Studying abroad: passports, transportation, and housing

studying abroadThe first expense for a student studying abroad is a current passport. Numerous countries require that students have more than 6 months left on their passport before its expiration date. With recent changes at the borders there has been a deluge of applications for passports. Applications sent in the spring could take as long as 6-8 weeks to process.

Step 1: Apply for the passport as soon as possible, preferably during the slower fall or winter season. You will spend approximately $10-20 for the required two passport photos. Most drugstores that have photo processing will take these pictures without an appointment.

Step 2: Pick up a passport application from the post office and gather the necessary documents. Your student must present the application in person and must show a certified birth certificate and Driver’s License or government or military ID card for identification purposes.

Step 3: Check online to determine which local post office accepts these applications and note the hours when applications are accepted. Times are strictly enforced so you’ll need to allow time to wait in line. Cost of a passport for an adult (anyone over the age of 16) is $100; $75 for the Department of State and $25 for the U. S. Post Office. Visit for further details.

Step 4: Check with the university’s Study Abroad office to see if a visa is also required. Visa policies vary based on the country to be visited and the length of the stay. My son did not need a visa to travel to Italy for the eight week summer term; on the other hand, the Spanish Embassy required that my nephew travel to Chicago, in person, to get a visa to Spain since his program would last all fall semester.

Airfare is one of your biggest expenses. Check to see if the summer program packages the cost of the airfare with the tuition bill. If not, then you are free to search the Internet or use your own travel agency. Some schools have Study Abroad grants to ease the cost of the airfare; check the Financial Aid office for an application. Most programs require that students arrive at a specified airport on a particular date and time since they’ve arranged bus or other transportation to the university. If your child misses this shuttle or flies to the wrong airport, then YOU are responsible for their transportation to the school.

Weekend travel is a major expense for students studying abroad. Most programs run classes Monday through Thursday with three day weekends designated to explore neighboring cities or countries. Students can reduce their costs by staying in youth hostels and traveling by train. European rail passes come in many varieties depending on the days of consecutive travel, the number of countries visited and the number of stops made by the train. Rail passes can be purchased prior to leaving the U. S. but are easily purchased at local travel agencies. We traveled across Italy from Rome to the coastal town of Pesaro (a four hour trip) for 24 Euros per person.

There are many options for low-cost housing. My nephew stayed in a private home in Barcelona where rooms were rented to three students; another friend opted for a home stay with a host family in Luxembourg. My son shared an apartment in Urbino with two older students while younger students stayed in dorm rooms closer to the university.

It seems like a study abroad program might be out of reach, but be sure to fully investigate all of the expenses and possible sources of funding – such as financial aid and scholarships – before ruling it out.


College Finances and Bills