Studying abroad can often be a life-changing experience. In addition to a new learning environment, with new classmates and different perspectives, studying abroad helps you grow as an individual and opens your mind to different ideas.
While studying abroad can be a worthwhile endeavor for many majors, study abroad through universities and colleges is typically very expensive. You can expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 more for a study abroad semester than you would for your regular, at-home semester.
However, if you want to study abroad for professional development, to master your chosen language, or you simply want to experience a new culture, it’s worth it to investigate studying abroad. While it usually costs more to study abroad, there are things you can do before you go to save money and reduce expenses before you get there.
Who Should Study Abroad
Studying abroad is typically very worthwhile for foreign language majors, and many universities encourage their students to go spend at least a few weeks abroad to improve students’ fluency. If you’re a foreign language major, I strongly recommend you try to spend a few weeks in the summer, a semester, or even an entire year studying abroad.
One of my majors in college was Spanish and, while living in Phoenix offers some opportunities to practice, living in Spain gave me the fluency I needed. When your day is spent entirely thinking and speaking in Spanish – when no one else speaks English and you need to speak another language to get by – you quickly master the language.
That said, many other majors would also do well to study abroad, including:
- Business majors – Studying abroad isn’t just for those interested in global business. In almost any business today, you will inevitably work with someone from or in a different country. Studying abroad can help with cultural communication.
- Education majors
- Art majors
- English majors
- STEM majors – for many of the same reasons business majors should study abroad, STEM students should consider studying abroad to gain awareness and cultural appreciation, as they may end up working with someone from another country.
Planning Out Your Finances Before Studying Abroad
There are a few ways you can make your study abroad travel more affordable before you go. You’ll want to have a few locations in mind, and you may be restricted to certain countries based on where your school offers programs. Even if your school does limit the number of study abroad locations, there are still several ways to save money.
Some places are simply cheaper to visit than others, and if you have the opportunity and interest, consider studying abroad in a more affordable country. Even if you can only study abroad in certain countries because you’re studying a language, you still have options. For example, if you’re majoring in Spanish and planning on studying abroad, you could choose Mexico or another Latin American country instead of Spain to save money on regular expenses. If you have more options on where to study abroad, consider countries outside of Europe and Australia to reduce your expenses.
Before studying abroad, you’ll also want to create an estimated budget for living expenses while abroad. The best way to do this is to connect with someone who’s recently returned from studying abroad where you’re going. You’ll either know these students from classes taken together, or you can ask your study abroad office to connect you with a student who traveled to your country the previous semester. Even better than the study abroad office, this student can tell you the real scoop on how to save money and what you might want to splurge on while studying abroad.
While studying abroad can be expensive, you may be surprised to know your financial aid typically covers some study abroad expenses. You’ll want to review your financial aid package to be sure, but many college scholarships and federal grants still cover tuition even while you’re abroad. It may not cover everything, but in those cases, you can apply for scholarships. The Institute of International Education is a wealth of information on scholarships for study abroad travel, and you can search by field of study, study abroad location, and more.
Considerations Before You Go
Don’t give up an interest in studying abroad because you think you can’t afford it. Studying abroad offers so much more than what you learn in the classroom, including interaction with different cultures, gaining greater independence than you would even in college, and becoming confident in your negotiation and interpersonal skills.
Beyond the skills you’ll gain while studying abroad, some of the best times to travel are while you’re young and have relatively little weighing you down. Most study abroad students don’t have spouses, houses, or children, making the ability to travel even easier. You’re also more willing to sleep and eat in not-so-nice-looking places because you’re young – sleeping on a flimsy mattress in your 30s isn’t as favorable to your back as it was in your 20s. By saving up ahead of time and looking for ways to reduce your expenses, you’ll find studying abroad is more affordable than you thought.
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What tips do you have for those looking to study abroad? If you studied abroad, what did you gain from the experience and how would you recommend paying for study abroad travel?