Learning Abroad On a Budget

Learning abroad can be painfully expensive, but it doesn’t always have to be. Many students don’t even consider learning abroad a feasible option because of the high price tag that comes with it, and I used to be one of them. That is, until I realized it’s an experience that I really wanted to have and I was not going to let my lack of financial means stop me. After tons of research and practically turning into one of the people from the show Extreme Couponing, I went on my trip for a fraction of the original program price. For anyone who wants to learn abroad, regardless of financial standing, follow these tips so you can go study around the world while staying within your budget.

Pick the Right Program

Your learning abroad experience starts with picking the right program. Start off by narrowing down the programs into the price range you want and then look through what programs are available to see if they match your interests. The most budget friendly programs are four to six weeks and cost around $3,000-$5,000 dollars. Don’t let the length of these shorter programs fool you into thinking that you won’t do or see as much as you would in a longer program; my four-week program in Australia consisted of traveling to four different major cities and participating in activities in each city almost every day. Find a program within your budget and field of interest and you’ll be all set for a great time.  


Open a Savings Account and Start Budgeting

The number one thing to do once you’ve decided that you want to learn abroad is to start putting money aside whenever you can. Whenever you get money that’s not a normal part of your budget (work bonuses, birthday money, etc.) put it in a separate savings account that’s strictly for your learning abroad experience.  You can usually find more room in your budget simply by evaluating it, like realizing that you spend too much money on snacks at the bookstore (same) and deciding to start bringing some from home instead. The little things really start to add up over time and make a difference in the amount that you’ll have saved by the time you’re ready to go on your trip.


Financial Aid

If you receive any kind of financial aid such as Pell Grants, need-based grants, or scholarships, there’s a good chance that they can be applied toward your learning abroad experience. In some cases, your financial aid will be disbursed to you after your trip because you’re required to show proof of attendance and class completion. Stop by the financial aid office and speak with a counselor, they can go over all of your options and help you in the process of making sure your financial aid is applied to your trip.



The learning abroad office here at the University of Utah offers AMAZING scholarship opportunities for students who will be studying abroad. There are three main scholarships with an award of $1000 each: The Diversity, Social Media, and Student Fee scholarships. They all have their own application requirements, but students are able to apply to each one and can win any or all of the scholarships if chosen. Affiliate programs such as ISA and CEA offer their own scholarship opportunities and the list that you can apply for is pretty diverse. Students that receive Pell Grants have the unique opportunity of applying for the Gilman Scholarship, which is only available to students who receive Pell Grants and will be learning abroad. There are a plethora of other scholarships available to apply for through scholarship search engines such as Fastweb, so buckle down and start applying to as many as you can!


Rewards Credit Cards

If you have issues with self-control, stop here. Credit cards can be a slippery slope for some, but if handled the right way they can give you major bonuses for your trip and help you build credit along the way. For students here on the University of Utah campus, I recommend looking into the Student Rewards credit card through University Credit Union. You get one point for every dollar you spend with bonuses like 5X points on U of U purchases (makes buying textbooks less painful), 3X on gas, 2X on restaurants, and more. They have branches all over campus which will make applying for a card and staying on top of your bill a lot easier. If you start putting all of your purchases on a reward card and making sure you pay it off every month, you can get points really quickly and end up with a major cash break towards your trip.  

Everyone should have the opportunity to study abroad if it’s something that they really want to experience. Hopefully these tips help ease the burden on your mind and your bank account when you consider studying abroad!