Going back to school later in life, when you are already an adult and a parent seems daunting. Choosing to pursue it abroad is even more challenging, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
With careful planning, you can pursue your dream of studying abroad and bring your family with you.
In this post, we are going to talk about what you need to know before you embark on your new adventure abroad with your family so that you can create an experience abroad that will benefit you and your family.
Being able to return to education later in life is a privilege not many of us are able to experience, and so does the opportunity to study abroad.
So, when you have the chance to go back to school as an adult and have the opportunity to pursue it abroad, it’s a double privilege. A once-in-a-lifetime fortuity that you shouldn’t miss for anything.
But what if you are also a parent, a mom, or a dad? Surely you couldn’t just walk away and leave your family behind for several years to study in a foreign country, especially if your study destination is halfway across the globe from where you and your family live.
If leaving your family behind for the duration of your study is not something you want to do, then another option is to bring them with you.
It sounds crazy, I know. Changing the lives of at least three people (mom, dad, and child) and possibly more, is not easy at all. But it’s not a mission impossible after all.
I’ve done it before. I moved from Jakarta, Indonesia to Milan, Italy, and bring my husband and daughter with me, to continue pursuing my dream of studying abroad.
I’m 100% sure I wasn’t alone. Plenty of other people have done the same thing, and not only do they survive, but they also thrive in their new life in a foreign country and enjoy the time they spend living abroad as a family, while one of the parents studying at university.
So, can you study abroad if you have a child? Yes of course. In fact, studying abroad and bringing your family, spouse, and child(ren) is more common than you think
But bear in mind that you need to carefully plan and prepare everything, more than what you need to plan and prepare if you are going abroad to study all by yourself.
Here are some important things you need to prepare before going abroad to study and bring your family with you :
1. The Visa and Residence Permit
The first thing you need to check is whether the country of your study abroad destination permits you to study there and bring your family with you, i.e, your student visa allowed you to bring your spouse and child(ren) with you.
If you want to study abroad and wish to bring your family with you, it goes without saying that you should only consider continuing your study in countries that allowed you to bring your family with you under your student visa.
The following member that has the eligibility to join you under your student visa are your spouse (husband or wife), minor child, and parent.
So, if you are not legally married even though you are in an exclusive relationship with your partner for years, for example, most likely your partner couldn’t come with you under the spouse/family visa.
Your partner will have to come under different types of visas (such as another student visa if they also want to continue their study or a work visa if they want to work instead)
But then again, always check with the rules and regulations in the country of your study abroad destination since they might vary.
Read every requirement carefully and follow every instruction. Prepare ALL the documents required and follow every bureaucratic procedure to eliminate the possibility of having problems later on, which could have dire consequences for you and your family regarding your permit to stay during your study abroad period.
2. The Job Opportunities for the Spouse
Discuss this with your spouse before your departure to pursue your study abroad. What are they going to do there, while you are studying?
Are they going to be the stay-at-home mom or dad and take care of the child(ren) while you are studying? or will they try to find a job?
If they intend to work there, you MUST check your student visa requirements. Even if you are allowed to bring your spouse with you, that doesn’t mean they are allowed to work there, or if they do, there are several limitations applied.
Another thing to consider regarding this matter is whether there will be jobs available. The pandemic brings the world economy down, and for some countries, the economy was already in a bad shape even before the pandemic.
So, even if your student visa to study abroad and bring your family with you allowed your dependent spouse to work, there’s still a chance they will struggle to find any job if you study in a country where the unemployment rate is already high, which makes finding a job difficult, even for the locals.
Talk this through with your spouse, will it be ok if they couldn’t find a job while accompanying you studying, to avoid further problems and resentment from your trailing spouse?
Because if they want to work, you might need to compromise and consider going to a country that could give you both a chance to work and study.
3. Lifestyle and Cultural Differences
When you study abroad as an adult student and bring your child with you, you need to consider the lifestyle and cultural differences and the possibility of having culture shock, not only for you but also for your spouse and your child (ren).
How different the culture and lifestyle will be from where you are from? How well do you think you are going to adjust? What about your family, are there any values that your child(ren) will absorb that are completely the opposite of what you know and believe? And so on.
For example, as an Asian, I eat rice every day, sometimes even three times a day; for breakfast, lunch and dinner. During my first several months in Italy, I had trouble adjusting to eating pasta and bread before finally getting used to not eating rice at all for months, while my husband and daughter happily embark on a culinary adventure of enjoying the vast array of bread and pasta immediately.
Another example is nudity. Back where I came from, people wore conservative and all-covered clothes, even at the beaches. Some did it for religious purposes, others just don’t want to get sunburned.
I didn’t cover everything when I’m at the beach, of course. But in the sea of bikinis and topless ladies, my walking around with my one-piece modest swimsuits made me look like someone coming from the 1950s, totally looking out of place.
Those are examples of some of the adjustments I had to make due to cultural differences. I could go on and on, starting from the small and insignificant ones like I mentioned above, to the bigger ones.
My advice is when in Rome, act as the Roman do. Adjust and blend as much as you can. After all, you are a guest and need to respect the customs, rules, and regulations of your home country. The faster you adjust the easier your life abroad will be.
4. The Weather
It might sound simple, but whether can cause some discomfort for you and your family. So choose your study abroad destination wisely, to make your experience living abroad less complicated.
For example, my husband and I were born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, a tropical country on the equator. We knew nothing about living in a cold harsh winter for months, and have to scoop out mountains of snow to be able to get out of the house.
Therefore, I choose Italy as my study abroad destination because the winter is still bearable for our tropical bones. Mild snowing for a day or two in winter (if we want to see thick snow, we could always go to the alps anyway, just an hour away), not so cold or too strong of wind, and so on.
Put this into consideration. If you think you can survive in any type of living conditions, good for you. But you also have your family to think about.
Involve them in the discussion when it comes to choosing your study abroad destination and bring out this topic. Hear what they have to say and work on finding a solution that’s going to be acceptable for every member of your family.
5. The Education System
Are going to bring your school-age child? Then you need to consider the education system of your possible study abroad destination. Calculate how long you and your family plan to stay there and how it’s going to affect your child(ren) education.
Is the grade transferable? How different is the school curriculum in your host country from your home country? Can your child catch up with the lessons? Should you consider sending your child to an international school? And so on.
Those are some of the examples of information you need to research regarding sending your child to school in a foreign country. If you can, find a country that not only offers the best choice in higher education for you but the best education for your child(ren) as well.
In my case, when we came to Italy, my daughter was four years old and we sent her to a kindergarten. She attended school before, and many children in Asian countries already learn how to read, write, count numbers, and do simple addition and subtraction in kindergarten.
While in Italy, like in many other European countries, children will not learn to do those things until elementary school. My daughter was very happy, she loved to go to school and had no problem adjusting at all since the school was so much fun for her, “playing” all day instead of reading, writing, and solving math problems.
Because she didn’t have to pay much focus on learning how to read, write and do maths (she already knew how to do them anyway), she could focus on improving her Italian.
Now she’s in middle school, and even though the learning getting harder and harder, she handles them with ease and is always happy and excited about school because, in her mind, school is always easy and fun, thanks to the experience and the impression from her early days of moving here.
In summary, study the curriculum and education system for your child(ren) carefully, because you are not going to be the only one studying in a foreign country with all the challenges and difficulties that come with it.
6. Language Barrier
Another thing to consider when you want to study abroad and bring your family with you is the language barrier. If you study in an English-speaking country, perhaps it will not be a problem.
Even if you study in a non-English speaking country, but English is widely spoken by the locals such as in Germany, The Netherlands, and most Scandinavian countries, for example, it will also not going to be a problem.
But if you study in a non-English speaking country where English is not widely spoken, like me, who studied in Italy, the language barrier could be a nuisance, especially when you have to deal with important matters such as preparing your documents at the local municipality, doctor visits, you child(ren) school-related matters and so on.
We had to rely a lot on google translate, asking help from friends to translate, and after a year or so living here, our (then) 5 years old had to be the spoke person and translator since she was (or should I say “she is” because up until now, she still is) the most fluent Italian speaker of our family.
Learn the languages before you go, try to master them as much as you can, it will make your life a lot easier, trust me.
Even if you go to a place where English is widely spoken, your ability to speak the local language will bring plenty of advantages. Certainly, it will make it relatively easier for you to get a job after you graduate if you master the local language.
Being alone with your nuclear family in a foreign country and only having one another could be difficult. Often you will feel homesick. Your spouse will miss his/her old life, especially when they had to sacrifice their job or business back home to accompany your study abroad.
Your child(ren) misses their grandparents, their cousins, and friends. Your family will also be going to miss all the things you used to do together as a family time because, for some reason, you couldn’t do it in your host country.
Homesickness can also be triggered when things are completely different than what you have back home. The more unfamiliar the place and culture for you, the more adjustment you have to make, and the stronger the feeling of homesickness.
If it’s possible, try to look for a study abroad destination that is still relatively close to your home country, in terms of distance, also in culture, and tradition, as neighboring countries often share a similar culture, traditions, foods, climate, and so on.
If you have to go halfway across the globe, to a country where everything is totally different from where you come from, allocate some budget to travel home and visit your families and friends.
You and your family will have happy times being back home, even if it’s just for some short vacation, and at the same time, will be able to appreciate this wonderful opportunity of being able to live abroad.
Over to You…
For adult students and student parents, one of their greatest concerns about studying abroad may be about how to care for their families while abroad.
Although the international study is completely doable with a family, there are considerations you should keep in mind such as the visa and residence permit for your family, the job opportunities for your spouse, the lifestyle and cultural differences as well as the weather, the country’s primary education system for your child(ren), the language barriers and the homesickness.
But don’t despair, do extensive research beforehand, and try your best to overcome those challenges by doing the things mentioned in this post, one by one, small step after the other.
Thus, you’ll be able to enjoy your amazing experience of studying and living abroad with your family, have a fulfilling and rewarding life, and build memories that last forever.
So, if you’ve been wanting to study abroad but still have doubts about whether you could bring your family with you or not, well, hopefully, this post was able to convince you.
What are you waiting for? Start preparing for your big adventure abroad and enroll!! Do you have any questions? or doubts? Leave a comment down below, I’ll try to help you as much as you can
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