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:
- Scholarship Portal: Search for scholarships by region and area of study through this extensive online database.
- American Association of University Women Funding & Awards: Provides funding for graduate (and professional) women conducting international projects.
- AIFS Study Abroad: Offers a multitude of scholarships for different academic programs and types of students.
- College Board’s Scholarship Search: Matches students with scholarships from more than 2,200 different programs.
- Diversity Abroad: Delivers scholarships and grants for minority, low-income, and first-generation students.
- Fast Web: Find a wide range of scholarships to help meet financial needs for studying abroad based on interests and skills.
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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.