How to Study Abroad Without Going Broke
We get it: the allure of disappearing at the beginning of a semester only to reappear in your friend’s IG stories in a romantic, foreign landscape, with bangs. (Or as they say in the UK, “fringe.”)
And while participating in a study abroad program is a great way to get college credit while expanding your worldview in a meaningful way, these programs can be expensive—especially when trying to get the most out of the experience!
So we’ve compiled a list of great ways to maximize your study abroad without going broke in the process.
Pick the Right Destination
Setting aside partner relations your college/university already has established, the first thing is to pick a country with an affordable cost of living. Seriously: the US dollar goes much farther than you assume, or its value is halved, depending on where your plane lands!
South Asia, Central America, and South America tend to be the most affordable, where you could live on normal tuition and board fees, and some summer savings, without having to work (assuming you could even get employment).
You might also consider enrolling in a foreign university with transferable credits—this could significantly subsidize your tuition costs, freeing up more money for living expenses. For example, French universities are often free or have very low enrollment fees! Lower tuition costs = more baguettes, cheese, and berets.
Know Your Limits
What the gram wants—traipsing around a magical city, under twinkling lights—and what your wallet wants: these can be v different things.
Set a clear budget before leaving, so you know your limits before getting distracted by the new experiences. Also, be prepared to keep a sharp eye on the exchange rate and how it changes—don’t fall into the trap of using “play money.”
Get comfortable with saying “No.” You’re already in a different landscape, a different city, a different culture. Island hopping from there to other nations and adventures is obviously the dream! But the temptation can be entirely cost-inefficient and kneecap your journey before it’s even begun.
Of special note: When leaving your home to study-abroad, it's reasonable and entirely expected to have moments of incredible sadness, loneliness and doubt. If retail therapy and/or wanderlust is your coping mechanism, factor this knowledge into your budget!
Know What Your Work Options Are
You really can’t rely on working while studying abroad, unfortunately. Working visas are not the same as student visas—but some countries make it easier to work. For example, both Australia and New Zealand have much simpler labor laws.
If you’ve got the time, consider teaching English, house sitting, or becoming an au pair. If you have aptitude with the local language and are confident about local customs, pick up a shift tending bar or serving. OR see how you can leverage your skills and take on a side gig hustle. Check out Fiverr for inspo on what you can do (this can also help build your resume and portfolio, especially if you’re in a creative field.)
Find Your Own Place to Stay
Your school may offer to coordinate where you stay—but it is likely a more expensive option than what you could find on your own.
Try programs like Couch Surfing, Airbnbs, staying with friends or family if possible, or other places. Research will be your best friend here.
Don’t Rely on Wire Transfers from Home
It’s tempting to think of international wire transfers as your backup plan—run out of money? Just ask for more from home! However, international wire transfers are very expensive. You’ll pay a fee for the transfer and the exchange rate. These exchange rates can be higher than what you’d pay elsewhere.
Plan to use wire transfers only for emergencies.
In the meantime, most bank cards and credit associations work all over the world. Check with your bank first to make sure your debit and credit cards will work where you’re staying.
Apply for Scholarships and Grants
Lastly, there are many funds with money specially set aside to help students study abroad. Competition is low for many of these programs—you may be surprised at how much money you could win!
At Kora, we’re dedicated to helping college students to have the tools they need not just to survive financially but to thrive financially. That includes truly living, traveling, and gathering the experiences that enrich your life. For more tips and tricks on managing your finances and living large responsibly, check out our blog!
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