How to Prepare to Study Abroad in Your 30s

October 2, 2015
Tel Aviv Nightlife – Special Bars and Clubs in Tel Aviv

I am not a traditional study abroad student. I’m almost 33 years old and naturally set in my ways, even though I have moved around quite a bit in the last 8 years. I am also very accustomed to the Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 desk life. However, here I am, preparing for my first time across the Atlantic, and my expectations are based on nothing but blogs and articles written by those who have gone before me.

There have been so many things to take into consideration to make this happen. So I want to share a few with those of you who may want to study abroad in your 30s but might feel like you’re too old (you aren’t!).

How to Prepare to Study Abroad in Your 30s

Figure out the finances

This may seem to be the most daunting part, but it’s definitely the first step. When I realized that I really needed to study abroad in an immersion environment in order to develop my language skills to my desired level, I created a budget. I researched programs and figured out the costs. Some of the things you’ll need to account for are tuition, housing, living expenses abroad, bills that need paid at home (car payment, insurance, cell phone, etc), and travel costs to get to your destination. If you don’t already have a monthly budget for yourself, I strongly suggest creating one. This will help you figure out exactly how much you can save each month.

To increase the amount of money I could save, I moved back home to my mother’s house at the ripe old age of 30. I gave her a rent check each month, but I still saved a ton of money. Without that, this trip would not be possible. I even saved enough to take her on a cruise next summer!

In order to pay the tuition, I ended up rolling over an old 401k into an IRA, which allows you to withdraw without penalty for qualifying education expenses (keep in mind that you still have to pay income taxes on whatever you withdraw). I used this for tuition, but I saved for everything else and have been paying out of pocket for things along the way. I even qualified for a small scholarship through the school! I did not go into any debt for this trip. Things will come up (such as my paid-for vehicle dying), but know that it is possible!

Know that you aren’t too old to experience dorm life

When I tell people that I’m going to study in Israel, they ask if I am afraid. They are generally thinking of the conflict that tends to affect the region, but what actually scares me the most is the idea of living in dorms with people in their late teens and early 20s. I’ve lived alone (and, most recently, with my mother, who is like a very respectful roommate) for so long that dorm life is a terrifying notion.

I ended up choosing my program specifically because, although you share a suite, everyone has their own air-conditioned room. Sharing a room was a dealbreaker! Although I am nervous, I am counting on a common bonding factor: we are all there for similar reasons, and hopefully we can all find ways to enjoy our new temporary home together. If nothing else, I will try to woo my new classmates with my cooking skills.

Welcome the challenges

There are certainly challenges that go along with doing something like this. For me, those include leaving my beloved pups behind, taking leave from work, missing holidays, and maintaining a gluten-free diet. I am extremely fortunate to have my mom, who will care for my babies while I am gone. Without her, this trip would not be possible.

I really wasn’t sure what would happen with my job, but I approached my boss about it and told him I wanted to study abroad. I told him how long I would be gone, and he was very supportive, allowing me to take over three months off (unpaid, of course). I also have a super amazing coworker/friend who is taking over a large portion of my job while I’m away. Knowing I have a job waiting for me (and a capable person handling things) when I return is huge.

How to Prepare to Study Abroad in Your 30s.

I also highly recommend finding a penpal (Skype pal) in your destination country. I found an amazing friend back in 2012, and we are very excited to meet in person next week! I now have a place to go on breaks and holidays that will be my home away from home, and I know we’ll have the best time celebrating holidays together.

As for the ease of eating gluten-free in Israel, I will have to report back on that later. For now, I have bought healthy snacks to bring on the plane.

I am really looking forward to documenting my journey for you all! Whether you’d like to study in Israel or anywhere else, I hope that my experience can help you plan for your own adventure.


Photo for How to Prepare to Study Abroad in Your 30s by Unsplash. 

About Amanda

Amanda is a 30-something who just graduated with a BS in Justice Studies, as well as a certificate in the Arabic Language & Culture. She loves foreign languages, and is studying at the Rothberg International School before (hopefully!) heading off to grad school next fall. She grew up in a tiny town in Upper Michigan, and spent a large chunk of life living in coastal South Carolina, and has also lived in Boston and Cincinnati. Her favorite place to live so far has been New England, and she is a die hard New England Patriots fan. She has two dachshunds and writes a travel blog at

4 thoughts on “How to Prepare to Study Abroad in Your 30s

  1. Caro
    July 7, 2021

    Hi Amanda,

    I’m doing my research in trying to find out experiences about studying abroad in your 30s. I never took advantage of this opportunity during my undergrad program and I was too poor to finance it during my masters program. Now, that I am more financially stable, I’m thinking on doing a second masters to be able to do a semester abroad. I’m just so nervous about the dorm life and just be seeing as too old. I’m 31 btw.

  2. Ramesh Balu
    June 24, 2018

    HI Amanda ,
    I need your advice , I am from India and currently working as a network specialist , But now days i am very much interested in studying on applied physics and Environmentalist.

    So i am thinking to change from this and i am not interested in the 9 to 5 jobs.
    Looking for a change and thinking to go for higher studies , is it right decision to discontinue job and look for some studies in abroad.

    Age # 31
    nationality # Indian
    Education qualification # Diploma computer

  3. vanessa
    April 15, 2017

    Hi Amanda,

    I wanted to write to you and let you know how inspirational this blog was for me. I am 31 years old and recently started college again. I have always dreamed to study abroad when I was younger, when I went back to college I thought this was not a possibility for me because of my age. Now that I have read this blog its really given me hope that I too can do this!

    • Amanda
      April 15, 2017

      That’s awesome Vanessa! There are lots of options out there, and be sure to check with your school if they have a study abroad office. Sometimes you can do it through the school and your regular tuition will cover most or all of the trip. My university did that, but they didn’t have a program in Israel which is why I did mine independently. Good luck to you!! 😀

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