Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Student-Mother That Studied Abroad

For many non-traditional students, study abroad doesn’t seem like an option.  There are factors that have to be considered that regular students do not understand. These considerations, such as child juggling and income are inconvenient at best, but not insurmountable. As a mother of two children, getting the best education possible is vital to me, and I haven’t found a better way of achieving that education than by broadening my horizons by studying abroad. Many people have asked me how I can be a mom and a student, and still manage to attend school full time, and even study abroad. The answer is something a wise person told me, “The best investment you can make and get the most return is in yourself”. That might sound selfish, but think of it this way, if I don't get a good education and take advantage of all the opportunities that I have, I won’t be able to give as good of a life to my children, and I won’t be setting the example that I would want them to follow. 

There are things you have to do to be able to study abroad as a non-traditional student. First and most importantly, you need to understand that study abroad is important, and that developing a global mentality will help you in your future, to get a job, and to broaden the horizons of your children.  Second, you need the support of those around you. Third, you have to have a good plan of how you are going to accomplish it.  Even when all of your ducks are in a row, you will miss your family greatly, but at worst I only had to go a few days before I could see them on Skype, which made the distance much more bearable.

Trying to raise children while going to school is also expensive. Studying abroad adds to the expense, but is very doable. The most important step is to decide to go, because as an old saying says, “where there is a will, there is a way.” If you make up your mind to go it will happen. There are always little things that you can cut out, like eating out or renting movies, and if you talk to the financial aid office, you will find there is money for just this sort of thing.  If you tell yourself you can’t, it won’t happen. Once you find the money, you will also have to justify taking time away from your family. No mom and student’s house is as clean as he/she wants it to be, and meals aren’t as healthy as they ought to be, but for me the choice was clear. If I spent just two weeks abroad, I would be a full semester closer to graduation, and closer to giving my children the life they deserve.

The last time I studied abroad was in Russia and Turkey with the Huntsman School of Business. I was three months pregnant. The schedule was rigorous and I was battling morning sickness and fatigue, but if I had not gone when I did, I might never have had the chance. The experiences I had will stay with me for the rest of my life. I was able to network not only with my peers, who will be a great resource in the future, but with both American and foreign companies, giving me a leg up when I graduate and start looking for a job. I also had two other great takeaways from the experience; a glimpse and a better understanding of the people and countries that I visited, and hands-on experience with the concepts and ideas we hear about in the classroom but rarely have the chance to see firsthand.

The most important thing for me to remember has been to make the most of my time at the University. It has always been tempting to simply graduate. I want to be home with my children much more than I am, but even though I could spend a little more time with them right now, I would not be able to provide them with the same quality of life that I can with a global perspective and great education. I had experiences that I can tell them about, and peoples and places that I can describe to them firsthand. I want my children to know what is out there so that they will be motivated to go experience it themselves when they have the chance.

— Cynthia Reeder
Huntsman student in Business Administration