You’ve seen those study-abroad flyers around on campus and they look enticing. An exotic land with exotic food and people. Perhaps you would like to expand your cultural horizons.
Sounds like the perfect adventure to experience while getting an education, doesn’t it?
If you’ve hung around here long enough, you most likely know that we are fans of making sure you count the cost of studying abroad before you fill out the paperwork and commit to it. Unwelcome financial surprises are the worst.
The first reality of studying abroad is that how much it costs will depend on the country you are traveling to. Thus, in this post, while you will not find hard numbers, we will go over the individual items you should consider while you research how much it will cost you to study abroad.
How Much Does It Cost to Study Abroad?
Where Do You Want to Study?
The first thing to consider if you are thinking about studying abroad is to think of where you want to study.
Location is important for a few reasons:
- It will determine how much you will potentially pay in tuition and fees.
- It will determine how much you can expect to spend on living expenses.
- Since we are doing this for the experience too, deciding on the right location will help you fulfill that need too.
Most universities abroad charge higher tuition and fees for international students. And even then, you will find that the cost of some universities — in Europe, for example — don’t charge nearly as much for education as you would be expected to pay at a U.S. college.
For instance, in Switzerland, university fees and tuition range between $850 and $3,500 per year for an international student, depending on the school you choose to go to. However, you can expect to pay over $1,000 per month for an apartment if you don’t live in student housing.
Thus, in estimating your cost, it is important to take the location into consideration.
How Much Does Healthcare Cost?
It is important to consider how much healthcare will cost you when you study abroad.
Even in countries where healthcare is free, the cost of healthcare is built into their tax system. Thus, since you’re a foreigner and have not contributed, it might not be free for you. It is therefore important to factor healthcare into your costs.
Healthcare in general is expensive everywhere.
If you decide to study abroad in malaria-endemic regions, it is important to get all the information you can get on the immunizations you will need before you hop on the plane.
It is also not a bad idea to look into health insurance companies who have what is commonly called a “global plan” to see if you can get the necessary coverage while on your travels.
Consider the Cost of Living
This was mentioned earlier but worth reiterating: your expenses when you study abroad will not just be fees and tuition.
You also have to think about your:
It is also important to consider the exchange rate and the inflation rate of the country. In most industrialized countries, exchange rates are fairly stable and so you can expect that the prices of things will not go up by much while you’re studying there.
In developing economies, however, you will find that there are major fluctuations in the currency and so prices of things can change drastically from week to week. It’s important to be aware of this before you get surprised.
If you choose to go to school in an urban city, costs are definitely going to be higher than if you choose to go to a university in a more rural area.
Count the Emotional Cost Too
There is an emotional cost to traveling abroad.
If you’re close to your family, you will miss them — especially in a land far from home. You may not be able to come home for holidays and that can be emotionally tasking as well.
On the flip side, you will be able to find friendships and relationships that can temporarily fill the gap.
Many colleges abroad have some sort of “immersion program” where you’re “adopted” by a local family so you can experience life from the point of view of the locals. If you can sign up for those experiences, do so! It will make the transition and your stay so much easier.
So now that you know the questions you should ask yourself as you consider the cost of studying abroad, let’s look at how you can cover these costs.
How to Pay for the Cost of Studying Abroad
The Further and Higher Education Act of 1992 mandates that a student can receive financial aid for their studies abroad if it is approved by the home institution. As you can see, this means you have to have a “home institution.”
Thus, the first place you want to go to start asking questions — about the cost of your education abroad — is your bursar’s office. They will be able to guide you on what is covered and what is not while you’re studying abroad.
Under the Further and Higher Education Act of 1992, you have access to some resources:
- Direct Subsidized Loans
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans
- Direct PLUS Loans
- The Federal Pell Grant: This grant is for students who are in exceptionally needy situations.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
- The Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship Program which is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. This is a scholarship program that is only open to undergraduate Federal Pell Grant recipients who intend to study abroad for a semester, summer, or yearlong program.
- If you are language student who is traveling abroad to study a foreign language, you can apply for the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships program. This program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education.
- Your department or your university may have scholarships for study-abroad programs as well.
- Financial aid administered by your home state may also cover some of those costs.
- The international university you’re attending may also have scholarships for international students. Don’t forget to look here as well!
Nothing can replace the experiences you acquire in life. If you want to study abroad, don’t let the cost of it stop you from experiencing something different. Just make sure you do your due diligence in fully researching the cost of studying abroad so you don’t find yourself in a bind in a foreign land.
Looking for even more information on international education and scholarships? The Institute of International Education has a database you can research for programs and scholarships.
Happy studying and happy travels!
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him here and here.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.