Studying abroad is an amazing experience, but only if you choose your study abroad program with your pocket in mind. It is recommended to choose a host country and host city where you can maintain a decent lifestyle without worrying about financial problems the whole time. You should be able to focus on your academics, make new friends, immerse in the host culture and develop on the personal level, instead of experiencing a nervous breakdown due to money issues.
After reading this article you will understand the cost structure and the scale of expenditure that most international students face abroad. Our comprehensive guide helps you to estimate the full cost of your education in a foreign country, including the often hidden costs that no one talks about, but you have to pay them when they incur (and they always do).
At the end of the article you can check the price levels in various countries, so you can prepare financially!
You already thought about it, but you really have to set up a budget for your study abroad program, BEFORE landing in your host country. Ideally, even months before that, because you also have to think about how to pay for studying abroad. You have to break down your budget into different time frames:
1. Total budget abroad
The amount of money you can spend on your study abroad program (this could be one semester, an academic year or more). You should add 20% 'emergency funds' to your calculations, because we, humans, tend to underestimate our costs. Better be safe than facing an unexpected expense and not being able to pay.
2. Semester budget abroad
If you are studying abroad for one semester, then your semester budget is the total budget, but if you are there for a year or more, you use this to check and adjsut your financials in each semester. You will rely more on the semester budget, because it is easier to focus on the next 3-5 months than the whole year. Usually you include extraordinaory costs here, like the initial deposit to rent an apartment, traveling abroad and the amount of return tickets home.
3. Monthly budget abroad
The monthly budget is by far the most convenient and transparent to use. Here you include the biggest part of your regular costs: your rent, utility bills, groceries and transportation. If you overspent or underspent in a certain month, you have a chance to correct it in the next month.
4. Weekly and daily budgets abroad
International students often try to economize and that is absolutely normal, because they rarely have their own income while studying abroad. You may include groceries here, but the most important goal here is to get the feel of your daily spending limit.
Adjustments and exceptions
There are some exceptions to the spending rules and it is difficult to determine sometimes whether you need to spend money on something. Always ask yourself: are you spending money to get something or you spend for the sake of spending?
There are the costs that are all part of our daily lives at home, but we rarely mention them in the context of international education, even though they will make up more than 10% of your expenses abroad. We collected a list of items that may or will cost money but often bagatellized or totally left out when international students do their financial preparation to study abroad.
1. One time travel costs
2. Traveling to your host country
In case you live close to the host country, you may take the bus, train or even go by car. Overseas study abroad destinations are usually best approachable by plane, but probably you wouldn't be the first to arrive on a ship crossing the Atlantic or Pacific ocean. You would arrive in style - could be a good story to tell your first new friends abroad.
Anyhow, fuel costs money, so you can expect to spend anywhere between 100 USD (bus, train, short haul flights) and 2000 USD (long haul flights or ship shape entrance like we mentioned above).
3. Rent expenses abroad
During your study abroad program you can expect to pay around 100-200 USD rent per month for a room in less developed countries while in developed countries the cost of rent may go above 1000 USD per month for a single room in a flat.
Depending on your host institution, you may be offered a free or cheap dormitory placement or you can look for youth hostels or rent a shared room in a flat. Online services, such as AirBnB or Couchsurfing might provide you with a place to stay for some days until you can arrange something more permanent for the rest of your study abroad program.
You often have to share and pay on a monthly basis for the internet and other utilities, so be sure to discuss these in advance (and check your rent contract). In any case, it is better to ask twice than never, especially if you are not familiar with the system.
4. Groceries & other costs abroad
One of the most substantial costs abroad is what you put in your tummy. Depending on your appetite, kitchen skills, culinary delicacy and the frequency you eat out in restaurants, you may spend 100-200 USD per month in less developed nations and 600-700 USD per month if you choose to study in a highly developed country.
Besides doing groceries and keeping your belly full, there are several additional costs you have to keep in mind when you study abroad:
5. Tuition fee while studying abroad
Full-degree international students often face sky high prices to earn an academic degree the USA, the UK, Australia and Canada, but you can study abroad for free in Germany, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Slovenia, Brazil, Sweden or Austria. If you go on an exchange semester at a partner university of your home university, then most likely you don't pay any tuition fee at the host institution (but continue paying at home, if you did before). On the other hand if you individually arrange your exchange program, then you are usually obliged to pay a minimum fee for your home university and pay the full price of the courses at the host institution.
In any case you have to sit down and think through your budget and choose the host country and host institution in line with your financial opportunities.
6. University application costs money
For specific details always check the website of the institution where you apply.
Depending on your study abroad program you might get enough funds from the government or your home university to cover all or most of the expenses during your international student life. Another option is to apply for funds at the government, host university, local cultural or international student organizations. Learn more about funding your study abroad program.