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The New Global Student: Skip The SAT, Save Thousands On Tuition And Get A Truly International Education: Maya Frost

The New Global Student:
Skip The SAT, Save Thousands On Tuition And Get A Truly International Education

Maya Frost

In 2005, Mindfulness Trainer Maya Frost put her creative, "eyes-wide-open" strategies into action by selling everything in suburban America and moving abroad with her husband Tom and their four teenage daughters, Talya, Teal, Tara and Taeko.

Without the safety net of a corporate transfer, Maya and Tom, small-scale entrepreneurs, were taking a big leap of faith at a critical time in their daughters' education. Friends called them crazy, but Maya and Tom followed their instincts, from the United States to Mexico to Argentina, to look for a series of amazing opportunities to enhance their daughters' learning and creativity – and they found just that.

Now, five and half years after they moved abroad as a family: Maya and Tom are empty-nesters who have just moved to Japan; Maya is becoming increasingly well-known for her book The New Global Student (Three Rivers Press, 2009); and their daughters, now 20, 21, 23 and 24, are all happily immersed in their work, chosen fields and destinations around the world – each having graduated with a BA or BS in the United States or Canada, yet none of them ever submitting an SAT score, taken an AP or IB course, or worrying about their GPAs.
Maya Frost
Expat Women's Interview With Maya

Expat Women: Maya, when you and Tom sold everything in 2005 to move with your four daughters abroad, what was in your five-year plan?

Maya: First of all, there was no five-year plan! At the time, we really just wanted to mix things up and have a family adventure that was enriching and memorable. We already knew that there were other ways to learn, and get into college, besides the typical high school track – our oldest daughter was 18 and a junior in college after spending her junior year of high school abroad.

We hoped they would learn Spanish, but most of all, we wanted our girls to have a sense of their possibilities beyond the borders of their own country. And though we were not clear on the specifics, we wanted them to discover their gifts and gain confidence in their ability to navigate in the world.
Expat Women: Looking back, did you achieve what you wanted to?
Maya: Our expectations were exceeded in every way. All of our daughters speak Spanish and have used it in their work. They all graduated from high school, in different ways, and finished college by 19 or 20, without debt. Thanks to our family experience abroad, our daughters now see "interesting challenges" where others might see "barriers" – and they are not afraid to pursue their interests wherever they choose to go. And five years later, we all continue to see life as a grand adventure!
Expat Women: What were some of the key obstacles your family faced abroad and how did you overcome them?
Maya: Well, the initial barrier for all of us was not fear or doubt, but the reactions of others who thought we were making a mistake. People thought our girls would miss out on the full American high school experience, and that we were sabotaging our children's education or our own financial future. Once we got past that, though, things got much easier!

Of course, that is not to say that it was all smooth sailing. Moving abroad, learning a new language and most of all, releasing old ideas about who we are and what we do – these are not easy to deal with at any age, and the girls had their own struggles with making friends and adapting. But the beautiful thing was watching them recognize their own strength and seeing them create truly unique and exhilarating lives for themselves.
Expat Women: If you had your time again, what might you have done differently and why?
Maya: We would have done it earlier! In our case, we were reliant upon tech tools to turn our typical bricks-and-mortar business into a virtual one, so it would have been difficult to do it much sooner, but I am so grateful we did not listen to those who thought we should wait until the girls were out of high school to move abroad. Going as a family was the best thing we have ever done.
Expat Women: What 'Top 5 Tips' would you share with parents wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Do not wait. Whether your child is 3, 13 or 23, if you have a window of opportunity, leap through it! Get control of your stuff and your finances. You will gain a gigantic sense of liberation that frees you to do things you never imagined;
Do not listen to the naysayers. Instead, get advice from those who have done what you want to do, and they can help guide you, every step of the way;
Do not think you have to have a five-year plan or even a one-year plan. We did not move to Mexico thinking we would be there forever, but we did not think we would be living in Buenos Aires within a year, either. All you need to know is your first destination and a basic period of time – say, six months. Then, just stay open to the possibilities;
Do not freak out when you hear from your friends back home talking about what their kids are doing. Your children might not be playing elite soccer or getting an internship at XYZ corporation for the summer, but you are giving them a tremendous gift by allowing them to learn more about the world and themselves; and
Do not try to micromanage your own future. I had no idea I would write a book, and I would have laughed out loud if you had told me that my husband and I would live in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in a studio apartment, or move to rural Uruguay to refurbish an old farmhouse. But things open up and the world continues to offer you new challenges and exciting directions.
Expat Women: Maya, what exactly are your girls doing now?
Maya: Our oldest daughter (24) earned her master's in urban public health in New York and is the program director for an award-winning nonprofit in Washington Heights. Our second daughter (23) is teaching first grade at an international school in Abu Dhabi. Our third daughter (21) just finished a year and a half traveling around the world as a multilingual events coordinator for Norwegian Cruise Lines and is taking a break before starting a new job in New York. Our youngest daughter (20) lives in Buenos Aires and is an assistant recruiter for a New York agency that places top creative directors at advertising firms around the world. They are all happy and thriving.
Expat Women: Can you please share with us some other students' anecdotes from your book?
Maya: Certainly. I love the stories of the exchange students who discovered their passion (architecture, languages, art) during their year abroad and I still smile every time I think of the home-schooled young man who grew up in an off-the-grid cabin in Alaska and then spent a year in Thailand – and even did a two-week stint as a novice Buddhist monk – shaved head and all! Even those who are on the competitive science path can benefit greatly – I love the story of the boy who took a "gap year" to go abroad and ended up spending time in several countries and learning several languages even as he completed his engineering degree and went off to Johns Hopkins for medical school. It is important for parents to understand that taking your kids off the traditional track does not mean they cannot get back on it, if that is what they choose.
Expat Women: Finally, why the recent move to Japan?
Maya: Tom and I met as ESL teachers in northern, rural Japan back in the eighties. It is where we fell in love, lived as newlyweds and had our first two daughters. We always said we would go back when it was just us, and so we are heading to Japan for a year to work at a new English-immersion kindergarten that focuses on right-brain learning.

We are especially interested in seeing how imagination, self-regulatory behavior and language skills can be nurtured in young learners. After focusing on teenagers these last few years (as parents and as consultants), we are thrilled to have this chance to switch back to preschoolers. It is a return to our romantic roots – and yet another adventure with all kinds of interesting possibilities!
Expat Women: Maya, we applaud your courage, bold choices and achievements. Congratulations on the success of your book and we wish your family all the very best!
The Frost Girls: Talya, Teal, Tara and Taeko Frost
Talya, Teal, Tara and Taeko Frost
Maya Frost is a writer, mindfulness trainer and creativity consultant. Her book, The New Global Student, was described by The Boston Globe as "funny, innovative and meaningful – a how-to guide with heart." She has helped parents around the world find the most thrilling and fulfilling learning opportunities for their children. Learn more at http://www.MayaFrost.com.
January 2011
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