Mature Students & Students With Families
For mature students and/or students with families, participating in a global learning activity can present you with unique challenges. You may be a parent, have responsibilities to other family members or have a full-time job, and taking classes when you can. Yet, with careful planning, engaging in global learning activities is possible and can be incredibly rewarding (for your family included). Whatever program you choose, additional preparation will be necessary to ensure all your needs are met, so talk to the activity organizer early in the process.
Here are some resources to help you start thinking about how you can participate in global learning activities, and to learn more about the experiences of other mature students/students with families.
Note that this information was adapted from the University of Kansas - KU International Affairs’ Students with Children (external link, opens in new window) page and Portland Community College - Education Abroad’s Non-Traditionally Aged Students Abroad (external link, opens in new window) page.
For Students with Families
Depending on the program, you may be permitted to have your child and/or spouse accompany you while you go abroad. However, there are challenges that you should consider:
- Accounting for unanticipated additional costs, housing restrictions and/or special visa requirements
- Developing a separate itinerary for your child and/or spouse as they most likely won’t be permitted to participate in any of your program activities (classes, group activities/meals, excursions, etc.).
- Arranging childcare for accompanying children. Depending on the length of the program, you may be able to enroll children in a local school, but it may be challenging to find a school prior to arrival in your destination country.
- Purchasing comprehensive international medical insurance for your child or spouse. Your student health insurance may not cover your family. You will be responsible for ensuring your family has adequate health insurance.
Spending a semester abroad with your children or family members can be rewarding for everyone. Together you will be able to experience a new culture, explore new places, try new foods, and build memories you can share in the future. However, it will take careful planning to make this a possibility. Consider childcare, schooling options, housing, language barriers, and finances. Some partner schools do have family-housing options, as well as other family supports. Start planning early, and work with your activity coordinator to determine feasibility. We are happy to support you as best as we can.
Shorter programs (from a few days to a few weeks), over winter break, spring break, and/or the summer, may be more feasible for students with families. The shorter length of time makes it easier to secure care for your loved ones locally while you are abroad. This may also be easier if you have family members in school, with health issues, or other commitments that may complicate a full semester abroad. While you may not spend as much time abroad, short-term programs are also immensely rewarding experiences and may be more feasible.
- Can you find a host university that will provide housing options to accommodate your family? What are the off-campus housing options?
- Are there real estate agents/agencies in the host country that provide rental housing for families travelling abroad?
- Are you traveling abroad with a spouse or partner that will be able to care for your child while you are studying/working/doing research? If not, what childcare options are available at your host university or in your destination city that will work for your budget?
- If you can’t/ don’t want to bring your children with you, can you leave your child with a spouse, a close family member or friend while abroad?
- Do you have family members (children/partners) in school? What education options will exist for them to continue their education while you are abroad? Are they able to take a break from schooling? If so, how will this affect their future education?
- Be aware of extra costs that are associated with traveling with children. These include international health insurance, immunizations, and flight tickets for the entire family. Some items may be covered by your program for you, but not for your child(ren) or family.
- What are the immigration rules surrounding bringing your family with you to study, work or do research abroad? Would they require separate visas? Would their visas allow them to enroll in school or to work? If they are on a tourist visa, would they need to leave the country and re-enter with a new visa while you are studying? How much will additional visas cost?
- What are the local and cultural norms around raising a family? How will your unique family structure be perceived in your destination of choice?
- What are the local and cultural norms around parenting and childcare? (e.g. daycare services, how to deal with misbehavior, notions of discipline).
- Is there an expat community or cultural centre that you and/or your family can connect? Is there a mature student support office or community to connect with?
For Mature Students
- What length of program would work best for me?
Short-term global learning programs may work better for students with multiple commitments. There are short-term programs available in many Ryerson faculties throughout the year and summer term, ranging from two to eight weeks. However, don’t automatically discount longer programs. Advanced planning and commitment to identify options that work for your unique situation are possible and essential to feasibility.
- What type of living situation are you comfortable in? Programs may only offer housing with a host family or a roommate. It’s important to know what works for you.
- What would be the costs of associated with going abroad?
- Does your work allow you to take time off, as either vacation, sabbatical or unpaid leave? Will you be able to go back to work when you return?