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How You Can Actually Afford to Study Abroad

Studying abroad can be one of the best, most fulfilling experiences you’ll have in college. After all, it’s one of the only times in your life when you’ll get the opportunity to spend months exploring another country! However, with the costs of tuition, applying to the program, flights and living expenses, making the decision to study internationally can be a hefty financial investment. Luckily, there are several different ways to make your semester abroad more affordable, whether you’re headed for the streets of Paris or the cliffs of Ireland. Your bank account will thank you!

Apply for scholarships

Free money to study abroad? We’ll take it. There are tons of online databases that have scholarships available specifically for students who are studying abroad, such as IIEPassport Study Abroad Funding, StudyAbroad.com and All Abroad. If you already know where you’re going to study abroad, you can narrow down the huge lists of scholarships by searching by country or program.

One of the best study-abroad grants out there is the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which is very competitive but offers scholarships up to $5,000! More than 2,300 scholarships are awarded through the program, and the average award amount is $4,000. If you receive a Pell Grant or will be receiving one at the time of your study abroad program, this scholarship is definitely worth a shot.

Many study abroad program providers also offer scholarships to students who are participating in one of their programs. For example, AIFS, a leading study abroad program provider with programs all over the world, awards more than $600,000 each year in scholarships and grants for both summer and semester programs.

Your school can also be a valuable resource when searching for study-abroad scholarships. Grants offered through your university will usually be easier to get, given the smaller number of applicants. A quick visit to the study-abroad office is a great way to find out about school-specific scholarships, as well as other outside resources. Your school’s study-abroad website will likely have a list of all the available scholarships as well as information about how to contact a study-abroad adviser and find the study-abroad office on campus.

Be sure to check out academic department scholarships as well, as you may be eligible for aid based on your major.

“When it came down to funding my trip, I looked at scholarships first, and luckily I was able to receive a $750 scholarship from my theatre department,” says Travis Bihn, a junior at The Ohio State University. “Because of my dual major, I was able to apply (and later receive) a $2,500 scholarship from the psychology department for travel abroad expenses.”

Make sure to start your research early, though, because study-abroad scholarships for the coming year often have early deadlines! In general, spring program deadlines fall during September and October, while autumn program deadlines are in March and April.

Talk to a financial aid adviser

Your financial aid adviser is one of the first people you should talk to before jetting off for your semester overseas. If you already receive aid from the government, such as a Pell Grant, chances are that that aid can be applied to your semester abroad as well. In some cases, your school may even be able to give you extra money to cover the extra costs of studying at a foreign institution. Make sure to add up all of the expenses ahead of time to find out exactly how much your semester abroad will cost you and how much extra funding you may need.

Before making an appointment with an adviser, be sure to come up with a list of good questions to ask, such as:

  • How much will it cost to study abroad, including housing and extra expenses?
  • Will my financial aid be applicable to my semester abroad?
  • Can I extended my financial aid package to cover the extra costs of studying abroad?
  • Will I pay my home university’s tuition, or the tuition of the foreign institution?

You could also consider taking out a loan to help pay for your tuition, whether it’s government-funded or through a private bank. Study Abroad Loans is a website that offers loans specifically for students studying in another country. Although taking out a loan means dealing with those pesky interest fees, it can also be a viable way to make your study-abroad dreams a reality.

Start a fundraiser

Fundraising is a great way to make some serious cash, and with today’s technology, there are a million ways to do it. One way is to create a crowdfunding campaign on websites like GoFundMe and GoEnnounce. First, set a financial goal and explain your cause (i.e., why studying abroad is so important to you and how it would allow you to accomplish X, Y and Z). Then get the word out to friends and family through social media and watch the donations roll in!

If asking for money online isn’t your thing, there are other ways to get financial support, such as reaching out to close family members and friends with personal letters, asking people to donate to your travel fund in lieu of giving you birthday and holiday gifts or even seeing if someone you know with tons of frequent-flier miles would be willing to donate some of their miles to help pay for your plane ticket overseas.

Get a part-time tutoring job 

While studying abroad, you’re going to want to have some extra money for going out to dinner, weekend trips and other necessary expenses (read: drinks with the girls). What better way to prepare for your upcoming semester in Paris (and make money while you’re at it) than to tutor lower-level French students?

First, head to your student employment office to find out if there are any tutoring jobs available on campus. Virtual tutoring is another great option to consider, as it’s flexible and allows you to tutor from the comfort of your own room. Websites like Tutor.com and TUTORCARE will pay you to tutor students on your own schedule, which means that it won’t get in the way of your classes and extra-curriculars. By the end of the semester, you’ll have vastly improved your language skills and boosted your bank account!

Studying abroad is far from cheap, but with a little research and creative fundraising, your once-in-a-lifetime adventure in another country doesn’t have to be out of reach! Using these tips, you’ll soon be well on your way to that dream semester or year.

Kelsey is a junior at The Ohio State University where she majors in Journalism. She serves as an Editorial Intern and Contributing Writer for Her Campus, and also writes for U lala. Her hobbies include loitering in cafés, watching '80s movies, and obsessing over British boys with perfect hair. After graduation, Kelsey hopes to work for a fashion magazine or lifestyle publication. You can follow Kelsey on Twitter (@kelseypomeroy) and Instagram (@kelseypomeroy).
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