One of the best experiences in my 20s was studying abroad. I’d watched with envy as friends would plan amazing trips to places like Spain, Japan, and England.

I wanted to go, too. So I did — but not until after I got my four-year degree.

I was struggling to get through college and resorted to working in food services on campus so that I could eat regularly. To this day, I rarely eat pizza because I made it so frequently in college.

The idea of traveling to Europe seemed surreal. Friends had done it, but no one in my family had, so I had few resources as I started mapping out my plan. I had to start from point zero.

Let me be clear: There is huge long-term professional value in being able to travel during your university years and to apply the experience toward your future work-related goals. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that when I was saving for my first trip.

I began working 70-hour weeks in retail, happily standing for eight hours a day — at least half of them on aching feet  — to help fund my goal.

I’m proud to say that after almost a year of asking random people if they would like to use cash or credit and wearing my smiley face, I had enough to buy a ticket to my dream destination.

Foreign travel is not just for rich people — everybody can do it.

If you’re a university student and would like to study abroad, there are some things you should consider when planning your first trip:


How much time do you really have to take a trip abroad? As a student, your options include microprograms (one to three weeks), semester-abroad opportunities, and full-year abroad programs.


Speak with your academic adviser and your school’s study-abroad office to discover what programs will award you credit toward your degree. The length of time will also have a direct impact on how much you pay.

Remember to factor in the costs of your transportation, food, housing, tuition, passport (if you don’t have one), and emergency fund — not to mention budgeting for fun activities and miscellaneous expenses.


If you are in school right now and would like to travel abroad next semester or next year, act quickly.

Start looking at scholarship possibilities and grants. See if family members can help pay for parts of your trip. You may be able to get mileage points from a relative and cut down on travel costs.

Increase your work hours and speak to your student-aid adviser to determine whether your aid package can be applied toward a study-abroad program.

Options Outside of School

For those of you who aren’t in school right now, don’t worry, there are still many ways to achieve your dream of discovering the world.

For example, you may want to consider enrolling in a privately run language school.  Use Google to search for schools in your country of interest. Look for those that offer a cost breakdown and let you connect to the school’s administration to ask questions directly.

A few more tips from my experience:

  • Talk to people who have traveled abroad and ask for their best travel tips.
  • Go to the library and do your research.
  • Decide if the program is not only fun but moves you forward in your career goals.
  • Will you need to communicate in a foreign language?
  • Are you happy being outside your comfort zone?
  • Studying abroad is within your reach. Don’t forget to order your passport as soon as possible.

You may wonder if the 70-hour weeks, missing out on fun and saving like crazy were worth it?

Yes!  As long as there is no mention of pizza.