Participants with dependents can and do study abroad successfully, but doing so presents very real challenges that you need to carefully consider and explore. If you are a participant considering bringing dependent(s) with you on a GEO program, please contact the GEO office to discuss your options as far ahead of time as possible. You will need to complete additional paperwork at the time of application, but you should start researching and discussing your plans with GEO at least six months in advance of the application deadline.
GEO makes every reasonable effort to assist program participants with dependent(s) to explore workable options, but you should be prepared for the reality that the facilities and support services available to you as a student with dependents abroad may not be the same range or quality that is typically available on a U.S. university campus. Flexibility, planning, and the expectation that the reality will be more complicated than you anticipate will be critical to making the experience successful.
Things to Consider As You Prepare to Study Abroad:
- Housing: Where program housing consists of apartments or residence halls, it is usually not possible to accommodate minor dependents. Where program participants live in homestays, it is more likely that dependents can be accommodated, but there may be restrictions based on the preferences of the available families. For example, it may be possible to accommodate older but not younger children, a spouse but not a domestic partner. Finding housing independently of the program may require advance arrival and be more costly than program housing arrangements.
- Childcare and Schooling: Enrolling dependent children in local schools may be complicated to arrange, particularly where the local language is not spoken by the child; you may also have to pay fees, even for public schools. Other issues include academic calendar differences between the GEO program and the local schools, and differences in teaching styles. Childcare issues may include difficulties with finding English-speaking caregivers, costs, and cultural differences.
- Finances: students and their dependent(s) should not count on being able to work while abroad, as this is typically not legally possible.
- How Dependents will Spend their Time: Consider how your dependent(s) will spend time while you are in class, especially if there is a language barrier. Dependent(s) who are not formally enrolled in the program may not enroll in program classes. Students who wish their dependents to participate in other program activities (orientation, social and cultural activities, excursions, etc.) may request permission for participation in advance. Where these activities have costs associated with them that are covered by participant program fees, the dependent(s) costs will be the responsibility of the student.
- Immigration Requirements: Obtaining visas for minor children, especially if accompanied by only one parent, may require additional steps and processes. Dependent spouses and partners may not be able to obtain legal permission to accompany the student for the entire period of the program.
Ultimately, while GEO can provide information, guidance, and support, you will be responsible for making, confirming and paying for actual arrangements for dependent(s). Be prepared to make a substantial investment of your own time and resources in securing proper accommodation and services.
Breaking Barriers: Non-Traditional Students Before and After Study Abroad, San Francisco State University: Excerpt from a documentary interviewing students from a variety of backgrounds about their anticipation of and actual experiences study abroad.