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Non-traditional Students

As a non-traditional student, you may have work, home, and family obligations that many “traditional” students do not have to worry about.  For many of you, you are considered non-traditional because you are older than the typical university student. Or you may be considered non-traditional because you have a spouse and/or children.  Given these obligations, you may have special considerations you need to think about that other students do not.  Study abroad can still be a valuable experience for you, especially if you have never lived abroad before. 

Things to consider

  • Think through the exact obligations you may have that prevent you from studying abroad and consider how you may still be able to study abroad.   For instance, you may not be able to study abroad for a year or a semester if you cannot afford to spend an extended time away but you may be able to participate on a short-term program. 
  • In some countries non-traditional students may be more common than in the United States.  In others, non-traditional students might not exist. Research your host country and their views on non-traditional students.  You may wish to research things such as do older students work while studying?  Do they tend to live alone or with family?    If you go to a country where non-traditional students are uncommon, ask yourself if you would feel comfortable. 
  • When students study abroad, the housing options can vary greatly from homestays, to dorms, to independent living in apartments.  Be sure that you research housing options and that your selected program has a housing situation that will make you comfortable.  Determine if anyone will accompany you on your study abroad program and be sure to research where that person can live while you are abroad.  Many programs do not allow spouses or children while others may be able to accommodate them.
  • Depending on the type of program you choose, you may be surrounded by younger, non-married students both in classes and in your living situation.  While this may make you feel like you do not fit in and you choose not to socialize with others in your group, be sure to find people in the host country with whom you can socialize.  If not, the experience may feel very isolating.  


The AU Abroad Office can advise you on your study abroad options and help you find the right program for your major and personal goals.  Tel: 202-885-1320 or

Diversity Abroad is an organization dedicated to increasing participation and better serving the needs of diverse and underrepresented students in international education. They have a diversity and inclusion abroad guide on their website.