By Savannah Sicurella, University of Georgia
Studying abroad provides students the opportunity to experience cultural perspectives, styles of education and academic, professional and social environments different from their own.
It can be a transformative thing, undergraduate study abroad alum Tatiana Anthonysaid, but the experience of living, learning and laboring in another country isn’t cheap.
With the average cost of studying abroad in 2019 amounting to roughly $14,295, according to a global cost analysisby travel directory GoAbroad, the financial hurdles students must jump through when planning a semester abroad are transparent.
For Anthony, who set her sights on studying abroad early in her academic career at the University of Georgia, cost weighed as a heavy enough burden. But those expenses motivated her to apply for scholarships and external grant funding two semesters ahead of applying for a specific program. She knew that if she didn’t have the money upfront, studying abroad wouldn’t be a reality for her.
“If you look at the numbers, it’s very clear who’s most likely to study abroad,” Anthony said. “And unfortunately that’s not kids in the minority. But if you want it, you can get it.”
Yana Cornish, global education director at the University of Georgia, said “increased funding opportunities” have contributed to a growth in study abroad participation.
But despite the growing percentage of students studying abroad, cost still remains one of the three top deterrents of studying abroad for both American and British college students, according to a 2017 reportby educational nonprofit The British Council.
Anthony, now a senior psychology major, “went hard” to prepare herself for the financial commitment. Setting the goal to pursue a service-based Maymester in Tanzania, she studied the estimated cost sheet for the program and cleared out how much money she needed to commit.
Anthony then got to work: after a “grueling” period of researching, applying and reapplying for several scholarships, Anthony received five separate awards to fund her desired program, including the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.
“That’s what’s scary about studying abroad — jumping in financially,” Anthony said. “You need to have a realistic idea of where their money is coming from, because once you apply and you get in and you actually commit, even if you don’t go, you still have to pay those program fees. You need to be real.”
Students must “clearly” understand the costs involved and “be aware of payment deadlines and when scholarships are disbursed” during the budgeting and fundraising processes, Cornish said.
Websites like studyabroadfunding.org and USA Study Abroad’s financial resources portalserve as resources for students looking to cast a wide net for partial or full-ride scholarships, but often the first and most direct step of applying for funding begins with setting up appointments with university financial aid or global engagement offices, Anthony said.
Despite the hefty financial undertaking, Anthony said the costs were justified in the context of the experiences she gained.
The metrics of studying abroad show each experience pays off in dividends: the Georgia Learning Outcomes of Students Studying Abroad Research Initiative (GLOSSARI), which examined University System of Georgia data from 2000 to 2007, found students who studied abroad had higher graduation rates grade point averages than domestic students.
But the greatest impact of studying abroad is often “less tangible,” Cornish said.
Studying in Tanzania changed her life, Anthony said, and was worth every waking hour she spent writing up scholarship essays and cover letters.
“If you let it, studying abroad can change you.” Anthony said. “Getting those scholarships was no walk in the park, but it worked out. My head is so big now— you can’t tell me nothing.”
Savannah Sicurella is a journalism major in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.