Your Guide to Studying Abroad

When planning for your study abroad, the first thing you should consider is all the costs. Once you’re aware of what you’ll be spending, it’s time to buckle down and see how you can make it cheaper, easier, and more valuable to your education—which is all about planning.

The Planning Process

study abroad

culture shockPrepare yourself for culture shock

Even if you’re well traveled or have studied abroad before. We’ve traveled much and studied all over the world and one thing we’ve learned: every country is different and it always takes time to adapt. It can be a fun, frustrating, lonely, and rewarding process—but think about it ahead of time. Things to note:

  • Many countries are more visibly religious and conservative than the U.S.
  • Gender roles can be more strictly defined.
  • Standards of dress might be different and are, most often, more conservative.
  • Their food is probably different. But we promise: you will always find something you like, even if you’re in sub-Saharan Africa (we like goat and fufu!) or the Western Desert of Egypt (couscous, please!).
  • Depending on where you study, standards of living can be very different. As is the reliability of internet, electricity, and running water.

Point being: it pays to keep and open mind. Bolster your patience and remember: you’re abroad to learn and to have an adventure. Live it up.

The Costs of Studying Abroad

Studying abroad can be the single most enlightening, rewarding, and enjoyable experience you’ll have during college. It can, however, also be one of the most expensive. It’s not just tuition anymore. It’s the cost of travel. So in order to better prepare for those costs, we’re going to help you understand exactly what they are. That way you can figure out how much you’ll owe. So, all the costs (in a nutshell):

Tuition and Fees

How much you pay will depend on what home university you attend, what program you use, and what host country you pick. A way to keep the costs down is to do everything yourself. Organizing your study abroad and enrolling in a foreign university directly, while harder “logistically speaking”, can save you thousands. If you do it on your own, you may need to ask for a leave of absence from your home institution. Make sure credits transfer so you can still graduate on time.

Keep costs down by:

  • Selecting a cheaper host country. Europe can be costly while say, Thailand is cheaper.
  • Making sure you can use your financial aid. Not all study abroad programs or foreign universities will qualify, so figure out how your aid can travel with you.
  • Learn about scholarships. A lot of universities have scholarships designated specifically for study abroad students. Figure out what they are and apply for all of them.

You will also probably have to pay an admin fee, which is usually in addition to the overall program fee and can often be anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand dollars.


This is the second most expensive aspect of a study abroad, and it pays not to underestimate the cost of moving a person from one country to another. It’s not just a plane ticket. It’s a passport, possibly a student or resident visa fee, immunizations, and luggage fees. Something else to remember: flying home for the holidays is a lot more expensive when home is on the other side of the planet.

Travel once you’re already abroad
These costs are often the most neglected. Once students get abroad, settle in their host country, and find their adventurous spirit, they usually want to continue traveling. Maybe that’s weekends away. Or maybe they use breaks to head further afield, perhaps visiting entirely different countries. That’s more visas and more transportation costs, and they can add up fast. It pays, then, to plan ahead. Know what “extracurricular” trips you want to take, and how much they’re going to cost, ahead of time.
Cost of Living
Think about all the costs you have now, then do your best to translate them to your host country. You might get lucky and end up in a country that’s significantly cheaper. You might, on the other hand, end up in a country where the cost of living is significantly higher—much of Europe, for example. Even many Asian countries can be more expensive, like Japan and Taiwan.
Lost Income
Another frequently neglected “cost” isn’t actually a cost at all, but is rather the lost value of money you won’t be earning. Often study abroad students aren’t permitted to formally work in their host country (either because of program restrictions of because they don’t qualify for a work visa). That means you might have to forego the part-time job and subsist on savings.
Other Costs
There’s a million extra things you might spend your money on that you wouldn’t have to buy in your normal life. A new cell phone. Travel guides. Tours. Extracurricular classes. Mementos. International calls home. Internet cafes. You’ll also probably feel more inclined to go out, eat out, et cetera—just as a way to experience the new culture. All of these things are valid and good uses of money. But it pays to plan for them.

Paying For Your Studies

Paying for a study abroad program is much like paying for anything else in your life: you’ve got to find ways to cut costs and pull in more money. Aside from our regular advice on how to spend less and earn more, here’s a few tips related specifically to studying abroad:

  • Check with your financial aid office first thing, and ask if you can use your normal financial aid package to help fund your study abroad program. You may find that study abroad programs approved by your school can be funded by the aid you’ve already been awarded.
  • If you are applying directly to your host school and it is listed in the Federal Code Search (, you can use your federal student loans to help pay for it. Just select “Foreign Country” in the State box, then enter the city you’re studying in or the school name.
  • There’s plenty of scholarships intended solely for students studying abroad. Check with your financial aid office and the study abroad office for more details. Your department may also have grants available, depending on your field of study, so check with them as well. Rotary ( is also known for helping students study abroad, so check with your local chapter and see if they have any scholarships available.
  • Private student loans are available for use while studying abroad. Check directly with your lender for options.

College Finances and Bills