Studying abroad was the best experience that I had during my college career and you can afford to do it too! Here are my tips for studying abroad without breaking the bank.
- Choose a program that allows you to pay tuition to your home institution. This is an option when your university has partnerships with universities abroad. It is often called an exchange. Paying tuition to your home institution is helpful when the university in which you will be studying has a higher semester tuition. Be sure to check exchange rates!
- Choose a university with tuition that is comparable to or less than your home institution. I studied at the University of Cape Town and paid tuition directly to them. My tuition from the University of South Carolina and the University of Cape Town were almost exactly the same so I did not have to come up with extra funds for tuition. Important fact: in most cases you will be able to use your existing scholarship and grant money toward your tuition abroad. I was able to use my scholarships from the state of SC, USC and a local county scholarship to pay my semester tuition to UCT.
- Apply for a scholarship. I was awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and used the money to offset the cost of airfare and for spending money. I would recommend meeting with your university’s study abroad office to identify scholarships that you may be eligible for.
- Do not use an outside program to study abroad as they can be much more expensive. What do I mean by an outside program? By this I mean a third party organization that you pay to set up your study abroad experience. These programs are not affiliated with your home university or host school. You are basically paying these programs a convenience fee to do things that you can do yourself. If you are a first time traveler, don’t worry! You do not need an outside program organizing everything for you. Your host university will assist you in finding housing, setting up your classes and arranging transportation from the airport. However, these programs do offer a higher level of support for students while they are abroad compared to typical exchange or direct enroll programs. I personally felt like the third party programs organized too much for me. For example, some third party programs plan trips for your vacation weeks. This trip fee may be included in your overall fee for the program and thus you would not have the option of keeping that money to plan a trip on your own. Third party programs are often suggested if your university does not have an exchange program or partnership with the particular university that you wish to attend. However, this does not mean that a third party program is your only option. My university did not offer an exchange program to the University of Cape Town so I discussed my options with the study abroad office. I was able to write a letter to my university stating the reasons that I wanted to attend UCT and why I did not want to go through a third party program. It was approved and I did something called a direct enroll where I applied directly to my host institution (University of Cape Town).
- Think outside the box. I participated in the National Student Exchange for a semester and was able to study at the University of Guam. With the National Student Exchange you can choose from many universities in the U.S. or Canada. Some cool places to look into are Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada and Puerto Rico. Through the National Student Exchange students either pay in state tuition to their host university or the regular tuition at their home institution. Your school should have a National Student Exchange office to assist you in the process.
- Choose a country with a lower cost of living and where the U.S. dollar is strong. Guam’s cost of living was much lower than South Carolina’s. I saved A LOT of money on my housing for the semester and used that saved money to pay for my airfare to Guam. I’ll break it down for you… Cost of an apartment for one semester at USC- $3,000. Cost of the dorm in Guam for one semester- $1,000. Cost of airfare to Guam- $2,000. So basically, I used the $3,000 that I would have spent on housing in SC to pay for my housing AND airfare for Guam. While I was in In South Africa, the US dollar was much stronger than the South African Rand. I think at the time $1 equaled 8 Rand so my dollar stretched a lot further than it would have in Western Europe, for example.
- Work with your university’s study abroad office. They are the experts.
- Start your research early!!! Meet with your study abroad adviser the year before you plan to study abroad (NOT the semester before). This allows you to look at all of your options and have time to properly apply for scholarships. Many scholarships are due waaay ahead of time so you won’t want to miss out by waiting too long.
- Find a side hustle. You will need spending money while you are abroad…because its no fun to travel if you can’t do anything. I would recommend picking up a side hustle like babysitting, tutoring or pet sitting. I was able to save up $5,000 in one year by babysitting on the side.
I hope that you have an amazing time on your adventure abroad! It can seem overwhelming at first, but remember there are plenty of folks at your university’s study abroad office to assist you!