As an adult with many responsibilities, studying abroad seems like an unreachable dream, and an experience reserved only for the young.
But that is completely wrong. Plenty of adults returns to school to continue their education. Some brave souls even decided to do it abroad.
If you decide to continue your study abroad, how to maximize your study abroad experience as an adult student/ student mom and dad then?
Part of the misconception about how it is almost impossible for adults to become international students is that they won’t be able to “survive”.
At a minimum, they will not able to enjoy and maximize the experience due to the limitations and constraints regarding their age and status (a mom and dad, if they are parents), and the responsibilities that come with it.
But that is not always the case. If you want to continue your study and want to do it abroad, you could still enjoy your once-in-a-lifetime study abroad experience.
Although, surely there will be limitations to a certain extent, or there will be plenty of things you’ll choose to do differently than your peers.
For example, you might be completely uninterested to stay up all night to do group work and hitting the club afterward because hey, it ‘still 3 AM anyway, the night’s still young!!! Nope, at 3 AM, the night is not so young for you, at least not anymore.
Or, hiking is the idea for relaxing for some of your friends, but you prefer to stay at home all day since the thought of all those walking and climbing make you shudder.
It’s okay to be different, as an adult student/ student mom or dad, you are in a different stage of life anyway. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy your study abroad experience.
You could always maximize them and get the most out of this amazing opportunity of studying and living abroad, here are some ideas on how to do it :
1. Keep an Open Mind
As an adult, we know very well that to be successful learners, we need to keep an open mind. That we could learn valuable lessons outside of the classroom.
Studying abroad is not an exception. You’ll gain many valuable lessons about other people and cultures, as well as learning about life itself and about yourself.
Therefore, while you were abroad, don’t limit yourself by staying within your bubble. You will learn a lot from the people there, with each of their unique customs, habits, perspectives, struggles, and all.
As an adult student, perhaps you come to a foreign country and bring your family with you. Most likely you’re working hard to try to juggle your responsibilities as a student and as a parent and a spouse. Therefore, whenever you have time to relax, you prefer to spend it with your family
Maybe you didn’t bring your family with you and will return to your home country as soon as you finish your study. Still, when you’ll try to spend as much of your free time as possible with your family by chatting with them through video calls.
Even if you are single, the thought of socializing may exhaust you. You’ve spent years socializing and networking anyway back then, throughout your career.
And those are completely ok, but please, try to go out and make friends every now and then. Get out of your comfort zone once in a while. Embrace the changes and the challenge in your life as an international student, without neglecting your responsibilities as an adult, of course.
When you put yourself out there, you’ll immediately see that there are so many sub-cultures in your host country’s culture. So many different points of view and perspectives.
You are there to learn and grow, interact with people as much as you can. Lose the tag you associate yourself with.
Don’t build walls around you, let people get to see and know you. So that you could get to know them too. Once you get to know them, you’ll see that they are just people, just like you and me.
2. Always be Alert to Your Surroundings
When you are in a foreign land, always be alert is practically a survival 101 tip. But sometimes it’s difficult to stay alert when you have a good time and live your dream of being able to study and live abroad.
But don’t underestimate anything. Because, even though you came from a whole lot more dangerous place than where you live right now for your study, and already used to be alert and vigilant, every place is different, and we still need to keep our wits about us.
For example, in your home country, when some thieves want your wallet, they will point a knife at you. While in your host country, they will steal it from your bag. Just because there are no knives wielding thugs, it doesn’t mean that your wallet is safe because they still have pickpockets.
So, even though in general you feel safe, but just like anywhere in the world, there are dangers too. Being an outsider, physically you’ll look different than the locals. Even if you do not physically look different, your clothes, your accent, and all could give away for bad people to know that you are not from there and make you the target.
If you came to study and bring your family with you, most of the time you could be distracted by millions of things you need to do at the same time.
You might walk with your child(ren) as you pick them back from school, while your mind wanders to the assignments you need to finish and how to make them cooperate by playing quietly while you are trying to work on your assignments.
Always remember you are in a foreign country and you are the gullible target. Stay focused and be alert to your surroundings. Even though you came from a more dangerous country before and are used to having potential dangers, don’t let your guard down and let the new safer place lull you into a false sense of security, because safer doesn’t mean 100% safe.
3. Adapt to Local Custom
One of the things that could help make your time studying and living abroad enjoyable is to adapt to local customs, as soon as possible. The sooner you adapt and embrace your new life the better for you and the happier you’ll be.
In my opinion, the hardest thing for someone to try adjusting to is the food. When you are willing to have an adventure with food, you tend to be happier.
You will look forward to going to the grocery stores, different ones each time, to take a look at the array of foods there that many you could never find back home (and some that you’ve never seen before in your life!) and bring home some of them to try and experimenting on.
Your weekends will be livelier because you couldn’t wait to go to that coffee shop or restaurant you’ve been eyeing or accidentally pass on while wandering around the neighborhood. Studying and finishing assignments also be easier because your tummy is full, and you have all the energy to tackle anything.
On the contrary, if you are not adjusting well to the way people eat, things tend to be more difficult. You’ll spend more time and energy trying to cook your comfort food from home since you need to go to a specific place to buy the ingredients and cook them.
You also risked being in conflict with your neighbors if your cooking has a pungent or distinctive smell.
Being super busy, you might not be able to cook as much as you want, and since you are not a fan of the local food or the local customs (e.g dinner time may be completely different than times you usually eat back home), you couldn’t just go and grab something to eat.
When a person is hungry, they tend to be crankier, well I know I do. Being a student, you’ll need all the energy you could muster, and being hungry since you don’t like the food and have no time to cook is not helping.
If you don’t adapt soon, you’ll be miserable and keep feeling homesick. In the longer term, it can interfere with your study in a negative way.
The adaptation to local food is only an example, there are plenty of other things you’ll need to adapt to, in order to make your study abroad experience enjoyable.
If you encounter a problem adjusting to a certain thing(s), whatever it is, try to work on them immediately. The sooner you could adapt to local customs, the less miserable and homesick you’ll become.
4. Make Friends With The Locals
As an international student, you have limited knowledge of your host country. Without doubts, having locals as friends will open more doors for you to see and experience things that will be unseen as a foreigner in their country.
Most of the time, a lot of international students surround themselves with other international students. The circle could even get smaller. For example, the infamous “Asian Bubble” is a part of this phenomenon.
It is understandable though when you are alone in a foreign country and leaving everyone and everything you’ve known and loved behind could be difficult.
Therefore, you surround yourself with like-minded people who looked like you physically and share your norms and values, to make you feel less lonely.
But try your best to make friends with the locals because interacting with them will help you absorbs their culture and adjust faster. For adult students coming with their families, having local friends is a must.
Before we moved to Italy, we contacted our friends who live there, to get information about the things we needed to prepare, and get the local expertise and advice (even though they are Indonesian just like us, they’ve lived in Italy for years, therefore, they could help us prepared for our arrival).
Once we were there, we tried to make friends with the locals immediately. It’s imperative when you bring your child(ren) with you because you’ll need help navigating through everything.
You’ll be needing information on how to enroll your children in school, about hospitals and vaccination, daycare centers, even some legal stuff like documents for your family, tax return, and such. Having local knowledge will be a huge advantage.
Even when you came alone, or as a single adult, having local friends will definitely make your study abroad experience easier and more memorable.
They could show you things that only the locals could know, such as where to buy cheaper things, interesting things you could do in the city and the country, or even in the neighboring countries, could show you the off beaten tourist path to visit and so on.
5. Grab Any Opportunities You Could Find.
Perhaps you came from a more reserved culture. You are not used to saying what’s on your mind or grabbing opportunities for fear of you are not good enough.
But once you are abroad, you need to be more assertive. You may be an outsider, but don’t let that fact make you timid or make you feel less than other people.
I’m not saying you should be aggressive or even become something that you are not. But if you’ve been mostly shy before, try to voice your opinion more.
Held your ground stronger for something you believe in. Don’t cave in simply because you were outnumbered or wanted to avoid conflict.
Especially when your host country appreciates more assertive and proactive people. Introduce yourself and present yourself well on any occasion. Try your best to leave good impressions.
When you’re presenting your work in front of the classroom, in job interviews and so on, prepare yourself well so that you know the materials inside out and have confidence in delivering them, which will exude during your speech.
Apply the “fake it till you make it” attitude in everything. Don’t hesitate and doubt yourself. There’s nothing you can’t do if you set your heart and work hard for it.
Any opportunities that come to you during your study abroad will be a great addition to your CV, and to your life experiences. So, be assertive, don’t be shy, work hard, and focus to grab the opportunities!.
6. Respect Any Boundaries and Privacy of Others.
It goes without saying, wherever you are, you need to respect and obey the country’s law and regulations, as well as plenty of other rules and regulations, which may or may not be as legally binding as the law, but have to obey, nevertheless.
After all, you are a guest in their country. Moreover, as an international student, you are representing your country, as well as the name and reputation of the fine institution where you study. Any violation of law, rules, and regulations will also smear the college’s name and give a bad impression to your country.
On top of that, as an adult who’s older than the average student, you’ll be expected to be more mature and act accordingly. You’ll bring shame to yourself if you can’t respect rules.
Pay attention to small things too and obey them. If people walk on the left side of the elevator, go stand on the right side. If people walk faster, try to match their pace, or at least try to not get in a way or stop and pivot in a sudden move.
Greet people with a smile or “good morning” or whatever their customs are. Never forget the most common basic courtesy; by saying “please, thank you, I’m sorry” when needed and always knock when you are about to enter someone’s private space.
Those points mentioned above sound like trivial things, but surprisingly, it could be potential conflicts if we ignored them. The more you get familiar with the rules and regulations and obey them, the more pleasant your study and living abroad experience will be.
7. Go Above and Beyond
Always give your best in everything. Don’t settle for anything less than perfect. No matter what it is; papers, assignments, presentations, internships, anything, always put on work that you’ll be proud of.
When we have many things to be done, as an adult student/ student mom or dad does, it’s tempting to do it “just for the sake of it”, as long as you are finished. But seriously, DON’T. give your 110% on every task. Because, when you put that much effort, it will show.
People will notice how hard you work and will appreciate you for it. They will give you bigger tasks and responsibilities to challenge you because they believe in you, and they know you can handle it.
Just make sure you can tell the difference between when your hard works and talents are appreciated, and when they are taken for granted, even exploited.
Going above and beyond will also help you to thrive in college as an adult student and as a student mom/dad. Because when you study abroad, like it or not, you will have to work harder since you won’t have the same privilege as the locals or the native speakers from other countries, for example, when it comes to finding a job.
8. Always Have Backup Plans
Another way to make your study abroad experience enjoyable is to always have backup plans. When you are alone in a foreign country, many things could go downhill fast, since you are in unfamiliar territory and things will be harder to navigate.
Your lack of knowledge could also deviate you from your original plan since something unexpected is coming and you couldn’t anticipate them earlier.
Therefore, to ease yourself from having to pivot immediately and cost you dearly, do extensive research first before you plan and decide on anything.
Think carefully about the situation, what do you need to do and prepare, what are the things that could go wrong, and how to prevent them, or fix them.
When you are prepared, even for the worst thing that could’ve to happened, you will have more peace of mind and will be able to enjoy things, knowing that nothing too bad could happen and you could handle the rest.
9. Maintain Positive Outlook
It sounds simple but in reality, it’s hard to do. After all those mishaps, problems, troubles, and all, one thing after another, it can be difficult to stay positive.
The paperwork for your residence permit, some problems you encounter here and there, such as with your bank account, your apartment contract, your never-ending assignments, and deadlines, all could be overwhelming, especially when you are alone in unfamiliar territory.
That’s why you need to always remind yourself to keep calm since panicking will only make them worst. Try to look at the positive sides of every hardship you encounter.
By maintaining a positive outlook, the hardships will feel lighter. Most importantly, as an adult student/student mom or dad, staying positive will send a message to yourself, and to your family, that going back to school is the right thing to do. That you made a good decision you’ll never regret since you have so much fun doing it.
Over to You…
Going back to school at age 30 and beyond is daunting. Let alone doing it abroad. But if continuing your education abroad has been something you’ve always wanted to do, then go for it!!!
Don’t worry too much, with the right moves and precautions, you can make your study abroad experience to be something enjoyable and memorable for you and your family.
You just need to keep an open mind, always be alert of your surroundings, adapt to local customs as soon as possible, and make friends with the locals.
You need to also grab every opportunity that comes your way and go above and beyond to show them that you are willing to put on the hard work.
Don’t forget to always respect the law, rules, regulations, as well as respecting other people’s boundaries and privacy.
Always have a backup plan and maintain a positive outlook, so that if something goes wrong (and they will trust me), you’ll pivot immediately and have the confidence that everything will be all right.
Sounds easy when we are just sitting down and read, but when we are put in a real situation, that’s where things become frustrating.
For me, the most difficult things to do were making friends with the locals and adjust to the local customs, as I had a language barrier since I didn’t speak Italian and came from a totally different culture, but I tried to overcome it as best as I could. Now, I can look back on my journey and pat myself in the back and said “well, at least you tried and had fun doing it”
Do wish to go back to school and study abroad? Which one do you think will be a challenge for you? Did you study abroad before? What are the things you find most challenging for you?
Leave a comment below, I would love to hear your story!! Could you also be so kind and Pin it for later and share them on your social media? thanks so much before and till next time!!
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