Adult Learners

Here at UCSC, we applaud those who chose to continue their education at any age and believe that all students can benefit greatly from the academic, social, personal, and professional benefits that global learning offers. However, we understand that some adult learners may face different challenges or concerns when deciding to participate in a global learning experience. In addition to your academic coursework, you may be more likely to also have a part-time or full-time job and/or take care of loved ones or dependents. We are here to support you through your global learning journey. Review this webpage to find specific information and resources to consider when choosing the best global learning experience for you.

When To Participate in Global Learning

In order to determine an optimal time to fit a global learning program into your degree plan, we encourage you to meet with your campus academic advisor(s) to discover if there are any classes you need to complete at UCSC before your program participation, and/or if there are any academic requirements you need to meet while on your global learning program. There are summer, quarter, semester, and year-long options. You can review programs to determine which term (and experience type) will meet your needs and goals. Other factors you may want to consider when choosing when to participate in global learning include family responsibilities, work responsibilities, financial obligations, limited time, home maintenance, etc. 

Adult Learner Considerations

Feeling of Exclusion

The age gap between you and your peers may feel intimidating and exclusionary, but do not let that stop you from forming social connections. In fact, your age might be a benefit to making connections with your peers. Your wisdom, mature perspective, and life experience could be something that draws your peers to you, developing relationships that add a completely new perspective to your life. Your different backgrounds may blend together to enrich everyone’s experience on your program, which is why it is valuable to embrace the differences and connect on the similarities. Do not let the age gap stop you from immersing in the experience and making connections.

Different Goals

Younger students embarking on a global learning program may be on a different journey of self-discovery than you. You, however, may have had a variety of life experiences that have developed you into who you are today, and thus might have different goals than your younger peers. Whether it be the desire to network personally and professionally, add this experience to your resume, push yourself outside of your comfort zone, or learn more about the world, everyone’s goals for studying abroad/away may look different, including yours. Your personal experiences and perspectives will assist you in navigating and interacting with your host community. Every student should be firm in their perspectives and acknowledge that their goals may look different from others. You are exactly where you need to be.

Family Considerations

When planning your global learning experience, you may have a family, loved ones, or dependents who you need to consider as well. For more information for students with families or dependents, visit our webpage here. Here are some questions that you should ask yourself before you choose to study abroad/away:

  • Will you bring your family or dependents along with you? If you have a child, how will this affect their school schedule? If your partner has their own occupation, will they be able to take time aside and travel with you?
    • If yes, here are additional things to consider:
      • Costs for things like insurance, visas, immunizations, schooling and child care, housing, and flights.
      • Where can your dependents stay during excursions (potentially overnight), as they may not be allowed to join?
      • Do your living accommodations support more than one individual and/or children?
    • If no:
      • What are some of your responsibilities to your loved ones and how will you make sure to meet those needs while abroad/away?
      • If you are the main source of income for your loved ones, how will your time away impact them financially?
      • If you are the main source of transportation, will there be other ways for your loved ones to get around?

Work and Employee Considerations

Another unique consideration to your experience may be work and/or employee obligations. You may have a firmly established career or a full-time job. If you do have a full-time job, you should consider, “What are the expectations and responsibilities that are required of me in my job?” Communication with your employer is critical as you plan your global learning experience and what flexibility you may have. For example, you may consider asking:

  • Am I able to take a leave of absence? 
  • If there is no leave of absence, is it possible for me to do my work remotely?
  • If required, will I be able to respond to emails or fulfill other duties while also maintaining course and program requirements? 

Additional Questions to Consider


  • What housing options are offered and what accommodation choices can you make so that you feel comfortable in your housing?
  • Does your program allow single-room accommodations or will you have a roommate?
  • If you have a roommate, what adjustments can you make, if needed, so that you feel at ease in your accommodations?
  • If you live with a homestay family, can you request to be placed with a host family that shares your interests and age?  
  • Does your program/host university have age requirements for specific housing accommodations like student residences?

Social Connections

  • How can you find out if there are other adult learners on your program?
  • What steps can you take to connect with other students on the program?
  • As you may not have access to the same support and social networks you have at home, how can you develop relationships with other peers and integrate with locals?
  • How might you cope with feelings of exclusion if you are the oldest student in your program?


  • What financial obligations (cell phone plan, rent, house payment, utilities, and other bills) can you plan ahead for now? 
  • If you receive financial aid, what can you do now to ensure that aid may cover your total cost of participation? (hint: get a financial aid estimate)
  • If you have a part-time or full-time job, how will you make up that lost income? 
  • Are international students allowed to work in your host country?


  • What skills do you want to develop or improve while you are abroad or away?
  • How might other parts of your identity affect your experience?
  • How do visa restrictions, health insurance requirements, or other legal concerns vary based on age or family responsibilities?
  • If you are not able to be away for very long due to family or work responsibilities, how can you get the most out of a short-term global learning program?

A Word About Finances

While there are universal costs of participating in a global learning program including program fees, accommodations, meals, etc., there are some costs that might be unique to the adult learner experience. Make sure you understand the total cost of participation and plan your budget accordingly, especially if you have to take into account any additional expenses related to loved ones or dependents, loss of income from work, and financial obligations you will be responsible for at home while you are abroad/away like rent, utilities, bills, etc. 

Financial Aid

Did you know that for UC study abroad or away programs, your financial aid package goes with you and is redesigned to meet program costs? What this means is that regardless of where you go in the world, under a UC study abroad or away program your financial aid will be packaged according to the cost of your program and you should receive the about same percentage of financial aid that you receive while attending UC Santa Cruz. You can request an estimate for how much aid you can expect to receive on a program before you even apply. Learn more on our website here. There are many study abroad and away scholarships to apply to as well. Look for scholarships ahead of time, make note of deadlines, and apply to any and all scholarships that you qualify for! 


Last modified: May 13, 2024