Exploring U-M’s Opportunities Around the World

 

Nontraditional Students Abroad

Student Experiences Abroad

Today’s college student populations are increasingly diverse and no longer only include 18 to 21-year-old students, but older adults, full-time employees, retirees, parents, and caregivers. Your different set of responsibilities may make it seem challenging to fit in a study abroad experience, but nevertheless, it is possible and a valuable experience to consider, especially if you have never had the opportunity to live or travel abroad before.

Woman on Trip

A woman with curly brown hair stands in front of a city backdrop

“My biggest concern was not fitting in. I am 55 years old and most of the undergraduate population of the University of Michigan is somewhere near their twenties. My choice to study abroad turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It gave me the opportunity to study the fascination that Rome, Italy brings to so many people along with the culture of a world outside my own.”

Planning your Experience Abroad

Use this page to explore the considerations, opportunities, and challenges of traveling abroad as a nontraditional student.

How do I start planning my experience abroad as a nontraditional student?

As you consider and prepare for an international experience, use the following questions as a guide. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list and you may relate to multiple identities. You are encouraged to discuss these topics in-person with an education abroad advisor in your school or college. The Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA) can also provide guidance and resources as you prepare for your experience.

  • Who should I be talking to and when should I initiate the conversation?
    • There are many routes you take with education abroad, and you should speak with an education abroad advisor as well as your academic advisor to determine how education abroad can fit into your personal, academic and career goals. To ensure adequate time for planning, it is generally recommended that you initiate the conversation one year prior to the experience start date.
  • What other topics should I also be thinking about?
    • Do I have work, home, and/or family obligations that prevent me from studying abroad for an extended period of time?
    • Will there be other adult students in my program?
    • How old are the other students participating in my program?
    • How do people in my host country view adult students?
    • What skills do I want to gain or improve while I’m abroad?

What resources are available to me as a nontraditional student?

Nontraditional students often have different responsibilities such as those tied to familial, professional, and other obligations at home that do not affect many other students in the same way. Thus it is important to take these factors into consideration when studying abroad. Further explore traveling as a nontraditional student through the following resources:

 

Download the Nontraditional Students Abroad flyer for additional questions and considerations for traveling abroad. Bring this resource with you when meeting with an academic advisor, education abroad advisor, or other UM office.

I work, have a family, and go to school - how will I find time to participate in an education abroad experience and afford it?

Education abroad programs vary across a spectrum and can be as short as one week, one month, or even as long as a semester or whole year. In addition, there are many ways students can fund their education abroad experience, even with families. These include financial aid, scholarships, and other funding programs. Like many endeavors which require time and resources, careful planning and thorough research are necessary components for a successful experience.

How can I stay connected to those I care about while I am abroad?

Technology has improved our ability to communicate across time zones quickly and efficiently. Consequently, there are apps and calling/data plans that allow travelers to connect with family as well as access work emails and other communication platforms. Take into account the locations you are considering and conduct research to determine communication accessibility.

Can I bring my partner and/or family with me abroad?

Whether you can bring your family depends on the program type, program location, duration, and itinerary. It is important that you speak with your education abroad advisor to determine the feasibility of bringing family. If you participate in a program that allows you to bring children, you will need to make arrangements for a caregiver to provide care for your child(ren) during class, site visits, excursions, etc. You’ll also want to make sure your family has the appropriate travel documentation including health insurance, passport, and visa.

What else do I need to consider when preparing for my experience as a nontraditional student?

  • Prepare ahead of time
    • To ensure adequate time for planning, it is generally recommended that you initiate the conversation one year prior to the experience start date. You are encouraged to discuss these topics in-person with an education abroad advisor in your school or college. The Center for the Education of Women+ (CEW+) can also provide guidance and resources as you prepare for your experience.
  • Factors to Consider
    • Nontraditional students often have different responsibilities such as those tied to familial, professional, and other obligations at home that do not affect many other students in the same way. Thus it is important to take these factors into consideration when studying abroad.
    • What resources do the host institution and host culture have to support your needs?
    • What can you learn from your fellow participants and those from your host culture to whom you may not relate immediately to?
    • What are your employer’s expectations while you are abroad? If required, will you be able to respond to emails or fulfill other duties while also maintaining course and program requirements?
    • What housing options are offered, and what accommodation choices can you make so you are comfortable and integrated into the host country?
    • What normal duties and responsibilities do you have during the time you will be traveling, and how will you manage those while you are gone?
    • What expenses can you arrange to pay before you travel (mobile phone plans, rent, house payment, utilities)?
    • What steps can you take to connect with other students in the program?
    • Are there any age restrictions on discounts, tickets, etc., that you should be aware of?
    • How do visa restrictions, health insurance requirements, or other legal concerns vary based on age or family responsibilities?

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