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Fund your study abroad program

Date of publishing: 2016.09.20     Published by Attila M.

Financing your experience abroad

Financing your international education might seem intimidating at first and many just give up, well before they get started, because they think they do not have the money to study abroad. Some people still think that studying abroad is something that only the wealthiest can afford.

But they are wrong, studying abroad is not for the one percent! Quite the opposite, it is becoming the new standard!

The study abroad experience is for those, who are brave and determined enough to go for it. If you do not have money, look for source of financial aid. Where there is will, there is a way. As soon as you start searching, you will bump into plenty of alternatives to straighten your bank account before, during and after studying abroad. In this section we collected the most efficient ways to kick-start a financially healthy study abroad program.

Financial planning abroad - how to pay for your international education?

Studying abroad for a semester, taking a gap year or starting a full-degre program abroad comes at a price. We already discussed the costs of studying abroad, but let's recap some of the major expenses that will surely bite in your savings account. Rent, traveling, utilities, groceries, entertainment, certain administration fees (e.g. visa, entry exams and registration fees), insurance and tuition fee (if applicable) will be the biggest costs on your study abroad program. Now that you have an honest estimation of the total cost of your international education, broken down to months we can move further.

The second step, the topic of this article, is to consider what you can afford right now and what other options you have to cover the expenses of your study abroad experience. So let's see how you can solve your financial difficulties and make the most of studying abroad!

There are numerous ways to fund your study abroad experience and they all have their benefits and drawbacks. Let's take a quick look at the list of available options before going into details.

  1. Mama or papa is paying for your international education (very convenient)
  2. You grind money with hard work (looks like a lot of sweating)
  3. You get a grant for an exchange semester at a partner university (if there is such)
  4. You apply for a corporate scholarship (you may be the chosen one)
  5. You apply for full-degree scholarships abroad (and live happily ever after)
  6. You get a student loan (welcome to modern slavery)
  7. You hope to work abroad part-time (hope dies last)
  8. You work abroad remotely (because why not?)

Do you get it? It does not matter which one you choose, these are all okay ways to get your money to study abroad. Some are riskier than others. Understand the risks and possible benefits, and think about how are you going to put that money to good use while studying abroad. You are investing that money into your education and your post study abroad career.

'An investment in knowledge pays the best interest' says Benjamin Franklin. That is hundred times true for studying abroad. Benjamin Franklin knew something.

Now let's see how you can afford to become an international student!

The advantages and disadvantages of your study abroad funding options

We give you the pros and cons of each financing option. There is no good or bad option: there is more or less risky, more or less convenient, more or less suitable for you personally. The rule of thumb is that it's worth investing in studying abroad, if you think it is worth investing in your education.

Family support to study abroad

Maybe your family can easily afford to provide financial aid for you to support your international ambitions. Or maybe your family is not that well-off, but they are able to fully or partially cover your expenses abroad. Sometimes it goes without saying, sometimes you have to ask for it and sometimes you are afraid to ask for it.

Advantages of getting parent's help to study abroad

You don't have to sweat for money, you just spend it, this is an undeniably easy position to start your academic adventures abroad. Usually you do not have to worry about money issues, you have a problem, you get the transfer and money solves a lot of things. They say money can't buy happiness, well, maybe, but it does solve material issues. You can go shopping, party, travel and explore your host country without ever seeing a near zero balance on your bank account.

Disadvantages of getting parent's help to study abroad

Your family is giving you all that money, because they believe that investing in your education is a good idea (especially if they can barely afford it). It seems very convenient to milk your parents, but remember, nothing is for free - sooner or later you have to prove that you are a good investment.

Also, accepting money has an emotional backlash. You might feel the pressure that you need to 'give this money back' somehow. You might feel guilt that you are using your parents money. You might think that you are squeezing your family financially. You might think that people will point fingers at you, that it was easy for you.

But you know what?

Do your best. Make the most of your study abroad experience. Prove yourself that you deserved all that financial help. Getting money from your parents does not mean that you have to feel guilt for having a good time abroad. Set up a budget and stick to it. You must have reasonably challenging study abroad goals and have all the fun you want besides working towards those goals. This way your parents will be proud of you and you can be proud of yourself. And people will point fingers at you anyways, if not for this, they find something else to ride on.

Grind your money with hard work

Maybe you saved money from your last paid internship. Maybe you worked as a waiter/waitress, host/hostess, tutor, bartender, babysitter, telemarketer in the past year to save money and now you invest it in your international education.

Advantages of self-financing your study abroad program

You know what it means to earn money, so you have a better grasp on what it means to spend money. You know the pricetags and you set up your budget accordingly. People who know how to handle money will eventually have more money. You have every right to feel proud about building an independent life, though you do not need to say it out loud, because people who matter, know it already.

Disadvantages of self-financing your study abroad program

You are afraid to spend money on things you actually need, because you want to save money abroad as well. It is crucial to set up a budget, but during the first weeks of your study abroad program you may need to adjust it to enjoy a wider range of study abroad benefits in the longer run. It is difficult to put a pricetag on a memorable trip or a lifechanging social event with some good friends. Be selective on what you spend money, but do not economize on things that essentially contribute to a better overall experience abroad.

Exchange semester grants & scholarships

Widely known study abroad schemes like Erasmus Plus in Europe waive the tuition fee of the host partner university and provide a scholarship for your exchange semester. The scholarship requirements are set by the home university, where they usually consider your academic performance, language skills and outstanding results in prestigious (academic or sport) competitions. Most of the time you receive your scholarship in one sum before your international exchange or in monthly instalments throughout your study abroad program.

Advantages of exchange semester grants & scholarships

These scholarships can give the right amount of motivation to take studying abroad into account. You can study at partner universities for free, where a semester would cost over 5.000 USD. Such scholarships usually cover minimum half of your expenses abroad. You simply apply and if you got chosen for the program, you automatically receive the money. Looks nice, though if you want to play it safe, use this type of financial support as an extra budget for traveling and entertainment, while you seek for other sources to cover most of your expenses abroad.

Disadvantages of exchange semester grants & scholarships

Exchange semester scholarships rarely last till the end of the semester, so you still need the look for some extra financial aid to cover the other half of the study abroad related expenses. Also your home university usually sets some academic requirements, for instance you may need to complete a certain amount of credits (e.g. 21 ECTS) and you have to provide some sort of documentation about your study abroad experience. Sometimes the administration takes longer and you receive the grant a lot later, in some extreme cases you get the money after you finished your exchange semester abroad.

Full-degree grants & scholarship to study abroad

Either the country or the university provides you with a scholarship. Some countries offer free degree programs (mostly in Europe), while others offer grants for international students with excellent academic background. If you get admitted to a state or university supported place in a foreign country, usually you pay partial tuition fee or no tutition fee at all. Other perks may arise, for instance, some universities give monthly grants or even cover your accommodation abroad.

Advantages of full-degree grants & scolarships abroad

Your tutition fee is usually waived and you get tons of administrative help from the institution in your host country. Some full-degree scholarships cover the total cost of your international education, allowing you to focus on academics, networking, traveling, langauge learning, cultural immersion and having fun.

Disadvantages of full-degree grants & scolarships abroad

In general it is important to check whether these scholarships have any binding power following your graduation. For instance, the host country or host university may forbid or the opposite, legally bind you to work in the host country for some years (or else you have to pay back the scholarship).

Global scholarship finder databases:

Country specific scholarships:

Corporate grants

Non-profit organizations usually offer grants based on race, gender, religion, social status or geographic areas. You should collect information about grants at the international office of your home university and look through the grants offered by local organizations in your host country. For-profit corporations usually provide merit based and subject-specific (usually research- oriented) grants, for example in the fields of engineering, chemistry or medical sciences. These grants may cover the expenses of your international education partially or fully.

Advantages of corporate grants

Grants from non-profit organizations usually do not bind you in the future, so you can utilize the extra money without any restrictions. Grants provided by corporate partners are usually paired with professional mentorship supporting your academic orientation and contributing your career advancement.

Disadvantages of corporate grants

You may collect and submit all the required documents, you may be the best candidate on paper and still not win the desired grant - and no one will tell you why. If you win the scholarship, you often have obligations upon graduation, especially in case the grantor is a for-profit organization.

Student loan to study abroad

Student loans usually have relatively low interest rates and often you have to pay it back after graduation. It only make sense to apply for student loans if you think about studying abroad as an investment in your future career.

You have to sit down and do the math whether it is a good or bad idea for you. Do not take any student loans without having a profound and reasonable plan to pay it back. You have to think clear. You are taking a loan to improve your chances in the job market. Logically, your future earnings must exceed the loan instalments and your expected costs of living. In other words, if you take a loan to study abroad, you have to trust yourself that you will work hard to turn it into a profitable investment.

Advantages of student loans

You can cover all your expenses and you do not have to worry about financial problems abroad. The loan itself usually keeps you on track, because it pushes you to build more ambitious career goals in your life. In an optimistic scenario the loan can boost your performance and future options.

Disadvantages of student loans

It might put a pressure on you that one day you have to pay back a substantial amount of money to some banks. It might be scary that someone cuts out a piece of your well- deserved salary after graduation (instalments). You might have some nervous months before or shortly after graduation, when you must find a job to be able to pay back your student loan.

Don't take a loan overnight for studying abroad. Don't just ask friends and family. Try to ask people who took the same kind of loan that you are planning to take. Ask for help at your high school or home university if needed. You must collect a lot of information to make an educated decision.

Part-time work abroad

You have some money on your savings account and you have high hopes to work over 20 hours besides studying abroad. It is possible, but you know, it is risky. In case you have sufficient funds to survive the first 1-2 months, you may give it a try, but get ready for a bumpy study abroad program. If you have enough money to cover your expenses abroad and you just need the work experience, then 10-15 hours of work per week is more than enough.

The advantages of part-time work abroad

Working part-time abroad will force you to have an active lifestyle and you have a chance to get to know all kinds of local people abroad. It is the best way to immerse in the local culture. The extra money you earned may be spent on traveling, entertainment or any other personal missions. If this is your primary source of money to cover the costs of your international studies, you can really become part of the host culture.

The disadvantages of part-time work abroad

Well, where to start. If you want to work abroad just to earn some extra cash and gain experience, that is okay. However international students usually obtain a student visa that often does not equal to a work permit. You may be allowed to work for instance 20 hours per week at your host institution, but you have to be aware of the country specific regulations. Working 20 hours or more a week may also exhaust you to the extent that you skip classes and major international student events and eventually you miss out the whole international student experience.

If working abroad part-time is the only source of money when you study abroad, you better be 100% sure about getting that job. Also, be prepared for the constant stress that you have to run to work before or after classes. Your host country may change the work permit regulation in the blink of an eye and you could stand there desperate without any further income. Working without a working visa or a work permit is not advised, especially if it is your sole financial source while living abroad.

We strongly advise to embark on a study abroad program only if you are sure that your funds will last till the end of the program, or you see a sure way to get money for the basics you need abroad (even if you cannot work abroad).

Part-time work online (remote)

You have your laptop with you, right? If you were working for a company or contributed to a project before studying abroad, your employer may intend to keep you on a payroll. Or if you were a tutor, advisor or proofreader, then you may continue earning money online. In case you have never done anything like that before, it is time to check out your opportunities: set up an account on a freelancing site!

Advantages of remote work

Working remotely provides you with flexible working hours and you do not have to worry about the host country regulations and working permit. You can do just enough work to make some extra cash while studying abroad.

Disadvantages of remote work

Just like any work, remote work has the danger of overdoing it. You may take all the opportunities to earn money abroad while forgetting about collecting valuable international experience. 10-15 hours of work per week should not interfere with an enjoyable international student lifestyle.

Any combination of these will do it, as long as you are determined to work hard and play hard while studying abroad.

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Fund your study abroad program