Woman saving to study abroad

Can I Afford To Study Abroad?

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For many college students, including me, studying abroad is one of the highlights of college. I’ve been waiting to figure out where and how I would study abroad since I watched my older siblings go off to exciting adventures in Morocco, Northern Ireland, and Ecuador. Yet, it always made me nervous to figure out how I was going to study abroad when I looked at the low number in my bank account. I’m heading off to Belgium in a month, and I can assure you that my bank account hasn’t changed much. I’ve learned that schools make studying abroad a lot more affordable than one might expect, so it’s important to know what all your options are before you rule it out as being too expensive.

Studying Abroad is More Affordable Than You Think

Exchange Programs
Many institutions join exchange networks and consortiums to make studying aboard more affordable, easier to manage logistically, and to draw international students to their own institutions. The International Student Exchange Program (ISEP), for example, has hundreds of schools within North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America that students can apply to through an exchange. The best part about these kinds of programs is that you pay your normal expenses to your home school (meaning you scholarships still count!) and your school pays the exchange, rather than you paying a program fee. For those that are attending college on hefty academic scholarships, doing an exchange is a great option because you basically just pay travel expenses on top of your normal yearly costs.

Summer, Maymester, or Jan-term Programs
Some people find that they can’t afford to study abroad for an entire 4-month semester, but they can afford to do a one-month program. There are lots of options through the International Studies Abroad (ISA) organization and even through your school’s cohort programs that allow you to study abroad for a shorter period of time. This cuts down the program costs and allows you to stay at your school during the rest of the year.

“Academic Scholarships Apply” Programs
Most schools, in addition to having exchange program options, offer cohort programs. Cohort programs basically mean that your school sends a small group of students to a program abroad based on connections that the school has made over time. Most school’s cohort programs make it so that your academic scholarships still apply in a way that’s similar to an exchange programs. Sometimes schools even offer cohort programs that are paid for completely by the school.

What do you do if you still think you can’t afford study abroad?

Outside Scholarships
There are some organizations and websites that offer tons of scholarship opportunities for varying amounts. If you’re looking for scholarships, visit sites like StudyAbroad.com to get an idea for options to apply for to ease the cost of travel.

Institutional Scholarships
Most colleges and universities have funds available for students who are studying abroad. Typically, there’s not enough money to go around, so if you want those competitive study abroad scholarships, do your research way beforehand so that you have a fighting chance.

Study Abroad Loans
Some companies like Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo offer bank loans for students wanting to finance study abroad. These can be a good option if you’re desperate, but be careful. Student loans have high interest rates, which leave you in debt when you graduate from college. If at all possible, a study abroad loan from a private company should be your last resort. If you qualify for federal loans, try to make study abroad work with those before resorting to a bank loan. 

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