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Students on a Budget Abroad

Posted on May 01, 2019

Although being from an economically disadvantaged background and having high financial need can seem as a major hindrance to your ability to study abroad, it doesn’t have to be. There are many ways for you to make study abroad affordable, including scholarships, grants, and using existing financial aid. It's important to review all of your funding options to ensure that studying abroad is something you can afford to do, while also giving yourself enough of a financial cushion that you actually enjoy your time abroad. It requires balance and patience, but when well-prepared, students can certainly go abroad having spent little to no extra funds.


Choosing a Location

One of the smartest ways to make study abroad feasible is by choosing a destination with a low cost of living. While some countries are notoriously more expensive to live in than the U.S., such as England, other non-traditional locations are often cost-effective and mean that you'll spend a lot less living abroad. In fact, studying abroad can even be cheaper than staying on campus because your housing and food costs can be so much cheaper overseas!

If you're open to a location where the U.S. dollar can take you further, you also increase your chances of securing some of the most competitive scholarships that exist. This is because scholarship providers try to award students from a variety of institutions, identities, fields of study, and of course, destinations. By choosing a location less-traveled, not only can your study abroad experience be more affordable, you can also open yourself up to being awarded more awards relative to other common, more competitive countries.

Checking your Financial Aid Package

In general, it's always wise to start considering the feasibility of going abroad by checking how much of your Financial Aid package is transferable to a study abroad program. Financial aid is based on need, merit, or sometimes both. There is no one rule across all colleges or universities about whether or not your financial aid package can be used to go abroad, so make sure you arrange an appointment to confirm which funds can be applied. Other requirements that factor into your financial aid or scholarship options include your citizenship and enrollment in a certain number of credits. Talk with your financial aid counselor to discuss what kinds of aid are available to you. Be sure to ask:

  • How much of my existing financial aid package can be used for study abroad?
  • How and when should I apply for financial aid for study abroad?
  • How much does it cost to study abroad?
  • What kind of aid is available for intersession or summer programs?
  • Scholarships

Of course, there are plenty of scholarships that are available to help alleviate the costs of going abroad. Diversity Abroad has several scholarship options to help you pay to make studying abroad a reality. Keep in mind that many scholarship applications require lots of hard work and planning. For more tips on how to successfully write a strong scholarship application, check out our Scholarship resources and Tips for Writing an Award Winning Application.


Another way to help finance your study abroad experience is through personal fundraising. Not only is it a way for you to earn money, it also gets your friends and family involved in your study abroad plans. Personal fundraising can be particularly helpful in reducing the costs of non-study abroad programs, such as internships and volunteering, which may have fewer scholarships and grants available. There are many different activities that fall under the category of personal fundraising, such as:

  • Online crowd-sourced fundraising campaigns (try GoFundMe or FundMyTravel)
  • Letter writing campaign to family and friends
  • Asking members of your church or other community members
  • Candy and bake sales
  • Auctions
  • Car washes
  • Asking people to sponsor you

Stretch your finances

No matter when you go abroad and how you fund it, good money management will help you make the most of your financial resources. Before you go abroad, put together a budget. Make a list of expenses, which should include:

  • Living expenses: housing, meals
  • Academic expenses: tuition, books
  • Travel expenses: airfare, passport, visa, local transportation
  • Communication expenses: internet access, cell phone
  • Program expenses: application fee, group excursions
  • Health and safety expenses: insurance, immunizations
  • Personal expenses: toiletries, souvenirs, entertainment

Author: Diversity Abroad Community

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