If you’re thinking, “I want to study abroad but I can’t afford it,” you’re not alone. Studying abroad is a huge expense, and it’s normal for students to not have several grand just sitting around in the bank to finance their travel goals. Sure, having a rich uncle might make things easier, but saving enough to study abroad doesn’t have to be an impossible task.
So boot up those Excel files, open up a savings account, and update your resume, because studying abroad is possible for everyone – yes, even you! Figuring out how to afford study abroad is challenging, no doubt, but just think of it as a warm up exercise for all the things you’ll learn when you’re abroad. Dedication, persistence, and enthusiasm are necessary traits for fundraising and traveling, and soon you’ll be a pro at both!
Figuring out how to afford study abroad takes effort
While it may be feasible to study abroad on the cheap, no one ever said it was easy. If you want to go abroad, but no money in your bank account is stopping you, you’re going to need to make a plan. The best way to make your study abroad trip a reality is to make some major changes to the way you earn and save money, and we’re talking about a lot more than giving up that daily Starbucks habit.
Yet with great sacrifice comes great reward, and before you know it, you’ll be wandering through the medina in Marrakesh or studying wildlife in South Africa. Keep your eye on the prize, because going abroad is achievable if you stay dedicated.
Want to study abroad but no money? Here’s what to do
Before you get into that “I want to study abroad but I can’t afford it” mindset, stop that negative self-talk! With a little bit of tenacity, a whole lot of hard work, and some research, you too can figure out how to afford study abroad.
To get you started on the right track, we’ve laid out some of the most important points to consider when planning for your study abroad adventure:
Know how much you need to save
Study abroad is expensive, but just how expensive is it? Instead of freaking yourself out by thinking you need to save massive amounts of money, do your research to better understand the costs of studying abroad. First, check out GoAbroad’s guide on average costs of study abroad programs to get a feel for how costs vary from country to country and program to program.
Keep in mind that costs can vary a lot, and there’s usually a good reason why one program costs so much more than another comparable program: inclusions. While some programs only cover tuition and registration, other programs may require you to pay up front for things like housing, a meal plan, excursions, and airfare. In some cases, these included costs can save you time and money (hello, trying to find affordable lodging in London!), but usually choosing a program that requires you to organize your own logistics is a more economical option.
The best way to decide which inclusions are important is to ask yourself: how much do things like food and rent cost in your host country? Do you already speak the language? How easy is it for a foreigner to arrange logistics with limited local contacts? Answering these questions will help you determine what things you’d rather pay for in advance and what you can arrange after you arrive.
Choose your destination wisely
It’s common knowledge that some places on the planet are quite expensive, no matter what currency you’re operating in. If you’re trying to travel on the cheap, avoid these places. Yes, London in the springtime is lovely and the chocolate in Zurich is to die for; however, there are many other incredible destinations that are much, much more affordable.
Just a little bit of research is all that’s needed to uncover plenty of inexpensive destinations for great study abroad experiences. If you’ve got your heart set on a specific destination that isn’t known for being kind to traveler’s wallets, you can still find cheaper options in places like Spain or Paris.
Flight costs can be a big expense when planning a trip abroad, so choosing a destination that’s a bit closer to home can help you save a couple hundred dollars that you could use elsewhere. There are also many tips and tricks for finding cheap airfare, so be sure to check out several options before booking your flight!
Search out scholarships, grants, and fellowships
Did someone say free money? Ok, well, scholarships aren’t exactly no-strings-attached cash money, but they can be a great way to finance your study abroad trip with minimal effort. If you’re trying to figure out how to study abroad if you are poor, scholarships are one of the best ways to accomplish your goal.
There are a LOT of scholarships out there, and no matter what your major, background, destination, or financial situation is, there’s a scholarship out there with your name on it. Make sure to do your research, read the fine print, and get your friend to edit that personal statement, because paying attention to details is what will make or break your application.
Scholarships may not cover all of your travel costs, but even winning a $500 award can help make things easier. While they do take time to research and apply for, scholarships are one of the best ways to solve your “I want to study abroad but I have no money” dilemma.
Use that financial aid
If you’re a student currently enrolled at a university or college, you’re probably eligible to receive some sort of financial aid. Did you know that you can use financial aid toward study abroad expenses too? If you participate in a study abroad program that’s approved by your school’s study abroad office, chances are you can use your existing loans toward study abroad tuition payments.
If using federal financial aid isn’t an option, you can always look into other types of loans as well. Private loans can often be used for study abroad, but make sure you look into the terms before signing anything. Interest rates on private loans can be much higher than federal loans, so keep this in mind as you map out your savings strategy.
Put your skills to work and get a job
Maybe you’re already working, but if not, it’s time to get a job! Start applying for any opening you can find. After all, you’ve got a goal to reach! But seriously, everything from bagging groceries and walking dogs to babysitting and working retail is fair game, because every paycheck is one step closer to your study abroad experience.
So what to do with all those paychecks coming your way? Make sure you set up a system so your newly earned income doesn’t disappear into the register at the local cafe. A dedicated savings account is one of the best ways to stash that money aside for travel, and as you watch the balance grow, your psych level will grow, too.
Become a fundraising expert
A part-time job is a great way to ensure you have a constant flow of cash running into your savings account, but fundraising can also be a good way to boost your balance and get you to your goal faster. Fundraising can take many different forms, from hosting a dinner to holding a yard sale to crowdfunding on the internet. Figuring out what works best may take some trial and error, but if you stay motivated and creative, fundraising can be a great way to earn some extra moola for your trip.
For the internet-savvy (and who isn’t these days?), a great way to reach your personal network is to set up an account at FundMyTravel. This travel-specific crowdfunding site is an easy way to announce your goal and keep track of donations.
Make your budget work for you
Budgeting is the number one skill for you to master if you’re trying to figure out how to study abroad if you are poor. While those spreadsheets can feel overwhelming at first, a good budget is the key for any traveler to go farther and stay longer.
Your first task is to set up a budget for yourself to save as much as possible before your trip. You can check out this travel budget planner for an easy, step-by-step guide on how to keep track of your spending and maximize savings. A good budget is only as good as your self-control, so make sure you stick to it in order to reach your goal by your departure date.
Once you’ve saved enough for your study abroad program, you should be a pro at budgeting, so following these tips on sticking to a budget while abroad should be easy peasy. By the time you reach your destination, you should have done enough research to understand your general expenses, but unexpected costs can and do pop up. Make sure you’ve included some extra padding in your budget to ensure a stress-free trip.
Swap study abroad for something else
Yes, you want to study abroad, but hear us out! Studying abroad may be the most common way students go overseas in college, but it’s certainly not the only way to have a great international experience. Options like volunteering, interning, or working abroad can get you abroad faster and for less money (or for free!), and you’ll likely gain some professional work experience, too.
Language schools can be a great way to learn a new language and live abroad without participating in a formal academic program. An added bonus to these programs is that their course dates are more flexible, so you can stay as long as you can afford, from a couple of weeks to several months.
Interning abroad is typically a lot cheaper than studying abroad, and in some cases you may still be able to earn academic credit at your university or college. Even if you don’t receive any official academic benefit, you’ll add some new lines to your resume and gain a whole lot of knowledge about a new culture, not to mention yourself.
If you’ve learned anything from this article, it’s that “I want to study abroad but I have no money” doesn’t have to be a barrier to going abroad. Sure, spending a whole year in Rome might not be realistic at this moment, but there are hundreds of other ways to go abroad on the cheap. You could still attend a language school to improve your Italian skills, or you could throw caution to the wind and do something totally different, like volunteering in Zambia for a summer.
Want to study abroad but have no money? Hopefully the above tips can help
Saving the necessary funds isn’t easy, especially when you have bills and tuition to pay on top of any money you earn. There will be times when it doesn’t feel worth it, but don’t be discouraged. Hundreds of thousands of people each year work their butts off to make international travel happen, and you can be one of them. If you’re in need of some inspiration, remind yourself why you want to go abroad in the first place, and then get back to work.