Funding Your Study Abroad Adventure
All too often, undergrads dismiss the idea of studying abroad because they assume the experience comes with a hefty price tag. While many programs might not be wholly inexpensive, you can certainly find a way to fund your time off campus. Similar to everything else within higher education, you simply need to do a little legwork first.
As soon as you start entertaining thoughts of going abroad, you should schedule appointments with both the financial aid and study abroad offices at your school. Inquire as to the policies the college has adopted. Universities are required to extend aid to approved programs (the exception sometimes being federal work-study); you just need to figure out which programs fall into that category.
Moreover, if you attend a state school and enroll in a pre-approved program, it’s likely you’ll only be required to pay your in-state tuition. It’s also common for your home institution to pay your abroad program while you make your regular tuition payments. Unfortunately, this deal can be a mixed bag for undergraduates at private institutions. This is because some study abroad programs can be cheaper than your regular tuition. In some cases, it might be more affordable/ or optimal to take a semester off to go abroad and then re-enroll when you return. However, before you rush into anything you should discuss the matter (and all options) with an advisor.
The cost of studying abroad will obviously vary depending on the program and location you choose. When researching the myriad of options available, it’s important to note that the tuition listed might not be indicative of the total cost. Indeed, a program that appears cheaper at first glance might not be taking facets such as room and board into account. Additionally, another program might be pricier because it provides more amenities.
Further, when trying to tally up your total cost, there are a number of factors to consider. These include passport fees (if you don’t already have a valid one), visa (required by many countries), transportation (both airfare to your destination and local transportation you’ll depend upon during the semester/year), inoculations (if necessary), insurance, food and pocket change for incidentals. Also, don’t forget that you’ll likely want to travel, both around your host country and possibly to other neighboring countries. And you’ll need to account for exchange rates (which tend to fluctuate).
One important note: don’t expect or anticipate that you’ll be able to find employment while abroad. Rules and regulations vary between countries and often potential employers can’t (or won’t) hire foreigners. Moreover, some places require work visas which take time and energy to acquire. Before heading abroad, be sure to research the legality and feasibility of landing a job.
Finally, if you’re still concerned about cost, don’t fret. There are numerous places for you to seek funding. The U.S. government offers certain loans and scholarships for students desiring to go abroad. Additionally, some foreign governments also provide financial assistance, in the hopes of attracting students and promoting their country. Further, there are many private companies and organizations that are happy to help sponsor an undergraduate. Lastly, don’t forget to look in your own backyard. Indeed, many domestic colleges and universities set aside funds to assist their students.
Studying abroad is a unique opportunity that truly is open and available to any interested undergraduate. As long as you plan in advance (deadlines sneak up more quickly than you anticipate) and take the time to determine how much you actually need, you’ll likely be able to set off on any academic adventure. So, what are you waiting for? Turn the world into your classroom!