Why & How Anyone Can Study Abroad

by Dylan Livingston

Travel is the quintessential tool for gaining a wider perspective on the world, and can even greatly diminish the sometimes trivial problems one faces in their home country. Americans are often criticized for their ignorance of the the rest of the world and its various cultures, but the best way to effectively rid this cultural stereotype is to go out and actually see the world. There is no better time to achieve this perceptual change than through studying abroad now.

A bridge in France

See the World While Studying Abroad in France

Why Should You Study Abroad?

  • Studying abroad has never been more accessible to everyone. Though many still believe that studying abroad is only for the privileged, there are multiple options for any student to find funding for their trip abroad, from grants to online fundraising platforms.
  • Travel brings people together. Not only does travel allow you to meet people from different cultural backgrounds, but it can also turn the attention towards the people already in your life to create a better sense of appreciation for what you have.
  • Traveling at a young age opens up endless opportunities. Studying abroad exposes you to the vastness of the world, instilling a sense of purpose and motivation to achieve your dreams.

Reasons to Study Abroad

There are countless reasons to study abroad, yet students still find excuses for not taking the first step. A common excuse that students make for not studying abroad is that they have never travelled outside of their home state let alone outside of the country. For those few who have barely ventured outside of their hometown, skip the baby steps and study abroad in Asia or Africa to make up for lost time. The bigger the cultural shock, the more long lasting and meaningful the trip will be.

Decide where you want to go and why. It’s one thing to pick a country to study abroad in just because your school offers it, but your trip will take on a whole new meaning if there is an aspect of the country that personally speaks to you. Having a particular motive to help achieve your goal is what will motivate you to find the funding to make it happen.

Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy

Imagine Yourself at The Leaning Tower of Pisa - And then Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Work towards your goal. Although the number of Americans studying abroad is steadily increasing, it seems as if the demographic of students studying abroad has stayed consistent. This means that people are still under the impression that study abroad programs are just for the privileged. And while students’ parents do often fund their study abroad trips, those parents put in the work needed for that to happen. If you or your family does not have the financial means to support a study abroad program, you must then accept the necessary fundraising work to make your trip happen. This could consist of a job or even just consistent research for potential funding and study abroad scholarship options.

Making Study Abroad Affordable 

Receive Financial Aid? You Can Study Abroad! Students often don’t realize that the financial aid they are currently receiving can apply toward a semester studying abroad. Federal aid is almost always transferable to other countries as long as you are earning credits towards your degree. Financial aid you receive through your home school or university can also be applied abroad as long as the study abroad program is offered through your school.

It’s important to first set this up with your financial aid office, department, and/or academic advisor before going forward with any further travel plans, as financial aid policies can vary from school to school. Overall, schools and universities encourage their students to study abroad to gain a more worldly perspective that will ultimately reflect positively on them, so they are willing to do what they can to help you study abroad.

Apply for Multiple Scholarships. There are plenty of dream trip giveaways that can land you a free trip overseas, but if you’d rather not spend your days looking for that four leaf clover, there are just as many scholarships and awards that can feel equally as sweet as winning a sweepstake. Both the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, as well as many other program providers offer merit based scholarships for cultural exchange programs abroad.

These scholarships typically require that you meet certain academic qualifications and in some instances a short essay or cover letter. Though it would be nice to live in a world where all expense trips were handed away to everyone, most of the time travel has to be earned. Knowledge and hard work are two qualities that are typically acknowledged and rewarded in this world, and what better motivation to stay on top of your academics than a chance to travel the world? And once it’s all said and done, and you’re in the country of your dreams, it can feel quite rewarding to know you earned what you were working for.

Students working together on computers

Visit your Financial Aid Office to Explore Funding Options for Study Abroad with an Advisor

Need Based Scholarships. If you’ve applied your financial aid and scholarships towards your study abroad program and are still finding yourself strapped to pay for your flight tickets, or just need some spending money during your time abroad, no need to worry. Travel abroad programs understand the often unobtainable costs of study abroad for some households, so some providers offer need based scholarships. These scholarships can work similarly to academic financial aid packages or in some instances can function as a work/study.

Depending on the study abroad program, your home location, and your travel destination, these scholarships can range from $100 to several thousands that can cover your whole trip. While some scholarships are strictly need based, others include the completion of certain tasks, such as maintaining a blog throughout your trip, making presentations to local schools or community groups after your return, or hosting an international exchange student prior to your departure. These are just a few examples of the countless scholarships that are offered outside of academia.

You Get Out What You Put In

While travelling long distances across the world is never easy for anyone, it is certainly accessible to everyone. In order to make a trip abroad, one must do the necessary research and put in significant time and effort in order to make the trip come to life. Travelling is an effort, but effort does not have to equate to money.

It’s a desire to learn, a passion to explore, and a willingness to change and grow that gets us places. And where there’s a will, there’s a way, so don’t limit yourself and the places you can go based on your wallet, demographic, or socioeconomic background. The earth is home to us all, and there’s no reason why we can’t all experience it in its entirety.