Please don’t let me be the one who is weeping xx

COMMENT: University has to prove it offers value for money

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My youngest daughter has just been evacuated.

Not because of a gas leak, terrorist attack or imminent tsunami, but as part of her year three project on the Second World War.

This morning I waved her off, all labelled up and with a ‘gas mask’ in a cardboard box in case of a mustard gas attack in Dorset.

I am guessing that the worst she may encounter is an unfortunate blast of unspeakable fug from the boys’ dormitories.

Unfortunately, her evacuee experience began at four o’clock in the morning when she came into my bedroom sobbing.

Despite her otherwise confident and outgoing nature, she was finding it very hard to contemplate going away from home.

I managed to get her to school but she crumbled again when I said goodbye, and was weeping as the coach pulled away.

I have no doubt that she was fine once the coach turned the corner and the excitement set in, but it was hard for me. And she is only just eight-years-old. Sure, the real evacuees of the Second World War endured much worse, but it does seem a bit young to be gallivanting off to Dorset to sit in a bunker and wave flags on VE Day.

Meanwhile my eldest daughter excitedly came home from school asking if she could go on a German exchange trip.

I have no personal experience of foreign exchange trips, but many years ago my brother had an exchange with an American school.

He had a great time in the USA and came back full of tales of American High School and basketball games (or was that High School Musical?)

When it was our turn to host an American student in our house, my brother couldn’t have been more ill-matched.

At the awkward age of 14 my brother was to play host to a larger-than-life (and indeed stature) 17-year-old girl.

Of course, he didn’t even want to look at her, let alone converse with her, which led to some very long and drawn out meal times.

I am sure plenty of people have horror stories about exchange trips, but I do know that they can be hugely successful. My aunt is still in touch with her French exchange student around 45 years on!

In theory I would love my daughter to experience a different culture and country.

It would certainly help her German conversation and maybe she will even make a life-long friend.

But I do find it difficult as a parent to send her off to live with a family who I have never met.

People do things differently, which is fine. But just how different will they be?

A friend of mine, for example, will always ask a family if they have smoke alarms in the house before letting her children have a sleepover there.

I won’t have the opportunity to talk to the family first to make sure that they are aware that she is a vegetarian (and that means no fish – a common misconception even in this country), and to check the safety exits of their house.

All in all, though, such experiences are mostly positive and I must be sure that I am not the one weeping as she goes.