Studying abroad is something everyone should be able to do, but it doesn’t always work out that way.
Among the most common reasons why students choose not to study abroad are academic (“I can’t afford to miss out on classes back home”), personal (“I can’t afford to spend that much time away from home”), and financial (“I can’t afford it, period”). These concerns, among others, are concrete challenges that should not be taken for granted.
But for each of these “issues,” there is a counterpoint that can nudge you toward making the right choice, which is always to study abroad. Worried you’ll miss out on too many classes? Many study abroad programs are intensive and will actually allow you to earn more credits in a shorter amount of time. Worried about spending too much time out of the country? Many study abroad programs last just a few short weeks (check out University of Sydney or Institute of Global Engagement New Zealand, for example) to fit into whatever schedule may be demanding your attention back home. And finally, worried it will cost too much to study abroad? Believe it or not, in many cases it will end up costing you next to nothing.
How can I study abroad for free?
While it might be a stretch to expect to study abroad fully free of charge, there are several paths which will bring you close to that ideal, if not all the way. In the current state of international affairs, governments, schools, and nonprofit organizations around the world actively recognize the value in promoting cultural exchange from an early age. Here’s a few promising steps you can take toward studying abroad for next to nothing:
1. Find Affordable Study Abroad Programs
The first step toward studying abroad for free is quite straightforward: choosing a program that is realistic with your budget. Study abroad programs range from unreasonably expensive to near fully-funded, so narrowing your options down from that get-go is important. Once you have your eyes on a study abroad program that fits your ideal mold by means of location, academics, timing, and cost, then you can get down to the real work.
2. Apply for Scholarships to Study Abroad
There are, literally, thousands of scholarships out there ripe for the picking. Wherever you’re from, whatever your interests are, and whatever your financial situation, the odds are high that you will find a scholarship out there which fits your situation, and will bring you one step closer to studying abroad for free. Scholarships are generally offered on factors such as academic standing, extracurricular achievements, and other personal merits.
GoAbroad’s Study Abroad Scholarships directory is a great resource to orient yourself with the process of searching for the right financial aid opportunity. Ranging from fully-funded to program-specific to government-sponsored scholarships, you can secure up to thousands of dollars in tuition that can be directed toward your financial goal for studying abroad. You can even filter study abroad scholarships by subject and location before you begin applying.
3. Seek out Grants for Studying Abroad
Similar to scholarships, study abroad grants are also offered by various federal, state, and local institutions. The Federal Pell Grant and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunities Grant in the United States, for example, both can often be extended from your regular tuition to funding your study abroad experience. On top of this, a variety of other grants are offered by third parties, which can add additional funding toward making your study abroad experience as affordable as possible.
The terms “scholarship” and “grant” are often used interchangeably, but the technical difference is that while many scholarships are merit-based, grants tend to be need-based. The Benjamin Gilman International Scholarship and DIS Need-Based Scholarship are just a couple of examples of great financial aid opportunities that cross that line. You can expect to find both scholarships and grants listed in our Scholarship Directory.
4. Consider Study Abroad Loans
Read the 411. While taking out a loan obviously does not equate to a “free” study abroad experience, the flexibility that loans can provide many students in the immediate future can be welcomed leg up toward making your dreams of studying abroad for free come true. Our detailed breakdown of Study Abroad Loans will give you all the information you need on all the different types of loans out there, both private and state, to get you started along the right track.
5. Start Fundraising for Study Abroad
To review: You’ve found an affordable program, applied to scholarships and grants, and, if need-be, also taken out a study abroad loan. Now it’s time to get creative. Scholarships, grants, and loans can all be essential means of studying abroad for free or next to nothing. But beyond the application process, they are also sometimes out of your control. So, why stop there?
Personal fundraising can take you that last leg of the mile toward having your study abroad experience fully funded. Fundraising at school, with family and friends, or crowdfunding online are all great ways to get started down this path. GoAbroad’s own FundMyTravel is one such resource that you can get started with fundraising.
6. Find a Summer Job
Now, lastly, there’s working with your own two hands. Even if you take advantage of all these other opportunities, picking up a part-time job to supplement your studies shows your potential funders that you are also doing everything possible in your own arsenal to raise the money to make your studies abroad happen. School is a busy time for everyone, but it’s never too early to dip your feet in the workforce and gain practical experience there. And hey, it won’t end up hurting your resume, either.
So, get out there, and study abroad for free!
The best answer to the question “Can you actually study abroad for free?” is “Yes, but you have to earn it.” There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Between the hours you put in applying to scholarships and grants, pursuing student loans, fundraising within your network, and picking up whatever income on the side you can, you’ll be paying for your study abroad experience with your own hard work and dedication.
When you get there, though, you’ll have absolutely zero regrets you did. Studying abroad has the power to expand your outlook on the world and, truly, change your life forever. Once abroad, knowing that you got there because of your own hard work and resourcefulness will make that experience all the more powerful.