BYU international study programs offer options for married students

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Tyler Roberts and his wife Mackenzie Roberts shared many experiences while studying abroad, like cooking classes together. (Tyler Roberts)

The BYU Kennedy Center for International Studies offers over 200 study abroad programs, including options that allow married students to travel with their spouses to further their educations.

Timothy Lynn Elliott has been the director of International Study Programs for 15 years and operates relations and logistics within the program, adding additional programs to the Kennedy Center each year.

Many married students want to study abroad, but they are not sure whether their spouse can attend with them, according to Elliott.

“There is not an easy answer to this,” Elliott said. “Every program can take married couples, it just varies by program and varies year-to-year on what the setup is.”

According to Elliott, any program — study abroad or internship — can account for a husband or wife in attendance, but both students must be enrolled in the study abroad program; no spouse can just “tag along.”

In the circumstance of an international internship, some students may be offered experiences their spouse cannot participate in. The Kennedy Center encourages the accompanying spouse to have plans while abroad, like online classes or a job, to occupy their time.

“The two problems that married couples run across are the cost and the housing situation,” Elliott said. “Both parties involved need to be willing to accommodate to the housing situation, which might not be ideal for a married situation.”

According to Elliott, students have more options when they are paying for their housing on their own and not relying on the program.

“If you have an internship lined up internationally and you’re going to find your own housing, then it is more flexible,” Elliott said. “One of the challenges we see is the person has the internship and they are busy and their spouse has nothing to do. Think seriously about what the person who doesn’t have the internship is going to do.”

The Roberts traveled to Italy, Budapest, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and other countries while abroad. (Tyler Roberts)

BYU junior Hannah Ramirez said she is currently in a serious relationship and has thought ahead about study abroad possibilities for when she is married.

“Because my boyfriend and I know that we will have to be apart next summer, it makes it a difficult decision on whether or not we should get married this summer or next,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said the specific program her boyfriend wants to attend is limited to majors only, which will not allow them to attend together.

BYU student Tyler Roberts attended the Bocconi University program in Milan, Italy, with his wife on a $10,000 budget.

“We both wanted to see as much of Europe as possible, have an awesome cultural learning experience, make great international connections and at least try to learn another language,” Roberts said. “We wanted to accomplish all of this while keeping a tight budget, and since we both paid our way through college, this was a must.”
The couple made it work with the direct enrollment program, which allowed them to make their own plans on where they wanted to go, for how long and what they were going to do in their free time.
Roberts said he scanned Airbnb for the best deals to save money and stick to a budget.
“We rented a studio apartment for the entire time we were there. It was pretty small — we could literally cook while sitting on the bed — but it had everything we needed and was in a great location,” Roberts said. “It ended up costing us $800 per month, which is about what we paid for an apartment in Provo.”
The Roberts couple visits the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Pisa, Italy. (Tyler Roberts)
Roberts said he would recommend a study abroad or direct enrollment program to everyone.
“There won’t be another time in your life where you and your spouse can do something like this,” Roberts said. “We went to over 50 cities in 11 different countries within the first year of our marriage.”
Roberts said he believes new experiences, especially outside the U.S., are beneficial and exciting for married couples.
“I don’t know if it was all the new experiences or the fact that it was just the two of us away from anyone we knew together for 22 plus hours a day for 5 months, but it was the greatest way to start off our marriage,” Roberts said.
Elliott encourages all students to research their options with study abroad programs and international internships to find out what works best for their new families.
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