left.

My leaving for China was a challenge for Jenneh to take up the task to raise our two children single-handedly. We had to negotiate the sacrifices for me to study abroad.

Jenneh quit her teaching job to provide quality care for our daughter, Blessing, who was only 3 months old.

I assisted Jenneh at night when she was exhausted to care for Blessing. I used to change Blessing’s diaper, prepare her food and pat her to sleep. I would have loved to provide these services.

Yet, we determined these sacrifices were necessary for us to make because the Liberian economy has had a negative impact on my family. The high exchange rate and inflation of goods and services are factors affecting our economy.

Shortly after Jenneh quit her teaching job, she started an Argo oil business. She used to buy Argo oil in 5-gallon containers from a wholesale market and sell it retail to her neighbors.

However, the business was shut down because of low profit margin.

My family only survives on the little resources I have been sharing with them. We trust that the long-term opportunities resulting from my studies will outweigh these short-term challenges and struggles.

The impact of being separated from my family makes me unable to provide parental training to my son and daughter directly. I interact with my daughter on WeChat video calls so that she will not see me as a stranger when I return to Liberia.

I am contemplating meeting my daughter and hoping to spend quality time with her so she will recognize and understand that I am her father.

I wish to build a strong intimacy with my daughter and to renew my relationship with my son.

To all who are planning to take up study abroad, especially those who are married, you should consider the challenges and sacrifices involved in making such a decision. Studying abroad without your family brings a lonely feeling that no one would readily embrace.

In spite of these challenges, I do not regret studying abroad, but I sincerely miss my family, including my mom, dad and two sisters.

I hope to meet them all in good health and share my experiences with them. I am looking forward to a reunion with my family very soon.

Upon my return to Liberia, Jenneh and I will celebrate our moment of family reconnection and reunification at one of Liberia’s comfortable hotels in fulfillment of our love for each other. Our children will be glad to see both their parents together once again.

Fayiah S. Tamba

Fayiah S. Tamba is a graduate of Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary in Paynesville City, a region of Monrovia, Liberia, and is currently pursuing a master's degree in business at a university in Beijing. He is from Foya in Lofa County, Liberia.