How to budget for a study abroad experience

By Maria Schneider 

Depending on your major, a lot of college students decide to study abroad during their undergraduate studies. However, a lot also decide they can’t because of the money. No matter where you’re studying, going abroad for even just a few weeks to a whole semester can get expensive, but I believe it’s entirely possible if you follow these steps.  

First, apply! Apply! Apply! Scholarships are your best friend when it comes to study abroad. Before you even pick a program, start researching different scholarship options that are available to you through the school of your major, the university’s study abroad office, and outside institutions. These will come in many different forms so get creative, research scholarships for what you’re currently studying, how you plan to use that degree, and personal characteristics such as family income and even race. For example, a big scholarship opportunity for many students is the Fulbright scholarship. This is a $1,000 scholarship offered to Pell Grant recipients, which can cut a big chunk off your overall expenses. 

Second, once you’ve applied to as many scholarships as possible, work with your study abroad financial advisor to create a budget for your chosen program. This will look like a spreadsheet with sections explaining exactly how much each thing will cost, such as tuition, housing, possible textbooks, program fees, plane tickets, health insurance, food, and everyday expenses. Some of these will be an estimate so always average it a little higher, as to avoid any surprise costs.  

Another thing you will want to budget for is side travel, depending on where you go, you might want to check out other local towns or close by countries so save a section for that in your budget. Depending on your chosen program and location, the total can be anywhere from $5,000- $20,000. That sounds like a lot of money, but don’t freak out just yet! 

Usually, the standard financial aid you receive throughout the semester will count towards your tuition, which will be the biggest number from that total. So, consult your financial aid advisor and find out just how much aid you will be receiving.

Third, thoroughly organize who will be paying for what. By this I mean you should allocate which sources of money, whether it be scholarships, financial aid, student loans, or your own savings, will be paying for which expense. For example, when I studied abroad I made sure all my financial aid and scholarships went towards tuition first. 

I made a deal with my parents where they helped cover half of whatever was left. All personal expenses including groceries, side trips, and plane tickets were up to me. By using this method, I was able to clearly see and control how much money I had left and which expenses would be already covered. I cannot stress this enough, how vital this step is. It suddenly makes the huge overwhelming number you will get from your study abroad financial advisor, not so huge and scary.  

Once you complete these steps, studying abroad will feel much more accessible. And of course, try to make as much money on the side as you possibly can. However, speaking from experience, the cost of going abroad, having those experiences, and having that on your resume, is well worth it so try not to stress too much about spending it. 


Maria Schneider is a student at the University of Missouri

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