An Interview with a Study Abroad Alumna's Parents: The Jones Family
Meet Gary and Cindy Jones, parents of Audra Jones, an interior design major from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, who studied abroad in Florence during summer 2016. Below, they share how they first felt when Audra wanted to study abroad, how their own past travels made them comfortable with her experience, and how they have seen many positive changes in Audra since she returned home.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourselves.
GARY JONES & CINDY JONES: We are Gary & Cindy Jones. We live in Grapevine, Texas and have been married for 24 years. We have two daughters. Gary is a national trainer for Farmers Insurance and Cindy is a marketing manager for Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Gary is an avid fisherman, loves to camp and hike in the backwoods and is always up for an adventure. Cindy is an avid reader and loves old movies. We both love to travel.
CW: As parents, what were some of the initial thoughts you had when your daughter Audra first mentioned studying abroad in Florence?
GJ & CJ: At first, Cindy was the more hesitant, but that also comes with being the “mom”. Gary had traveled to Europe, Central America and South America in his twenties, so he was much more open to the experience. We celebrated our 10 year anniversary in Europe with a 15 day train trip throughout Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France.
After further discussion and more research about the study abroad program, we agreed that it was a great adventure. Audra had saved money since her junior year in high school, so she was able to pay for her entire study abroad and extended trip backpacking in Europe for an additional five weeks after classes ended.
CW: How much has travel abroad been a part of your own life in the past? In what ways do you feel like your own personal experience with travel played a role in how you reacted to Audra's desire to study abroad?
GJ & CJ: Because of our past experience in traveling, we were open to the possibility of Audra doing a study abroad program.
CW: What changes have you noticed in Audra since she left for Florence and returned home again? Are these positive or negative?
GJ & CJ: Audra has always been confident, but her study abroad program gave her the opportunity to spread her wings and think globally about her future endeavors. She will not be content to come back to her hometown once her college days are over. She is looking at internships and potential jobs that are in other geographic areas, including overseas.
CW: What were some of your biggest concerns when Audra left for Florence and how did the reality compare?
GJ & CJ: We were concerned about safety due to current world events, communication and travel logistics. Through the study abroad program, we found our fears to be well mitigated. Even with a few mishaps, including a trip to the emergency room (during the extended backpacking trip, after her time studying abroad), Audra was able to handle it all in stride. With the use of Skype and Facebook, we were able to stay in touch without “hovering”.
CW: Is there anything you wish you would have known earlier that would have made things easier for you as parents?
GJ & CJ: With the information that was received from the study abroad program, we felt very prepared for Audra to travel to Florence. We had the itinerary, costs and expectations spelled out for us. We felt very comfortable that the experience would live up to what was presented.
CW: Do you think Audra’s international experience will benefit her professionally in the future? If so, how so
GJ & CJ: Audra has discovered that she can confidently go into different situations in different cultures and make the connections to be successful. She is already looking to find jobs in Europe after graduation!
CW: What advice could you offer other parents whose children hope to study abroad during college?
GJ & CJ: Be open to the opportunities. Make sure your child knows the expectations. Make sure your child remembers that they are there to study, no matter how pretty it is. It helped with the budget that Audra had saved her own money for the study abroad and backpacking. It made her much more conscious of what things cost and how to live more frugally. Communication is very important, so use technology like Skype and Facebook to your full advantage. We never had to pay for an overseas call home unlike when Gary traveled many years ago.
CW: What are you most proud of Audra for accomplishing during her time abroad – either personally, professionally or academically?
GJ & CJ: We are very proud that Audra immersed herself in the European lifestyle. She embraced the culture and made lots of new friends from different backgrounds. She behaved responsibly despite the younger drinking age in Europe. She rediscovered her love of photography and videography to create amazing snapshots of her adventures. Even though she knew her roommates slightly in college, she came home from Europe with lifelong friends.
CW: Why is studying abroad important?
GJ & CJ: Study abroad drew out Audra’s sense of independence. It opened new windows of opportunity to understand a different culture from their perspective. It gave her life experiences that she will carry far beyond the college campus. Study abroad enables a student to overcome any fears of the unknown and opens doors to new cultures which will benefit her in future work endeavors. Audra discovered that there is a big world to explore and she is already planning her next travel adventure overseas.
Thanks, Jones family!