4 major Financial Keys to Make Study Abroad Affordable
pending a semester abroad and taking in the sights and sounds of another country seems like a luxury that only a lucky few can afford. However, if you plan carefully, spending a semester abroad can be an affordable option. Here are my four major financial keys to making your dream semester abroad a reality.
1. Consider the cost at home vs. abroad.Depending on your home university’s policies, spending a term abroad can actually be a cheaper option than staying at your school for the semester. In England the government subsidizes university fees, so the cost of one semester at the University College London (UCL) was less than the cost of a semester at Harvard. On top of this, most colleges offer grants or financial aid that you can apply for in order to partially or fully fund your semester abroad. For example, Harvard has a policy in which all of my financial aid carries over to my term abroad. Thus my home university covered the major costs of my semester abroad, such as tuition, travel, and housing.
Spending a term abroad can actually be a cheaper option than staying at your school for the semester.However, even if your home university’s study abroad policies are not as generous as you would like them to be, there are also several outside scholarships designed to help fund study abroad, such as the Gilman Scholarship for students on Pell Grants, the Institute of International Education, and Diversity Abroad. Additionally, if you choose to study abroad through IFSA-Butler, you have access to program-specific scholarships and opportunities to work while abroad.
2. Go through a program.Look into programs that facilitate study abroad like IFSA-Butler. IFSA-Butler assisted with my university application, organized the details of my visa, offered group travel arrangements, provided full medical insurance (something crucial that I had not considered), and gave me access to financial plans to help manage paying for my time abroad. However, if you do choose to go through a program like IFSA-Butler, do not feel tied to every aspect of it. For example, during a conversation soon after arriving to London, my friend Victoria shared with me that she had “saved a bit of money by booking [her flight] through a student travel site” instead of using the group arrangements.
3. Location, location, location.When choosing where in the world you will spend your semester abroad, be sure to consider differences in cost-of-living. For example, I knew that studying in England would mean my American dollar would not go as far because of the differences in currency value. Still, London made financial sense for me because I had family living near the city. They helped me reduce the initial start-up costs of studying abroad by loaning me things like linens and crockery and setting me up with a U.K. phone plan. So if you are not too attached to any one location, look into programs in countries where you can get more bang for your American buck.
Look into programs in countries where you can get more bang for your American buck.Wherever you choose to go, once you get to your location keep an eye out for student discounts and guides for cheap living in your city. For example, almost all the stores and coffee shops around my London campus offer student discounts when you present your UCL ID. Also, students qualify for student railcards (for over ground transport) and Oyster Cards (for underground transport) which grant a 1/3 discount on travel. Lastly, in London all of the museums are free including the National Gallery with its stunning collection of paintings from the 13th – 19th century.