A few years ago, I took a leap of faith right out of my comfort zone, over the Atlantic, to land in Ireland on a study program. As a broke college student, this was an unbelievable accomplishment, but I would need a study abroad budget to do it.

Through the program, American students had an opportunity to explore media and culture in Ireland. I was so excited about the idea of attending — until I went to the information session and discovered the tab.

There was no way I could come up with $13,000 plus a $900 round trip to Dublin. I walked out, deflated.

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How Much Does It Cost to Study Abroad?

The average cost of one semester of a study abroad program in a European country is $15,797, according to a study from GoAbroad.com. 

That’s a ton of money to come up with. So it’s not surprising that only 1.8 percent of U.S. college students studied abroad during the 2018–2019 academic year, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators. And, due to travel restrictions during the pandemic, recent numbers have been even lower.

The $13,000 cost of the program I looked at included housing at Trinity College in Dublin, lunch during weekdays, tuition for six semester hours, most admission fees, and medical insurance

Additionally, I needed to pay for my plane ticket, passport, breakfasts and dinners, the application fee of $40, and other travel-related expenses that weren’t included in the cost of the program. My study abroad budget would need to cover it all.

Though I had given up in theory, I couldn’t shake the thought of studying abroad.

So I was determined to find a way. I began to do some research and travel hacking of my own to see if attending was a possibility. I came across organizations that issued travel grants for people just like me.

How to Fund Your Education Abroad

There are a number of resources that can help ease the financial burden of studying abroad in your dream city. Check out this list of grants and scholarships:

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I received an educational grant worth $1,500 from my college.

Then I started saving as much as I could from my $11-per-hour part-time job. Plus I put a tax refund of $2,000 entirely toward my Ireland fund. I soon saw my saving efforts pay off. 

My advice is to remind yourself of the “why.” Cutting back on unnecessary spending becomes worth it when you understand the ultimate goal. I stayed focused on my goal, worked hard, and saved enough money to make my dream a reality.

Tips for Your Study Abroad Budget

If you’re looking for more ways to save money — especially if you’re planning on longer-term travel — consider a few of these money-saving travel hacks:

  • If you have credit cards, see if you can retrieve any cash back or travel rewards points that could go toward lowering the price of your flight.
  • Choose a location where your money will go farther, in terms of exchange value and cost of living.
  • Utilize public transportation wherever and whenever possible.
  • To minimize the cost of accommodations, check out the local hostels. Some of them are extremely affordable. Galway has hostels for as cheap as $30 per night; I stayed in one for a few nights.
  • Look into a temporary legal house swap or Airbnb.
  • Dining out can bust your budget no matter where you are in the world. Since only lunch was included as part of my program, I went grocery shopping each week. Nothing is as cheap as cooking your own food!

The Bottom Line on Study Abroad Budgets

Sometimes, I look back and wonder how I was able to afford to study abroad despite working only part time for $11 per hour. It had everything to do with my determination. When you’re drawn to something that strongly, as I was to Ireland, you will find a way and a budget!

Additional reporting by Ellie Schmitt

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