Your departure is approaching. It’s almost time to set off for your semester in a foreign country. The excitement is brewing, but there’s something nagging at you. Studying abroad is expensive! Besides tuition and room and board, there will be plenty of other expenses as you go around your new home for the semester. But don’t worry, you have options to help you pay your way through a foreign country without bankrupting you and your family.
While preparing for your semester, you should start off looking at financial aid options your school has to offer. The majority of colleges have special scholarships for students with certain majors or studying in particular countries. There’s also the basic financial aid scholarships based on merit and need, so poking around your college’s website is a must. If you’re going through a different study abroad program not offered by your school, look around their website and call someone in charge. Asking the program managers is always the best place to start.
If none of the school’s scholarships are right for you or you don’t get enough aid from the school, there are other places you can look for help. A good way to help raise money for your extended trip is to do some fundraising. It may sound odd to do without a specific cause or charity other than yourself, but people strongly believe in getting a good education. Reach out to organizations you’re affiliated with, relatives who would be willing to help, and even your community. It might not be Race for the Cure, but you’d be surprised at how many people are able to pitch in. Keep in mind, this option is probably best for the outgoing, persuasive types—the situation will only be awkward if you feel incredibly uncomfortable in the first place and can’t present your case.
While you’re abroad, you can opt for a work-study option. Though this isn’t for everyone, there are lots of opportunities to secure an internship or work-study while you’re out of the nest. Check with your school for any opportunities with their university center abroad, if they have one. You can also work with the abroad center to look for opportunities with your major. Keep in mind if the place you’re going speaks a different language, having this type of opportunity will generally require your knowledge of the language; you might not need to be fluent, but you should be conversational at the least! Also, visas are generally needed as well to work overseas, so talk to your program and who you’re interested in working for to find out the specifics.
Taking out a loan is another option you can explore to help pay for your semester abroad. Again, your first step should be to talk to your school or people who have studied abroad before. They will be more than willing to help you prepare and they’ll surely have plenty of recommendations for you. There are lots of different organizations to go to when planning out your loan, like Sallie Mae, Study Abroad Loans and International Student Loans Center. With so many possibilities, it’s important for you to really talk with your parents and figure out what one works best for you and your financial needs. There’s a lot of information out there, so just take a deep breath and get ready to do some digging. It may be frustrating and overwhelming at first, but the pay off (literally) will be worth it.
Basically, the best way to find out ways to help pay for your study abroad experience and make the most of it is to just do your research and start as early as possible. Spend time working with the program managers at your school, and if you’re not going through your school, work with the program you are going with. Talk to friends or family members who have studied abroad before to get tips and tricks of the trade. Research loans and financial aid options your family thinks is best for you. Most importantly, never be afraid to ask for help!
Be safe, be smart and have fun!
I’m reading Goode’s World Atlas