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Can single, working adults study abroad?
October 18, 2011 5:58 PM   Subscribe

How does study abroad work for adults?

I am an independent adult, working full-time, and have never been to college. I am considering applying to a 4-year university because I have heard over the years that many places will pay for the students to study abroad. I am still in my early 20's, but do not know anything about how these situations work. If I get into a college that has a study abroad program, is it long-term? I could take vacation time from work for a 2-week program or something similar, but if it's an entire semester, how do I pay for that? Do I quit my job? Does the school provide money, or do I get a job while I'm over there? Or do I just need to save up in advance? Thanks for any help.

Also, I do not have any family (parents, spouse, etc. ) that would be able to help financially. Whatever I do, I will be doing it alone. I have met many foreign students who study full-time and have no job, and I never understand how that works.
posted by veganfilmjunkie to Education (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Study abroad programs are not geared towards people with jobs; they tend to be one or two semesters long, and in all likelihood, you will not be authorized to work in a foreign country on your student visa (legally, at least). The expectation is that your parents will pay for it, or you will take on debt to do it (neither of which seem like things you want to do).

There are all sorts of short-term foreign externships--but I think your expectation should be that any foreign study you do will be 1) expensive and 2) on your own dime.

If I were you, I'd get your degree, and then spend time either traveling or working abroad. While I think study abroad is a great experience, it is not a required rite of passage, and I think in most cases, the education is living abroad, not the actual study.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:05 PM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


It depends hugely on the school and the programs they run. My college had the whole shebang arranged - courses, host families, etc. - but other places handle things differently. (I'm an American and am most familiar with U.S. programs; if you're not in the U.S., let us know.)

They're generally at least a semester. If you're going to college part-time, you may or may not be eligible. Some colleges/universities have foreign programs that they're tied quite tightly too, and you pay your tuition to your school as usual; I've never heard of a school that pays its students to go overseas, although I suppose it's possible. You live on your savings (if you're American, you probably won't have a visa that allows you to work in whatever country you're studying in, unless the program specifically has a work-study thing, but I think those are few and far between, if they exist at all). Schools that have more open study-abroad programs may have things set up where you pay part of your tuition to them, and part to the foreign program.
posted by rtha at 6:07 PM on October 18, 2011


I know some people (older adults, 40-60) who have done college-style study abroad programs through their churches. Obviously these are all religiously themed, which you may or may not be into. Try asking around in your area (i.e. call up some churches) to see what's available.
posted by phunniemee at 6:11 PM on October 18, 2011


If I were you, I'd get your degree, and then spend time either traveling or working abroad. While I think study abroad is a great experience, it is not a required rite of passage, and I think in most cases, the education is living abroad, not the actual study.

I disagree with this. Studying abroad (if you can swing the financials) seems like a much easier "in" to living in a foreign country than working (witness all the questions on this board about how to make a living while living in X country), and traveling won't give you the same experience as living somewhere for a few months or a year.
posted by unannihilated at 6:13 PM on October 18, 2011


Sorry, I guess what I should have asked is, since it seems to be definite that I will be quitting my job, how is my education financed? Do loans completely cover all living expenses, or should I work another year or two and build some savings? In my mind I always assumed that whatever savings I had would count against me when applying for aid anyways, but I don't really know that for a fact. I'm in the US.

Also, just to be clear, I want to go to college for my own personal enrichment, and not because a degree is expected in my line of work or because it will lead to more money for me. And I want to learn Hindi, so community college is not the answer.
posted by veganfilmjunkie at 6:31 PM on October 18, 2011


If you're just looking for an intro into somewhere and are a native english speakers there are summer camps in many countries geared towards kids in english immersion settings. I know there are ones in Turkey and France, and I'm sure many more countries.

My point is that there are a lot more ways to get abroad than study and abroad and straight up work. Many places that need volunteers are willing to accept you if you are willing to make a longer commitment like 6 months or a year.
posted by raccoon409 at 6:39 PM on October 18, 2011


Just saw your update- If you want to go to school just to learn Hindi, then just buy yourself a ticket to India, rent a room from a family and sign up for a language school there- all will result in being much cheaper. If you want to go to college and learn other things, then go to college for that.
posted by raccoon409 at 6:40 PM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have met many foreign students who study full-time and have no job, and I never understand how that works.

Do you mean foreigners who are students in the US? It's my understanding that their parents pay for it or their country's government gives them a stipend.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:42 PM on October 18, 2011


raccoon409: I want to go to school to learn Hindi, and also to learn other things, and also want to live abroad. I want all three of those things.

TWinbrook8: Yes, you may be right, I just never knew. I live in Baltimore, and meet a lot of non-US residents who go to Hopkins.
posted by veganfilmjunkie at 6:45 PM on October 18, 2011


Are you American, OP? Check this out: http://clscholarship.org/institutes.html

US government funds your full-time language study for a summer! Hindi is covered at both the complete beginner level and above. It is very competitive but you should definitely look into it. I applied once for Punjabi and got rejected, but I was young and directionless-- I'd imagine if you can confidently tell them HOW you plan to incorporate Hindi into your future trajectory, you have a decent shot if your grades and references are good.
posted by threeants at 6:52 PM on October 18, 2011


The FAFSA4caster will tell you how much federal aid you can expect. Your state may have additional funds for college.

Many colleges grant institutional aid to their own students. However, since it is their own money, they are free to distribute it how they wish. You can google net price calculator + college/ university name to get the net price calculator for a particular institution.

While savings will count against you, there is not a lot of aid out there, so you are most likely going to be better off having saved.

Another option would be to pay for a tutor. I also question whether introductory language classes at the college level are the "most effective" way of learning a language.
posted by oceano at 6:52 PM on October 18, 2011


Also agree with raccoon409-- if you can scrape together a (frankly very expensive) plane ticket, everyday expenses in India are astoundingly cheap, or at least they were a few days ago when I was there.
posted by threeants at 6:53 PM on October 18, 2011


Foreign students studying in the US are required to demonstrate financial capacity before they are issued a visa. Graduate students (US and non-US) often get tuition waived + stipend for working as a research or teaching assistant. Foreign undergrad students may have scholarships (from the school or from their government), loans from their own country (they're typically not eligible for even private US student loans) or parents/family who can cover the expense.

Study abroad is funded in a variety of ways. It is typically one to two semesters - and of course the longer you can go, the better it is for immersion and language learning. Typically, your school will have a study-abroad office where you can meet with someone to discuss your interests and the program options available to you. There are many types of programs - I think this page at Clark University's Study Abroad Office explains it quite well.

Full exchange programs mean that you'll typically pay (in tuition) what you're currently paying to attend school and all of the courses will earn you full credit. Once you get into programs run by the other university, that's where costs change and vary, but there's typically many more options in terms of program and destination.

Schools will often have internal scholarships for study abroad, and there are external ones as well, such as the Rotary Ambassadorial Fellowship. You should definitely look into these if you're concerned about additional cost.
posted by clerestory at 2:59 AM on October 19, 2011


just to be clear, I want to go to college for my own personal enrichment, and not because a degree is expected in my line of work or because it will lead to more money for me..

how is my education financed?

It's great that you are starting to do some homework/research on this before you commit to quitting your job and going back to school, but I would strongly suggest you spend some time gathering actual numbers related to costs and thinking really hard about the costs vs. the benefits.

Are you willing to spend $40,000 for personal enrichment? How about $200,000? The first figure is low estimate of what a state school will cost; the second is, conservatively, what a good liberal-arts school would cost. That is a crapload of cash to drop, especially if your goal is just to learn Hindi.

Yes, there are loans - but you will be held responsible for paying them back over a 10-year period after you graduate. That can mean a monthly payment of hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Yes, there are scholarships and grants - but you would need to be a very attractive candidate to get them.

There would also be the opportunity costs of lost wages after you quit your job, as well as the risk of not being able to find a job when you're ready to return to the market.

If you were my friend and we were sitting in a coffee shop talking about this, I'd say this is not a good idea.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 3:23 AM on October 19, 2011


I say just go on an extended vacation and take language classes or get a tutor. If you don't HAVE to put yourself in a position to pay back student loans, by gawd, DON'T DO IT!
posted by foxhat10 at 7:23 AM on October 19, 2011


just buy yourself a ticket to India, rent a room from a family and sign up for a language school there

This would mean being in India on a tourist visa, which expires six months from the date you acquire it (NOT six months from your entry date) and this may not be what you mean by long-term.
posted by Rash at 10:02 AM on October 19, 2011


How about being an international student in India? The degree may be cheaper (I don't know by how much, or if they charge foreign students more than locals, but it'd probably be cheaper than the US at any rate), you can stay there for longer than a tourist visa would allow you, and you can learn Hindi through all sorts of ways.

(as for full-time students with no jobs: Foreign students generally find it hard to get work, even if they have a visa with work rights. The expectation is that you're there to *study*; I know in Australia you're not allowed more than 20 hours a week of work because of this, and most places want at least 25/week.)
posted by divabat at 6:39 PM on October 19, 2011


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