group of gap year program students on a hike in Peru looking out on the mountains
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How to Fund Your Study Abroad Trip

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Nicole Adams

Studying abroad is a life-changing experience that allows students to immerse themselves in new experiences, cultures and ways of life. For some it may feel like a dream come true, but for others it may feel like a daydream as studying abroad can be financially out of reach for many. Luckily, there are a number of different options to help make traveling abroad more accessible. Here are some suggestions on how to fund your study abroad trip.

How to Pay for Your Study Abroad Adventure 

Whether you hope to spend a summer exploring an international city, a whole year in a new country, or earn your degree at an international university, living and studying abroad is an adventure of a lifetime, but what if the price tag is daunting? Start with a budget- track your bare minimum monthly expenses, then research what they’ll look like abroad. The cost of living is different all over the world, so you’ll need to choose a location that’s within your budget in addition to the cost of the actual program. 

Some countries are more expensive than others, so if you’re worried about covering your travel and living costs, consider a more inexpensive location for your study abroad. Or if a full semester program is way out of your budget, you could consider a summer or shorter duration program that requires less of a financial commitment. Planning is essential, it’s important to understand the cost-of-living differences between where you live now and your destination, and what those differences will mean for your lifestyle. 

If you plan far enough ahead, you might have enough time to work and save money before you leave the United States to fund your trip. You’ll likely need to start saving one to three years in advance, so get started on a side hustle and start cutting back on unnecessary expenses like a daily trip to the coffee shop or purchasing clothes or items you don’t really need. Depending on the type of program you choose, you might be able to work during your time abroad, just be sure to check if you’ll need a special work visa or if you’re able to do freelance work abroad.

group of gap year program students on a hike in peru looking out on the mountains

Funding Your Study Abroad Experience 

There’s a good chance you’ll need to combine multiple financial strategies as you determine how to pay for your study abroad. There are hundreds of scholarships and grants you can apply for and depending on the program you choose, the financial aid available may be sufficient to cover all of your major expenses. Here are some ideas beyond your personal savings and current income to consider if you’re struggling to foot the travel bill. 

  • Financial Aid: if you’re currently enrolled in college and receiving financial aid, check with your home institution to see if your financial aid package can be applied to a study abroad program. 
  • 529 Educational Savings Fund: is a savings plan operated by a state or educational institution so families can set aside funds for future college costs. These funds can sometimes be used for college courses on gap semesters and some summer programs.
  • External Scholarships: consider applying for scholarships including the HI USA Explore the World Travel Scholarship and USA Gap Year Fair Scholarship and others designed specifically for study abroad. Start your search well in advance and apply to as many relevant scholarships as possible for better odds of receiving funds.
  • FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, grants students a financial aid offer through the U.S. Department of Education. There are four types of federal loans: direct subsidized loans, direct unsubsidized loans, direct PLUS loans, and direct consolidation loans. They are often less expensive than private loans, with fixed interest rates and more flexible repayment schedules.
  • Fundraising Campaign: if all else fails, a fundraising campaign is a creative option for students seeking an alternative to receiving lending from a financial institution. You can create crowdfunding campaigns, host events, or reach out to family, friends, and local organizations for support.

Remember to plan ahead, explore multiple funding sources, and be proactive in seeking financial assistance. A combination of these strategies can help you secure the necessary funds to make your study abroad trip a reality. Where There Be Dragons strives to make our programs accessible to students of all economic means and provide support as best we can. Learn more about our financial aid process and feel free to contact us with questions. 

One Comment

  1. James Hutt |

    Thank you for generously sharing your expertise with us. Your article has been incredibly enlightening, offering valuable insights and recommendations that have significantly eased my journey preparations. I’ve been a dedicated follower of your blog for some time now, continually impressed by the depth and quality of your content.

    Your guidance has made a substantial difference in my study abroad trip preparations, alleviating stress and uncertainty along the way. Your support and encouragement have been invaluable, and I’m truly grateful for the guidance you’ve provided.


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