3 Hidden Costs of Study Abroad

Top Articles on Studying Abroad from Students and Experts

story by Deidre Ellis

Studying abroad is one of the greatest investments you can make in your academic and professional career. The study abroad ROI (return on investment) keeps paying dividends for decades after the end of your experience. So how do you get the best bang for your buck? Make sure you’re not surprised by the full cost of international traveling. Check out a few of the hidden costs below and how to prepare for them (and then join our webinar where we'll discuss even more!):

1) Exchange rate: When budgeting for your experience, think in the currency of your host country. While this may be to your advantage in some countries, in others it is not. So, although you may have saved $3,000 to take with you, know that it may only be about £1,800 when in the United Kingdom. So set your goal in the host currency and reach for that. You’ll also want to better understand the living expenses in your host country. While you may think you are at an advantage because $1 will get you 100¥ in Japan, you’ll want to keep in mind that a coke costs 200¥ and a pizza delivered to your home could cost 3000¥! So remember, you may not have as much as you think despite the extra zeroes. So set up your budget in your host country and you won’t be surprised when you arrive!

2) Fees, fees, and more fees: Whether it’s the fee to obtain a student visa or the foreign transaction fees charged by your bank, you’ll want to be aware of what these fees are and what your plan is to deal with them. While you can’t get around some fees, like those that you have to pay for a visa, you can certainly work around fees like those by a bank account or phone company by identifying alternate ways of using your money. Some banks charge a foreign transaction fee every single time you use your card. One way to combat these fees is to use your card less, and cash more. You can also avoid some ATM fees by identifying a partner bank and only using those ATMs to get cash. When using your cell phone, you may want to consider using apps like WhatsApp, Skype, or Google phone to communicate with family and friends back home and abroad in order to avoid long distance talk and text fees. Contact your bank and other service providers so that you know just what you’re getting yourself into! The key here is to know what the fees are and develop a plan of how to work around them!

3) Cultural and geographic differences: The culture of a particular country will dictate attitudes and expectations towards money. One example is the cost to use restrooms in some countries. While in the U.S. the concept of “public” restrooms is widely accepted, this is not the case in other places – even if you are a patron of a particular establishment. Knowing that it costs to use the restroom can help you plan accordingly! Another example may be the cost of having certain foods shipped to your host country. Many US study abroad students are surprised at the cost of some of their favorite, cheap snacks when they go abroad. One way to get around this is to begin to enjoy the snacks of the host country. You’ll save money and enjoy living like a local!

These are just a few of the hidden costs associated with international travel. One of the best ways to get an idea of what the hidden costs of your destination is to speak to others who have been there. Check out the Student Stories on DiversityAbroad.com to get firsthand accounts of what life was like in your host country. 

We will discuss these hidden fees and more in our next student webinar: Show Me the Money! Explore How to Fund Study Abroad When Money is Tight and Maximize Your Experience. Join us on Wednesday, February, 19th at 4:00PM Eastern Standard Time. Click here for free registration.
Deidre Ellis


Deidre is a Memphis native, a Howard University graduate, and a study abroad alumni turned advocate (Milan, Italy) who has visited over a dozen countries since her study abroad experience. She now serves as the Student Services Manager for Diversity Abroad.

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