Travel is the quintessential tool for gaining a wider perspective on the world, and can even greatly diminish the sometimes trivial problems one faces in their home country. Americans are often criticized for their ignorance of the the rest of the world and its various cultures, but the best way to effectively rid this cultural stereotype is to go out and actually see the world. There is no better time to achieve this perceptual change than through studying abroad now.
But at what cost?! Enlightenment and globetrotting shouldn't come with such a hefty price tag, which is why we at GoAbroad are on a quest to help you have affordable study abroad experiences. That way, more people—a wider demographic of people—can experience the world and bring back their new insights to benefit their own communities. And because debt ain't cute, nor are debilitating student loans.
Here's our best advice on how to make the cost of study abroad more affordable, from how to find inexpensive study abroad programs to using financial aid to study abroad and more.
Why should you even consider study abroad, even though it can be expensive AF?
There are countless reasons to study abroad, yet students still find excuses for not taking the first step.
A common excuse that students make for not studying abroad is that they have never traveled outside of their home state let alone outside of the country. The bigger the cultural shock, the more long lasting and meaningful the trip will be. For those few who have barely ventured outside of their hometown, skip the baby steps and study abroad in Asia or Africa to make up for lost time. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, so don’t limit yourself or the places you can go based on your wallet, demographic, or socioeconomic background.
Travel brings people together. Not only does travel allow you to meet people from different cultural backgrounds, but it can also turn the attention toward the people already in your life to create a better sense of appreciation for what you have. Traveling at a young age opens up endless opportunities for your future.
Studying abroad exposes you to the vastness of the world, instilling a sense of purpose and motivation to achieve your dreams.
Studying abroad will not only impact your life, but also your career. Studying abroad allows you to enhance your education, professional, and life experiences outside your comfort zone. As an international student, you’ll be forced to adapt to life in a foreign culture and overcome obstacles you have never faced before, which will help you gain immense clarity where you’d like your career to take you.
There isn’t that perfect and exact word that represents all the benefits of studying abroad on your life; if you’ve ever heard someone ask a study abroad alumni how their trip was, most of the time, the only adjective they could ever muster up is “great.” This is because there are so many thoughts, emotions, and memories bursting inside of them, that it is merely impossible for them to collect all of them into a jar of one word or one phrase.
How to make study abroad affordable
Although the number of Americans studying abroad is steadily increasing, it seems as if the demographic of students studying abroad has stayed consistent. This means that people are still under the impression that study abroad programs are just for the privileged. And while students’ parents do often fund their study abroad trips, those parents put in the work needed for that to happen.
Studying abroad has never been more accessible to everyone. There are multiple options for any student to find funding for their trip abroad, from grants to online fundraising platforms.
1. Use your financial aid for study abroad
Students often don’t realize that the financial aid they are currently receiving can apply toward a semester studying abroad. Federal aid is almost always transferable to other countries as long as you are earning credits towards your degree. Financial aid you receive through your home school or university can also be applied abroad as long as the study abroad program is offered through your school.
It’s important to first set this up with your financial aid office, department, and/or academic advisor before going forward with any further travel plans, as financial aid policies can vary from school to school. Overall, schools and universities encourage their students to study abroad to gain a more worldly perspective that will ultimately reflect positively on them, so they are willing to do what they can to help you study abroad.
2. Apply for multiple study abroad scholarships
There are plenty of dream trip giveaways that can land you a free trip overseas, but if you’d rather not spend your days looking for that four leaf clover, there are just as many scholarships and awards that can feel equally as sweet as winning a sweepstake. Both the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, as well as many other program providers offer for cultural exchange programs abroad.
These scholarships typically require that you meet certain academic qualifications and in some instances a short essay or cover letter. Though it would be nice to live in a world where all expense trips were handed away to everyone, most of the time travel has to be earned. Knowledge and hard work are two qualities that are typically acknowledged and rewarded in this world, and what better motivation to stay on top of your academics than a chance to travel the world? And once it’s all said and done, and you’re in the country of your dreams, it can feel quite rewarding to know you earned what you were working for.
If you’ve applied your financial aid and scholarships towards your study abroad program and are still finding yourself strapped to pay for your flight tickets, or just need some spending money during your time abroad, no need to worry. Travel abroad programs understand the often unobtainable costs of study abroad for some households, so some providers offer need based scholarships. These scholarships can work similarly to academic financial aid packages or in some instances can function as a work/study.
Depending on the study abroad program, your home location, and your travel destination, these scholarships can range from $100 to several thousands that can cover your whole trip. While some scholarships are strictly need based, others include the completion of certain tasks, such as maintaining a blog throughout your trip, making presentations to local schools or community groups after your return, or hosting an international exchange student prior to your departure. These are just a few examples of the countless scholarships that are offered outside of academia.
3. Choose a low cost destination
An integral factor to consider in your study abroad budget is location, location, location. If you’re strapped for cash, avoid countries like England and Switzerland like the financial plague, where currency exchange rates will work against you and the cost of living is comparably high to the United States. If you’re studying abroad short-term, chances are you won’t be making an income in the country’s currency, instead you’ll be withdrawing dollars from your personal or scholarship funds from back home.
4. Fundraise for study abroad
Whether you’re just contemplating study abroad or you’ve already been accepted to your dream program in South America, funding is a hurdle that you might need to jump. In fact, most people need to. Figuring out how to pay for your studies abroad might not be so obvious and neither are study abroad fundraising ideas.
Roll those sleeves up and let’s figure out how you’re going to fundraise your study abroad. Here, we've got a compilation of fundraising ideas for study abroad to get those money-making juices flowing:
- Create an online funding campaign.
- Sell your work.
- Send letters to family and friends.
- Host a fundraising dinner…
- Run for a cause.
- 10 more fundraising ideas for study abroad
5. Create—and stick to—a study abroad budget 💸
As we all know, studying abroad costs a few Benjamins, but paying for it is more than just scrounging up enough money for a plane ticket, tuition, and program fees. What you need is a study abroad budget: something to get you in-country and help you stay afloat while you’re there. Spreadsheets are your new best friend! (#TeamSpreadsheet). Once you’ve set them up, you’re guaranteed to spend less time stressing how you’re going to afford your time overseas and more time counting down the days to your experience of a lifetime. Be smart. Budget smart. Travel smart!
6. Get loans for study abroad
There are number of financial aid options available for students who want to study abroad at some point in their academic career, including student loans for study abroad (yes, there really is such a thing!). While the prospect of taking out more student loans or expanding your current financial aid options may seem daunting at first, remember that the rewards of study abroad are worth any extra time and effort.
The federal government offers several financial aid programs through the U.S. Department of Education, which provides more than 15 million students with $150 billion per year in low-interest student loans, grants, and work-study funds. These funds cover educational expenses such as books and supplies, room and board, fees and tuition, and even transportation. They may also be used to pay for education-related costs, such as dependent care or necessary technology (i.e. a laptop).
[Read more: The 411 on Student Loans for Study Abroad]
7. Choose from the cheapest study abroad programs
As you start finding and considering different program options, don't delay too much energy or interest in any program with $$$ price tags. Instead, when you find a program on the cheaper end, or one of the best cheapest study abroad programs available, bookmark it as an option to more seriously look into later.
What's that you say? You wish there was a way to make this easier? We're glad you asked. You'll love MyGoAbroad, the only tool you need to find the right (and most affordable) study abroad program for you.
Because we ❤️ you, here's a short list of the cheapest study abroad programs to get you started in your research:
- Center for Study Abroad specializes in suuuuper low cost study abroad programs
- The Foundation for International Education offers programs in traditionally expensive places, but has reasonably cost experiences
- Universities Study Abroad Consortium (USAC) offers affordable study abroad programs in conjunction with many American universities
- If you have your eye on Asia and want to directly enroll in a university, you'll love Asia Exchange's cheap study abroad programs China, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand
- If Latin America is more your flavor, sign up for Sol Education Abroad programs—an excellent value without breaking the bank
There are plenty more affordable study abroad programs to be found; you've just gotta kickstart your research!
Affordable study abroad is possible
All it takes is some forward thinking, a dash of organizational skills, and a willingness to consider every dollar spent from the get-go, and you'll be well on your way to coordinating an affordable study abroad experience. What other clever ideas and affordability tips are we missing? Add below in the comments! 🤘