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How to Study Abroad (at Any Age)

How to Study Abroad (at Any Age)

Usually, when you search the internet for posts about how to study abroad, you find articles intended for university students. This is not one of those articles.

Well, not entirely. The advice I provide here is applicable to anyone, whether you’re on the cusp of 20 or pushing 40. (Given my own age, I think I’m more credible addressing the latter group!)

Below, I’ll not only explain specific ways to study abroad at any age, but provide instructions to guide you through specific steps on your journey. Like referring you to Edubirdie, for example, which offers essay service for US students, as well as other free online help. Whether you end up studying a language, or even a traditional local art form, you’ll definitely want to continue reading what I have to say!

The Truth About Studying Abroad

As I described in the introduction to this post, a majority of Google searches related to “how to study abroad” land you on the sales page of a university’s study abroad program. However, while studying abroad is traditionally marketed to younger people who are still of school age, the fact is that it’s as useful a means of continuing education as it is working toward a degree. That’s the good news.

The better news? If you decide to study abroad using any of the methods I list below, your costs will almost certainly be lower than what a student in pursuit of a degree will pay. This will leave you with more money to explore the country where you’ll study abroad, whether that’s as an intrepid domestic traveler, or a budding expert of the local scene. To say nothing of all the opportunities you’ll have to make friends once you’re safely overseas!

Creative Ways to Study Abroad

Study a foreign language

The best way to learn a foreign language is through immersion, so why not study a foreign language overseas? In 2017, for example, I attended a Thai language school in Bangkok, and used my studies to kick-start a two year stay in the Kingdom. Language is the key to so much else when you study abroad.

Enroll in a non-degree program

Universities frequently appear in answers about how to study abroad, but you don’t necessarily have to be working toward a degree. From foreign language programs taught by university professors, to extracurricular continuing education classes, many universities allow non-degree students to partake in their classes—often, without having to procure a special visa.

Teach English, and study in your free time

One of my favorite parts of teaching English in China back in 2009, beyond the food, was the ability to study Chinese. My school, like many English institutes throughout the world, offered me these lessons for free, although I did need to come to work early to take them. In a couple of paragraphs I’ll say more about teaching English abroad—you won’t want to miss that.

Learn a traditional art form

Questions of how to study abroad usually involve a classroom, but not all students learn in one. If you visit Thailand but don’t care to study phaasaa Thai, for example, you can enroll at a Muay Thai institute in Chiang Mai. In addition to learning this traditional art (boxing, in this example) you’ll end up picking up some local language from your new friends and colleagues!

Become a student of anthropology

Who says you need to “study” in a formal sense in order to study abroad? You learn something every day you spend in another country, after all, whether you want to or not. One way to gain an innate understand of humans (in other words, to informally study anthropology) is to volunteer at a hostel abroad, which many properties will allow you to do in exchange for free stays.

More About Teaching English in Asia

A few paragraphs up, I mentioned how you can incorporate study into your routine, even if you happen to be working abroad in order to educate others. If you’re curious about teaching English abroad (and particularly in Asia, where the most—and best-paid—job opportunities exist) you’ll definitely want to read my article about teaching English in Asia. It’s concise yet informative, and will have you well on your way to teaching ESL abroad.

In terms of how to study abroad when you teach, well, as I explained above, it’s really a matter of fitting it into your schedule. Work, of course, always has to come first. However, if you’re not in need of a ton of down time, and are willing to use an hour or two every day to learn instead of lounge around, I think you’ll find the benefit over a number of months or years to provide an exponential return on investment!

FAQ About Studying Abroad

What country is the best for study abroad?

This depends entirely on the experience you seek. If, for example, you want to maximize your exposure to a very different culture, studying in Asia or Africa might be the best option, assuming you hail from North America or Europe. However, if you’ve been to Europe before and love to spend time in, say, Italy or France, you might want to target those countries.

Is it a good idea to study abroad?

It is a fantastic idea to study abroad—there’s almost no downside. Once you’ve found a way to pay for your adventure, or at least to offset it within your existing budget, you’ll gain so much more on the other side than you pay in. Beyond learning a language or coming to understand a foreign culture, you’ll make priceless friendships (and maybe even relationships). It’ll change you forever!

Can a poor student study abroad?

That really depends on your definition of “poor.” I’ve studied abroad on several occasions, in spite of having grown up middle-class in America’s flyover country, with zero help from my parents. With hard work and a strategy, most people can study abroad. However, if you are abjectly poor, you might want to contact schools abroad to ask about need-based financial aid.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re a student seeking more traditional answers to the question of how to study abroad, or an older adult looking for more creative methods, you’re in the right place. The truth is that university-age people don’t have a monopoly on seeking education abroad, even if some websites frame the debate that way. Whether you study a foreign language in another country, or sign up at a foreign university for a non-degree earning program, there are plenty of ways to travel and learn at the same time. The question, now, is about what sort of information you want to acquire—and where you want to acquire it.


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