Most study abroad alumni will tell you that studying abroad was one of the best experiences of their lives. On the other end, most people who haven’t will give you every reason why they regrettably never made the trip. While some will cite rigorous degree requirements and scheduling conflicts, the most common barrier to study abroad is still total cost, but it doesn’t have to be.
While the overall cost of studying abroad is a valid concern, there’s often a lot of exaggeration and confusion around the question “how much does it cost to study abroad?” And understandably so; between the varying fees of different study abroad programs, the types and amounts of aid offered by your home university, and the on-the-ground costs of living in a foreign country, it’s easy to see how any concrete totals can be lost in translation. So to help, we’ve compiled a guide to help you answer the question “how much does it cost to study abroad?”, and how you can find affordable study abroad programs.
Everyone should be able to turn their dream of traveling the world and living in another country into a reality. Here are some details that will start you off on the right foot toward studying abroad:
The average cost of study abroad programs
Placing an average price tag on studying abroad can be counterproductive, in that it masks the extreme range of costs between different countries and programs. Plus, estimates vary widely on the subject; there is no common consensus on what the average cost of studying abroad actually is.
Nevertheless, there are some reliable figures floating out there that can help. According to research by the International Institute of Education, the all-encompassing average cost of studying abroad in a foreign country hovers around $18,000 per semester, or $36,000 per full academic year. Other indicators use range as a more useful indicator; for example, studying abroad in the U.K. usually winds up costing between $8,000 and $21,000.
The overall cost will end up being much lower or higher when you add in varying external factors. To use another basic example, studying abroad in an inexpensive country, such as India, can wind up costing just a few thousands dollars total, while studying abroad at a private university in Europe will end up costing many more thousands. This is why it’s important to research thoroughly the factors surrounding your individual journey to generate your own estimate.
What the cost to study abroad covers
It’s not just about asking how much does it cost to study abroad — but also, what is and isn’t covered in that total program cost? Here's our best attempt to unveil what the cost to study abroad includes.
First and foremost, the primary expense for a majority of study abroad programs is tuition. Tuition will vary depending on the program – whether it’s through your university or a program provider – and the type of funding your host institution receives. Some countries (including many in the European Union) have great public education systems and will charge you very little even as an international student. Others, such as the U.S., U.K., and Australia, may end up costing an arm and a leg.
After tuition, rent and daily costs of living, such as food and entertainment can amount to a formidable expense as well. Many study abroad programs will include this price in the upfront program fees, including if you are living in a homestay or dormitories with meals provided. Otherwise, you’ll want to get on the ball early locating an affordable place to live in your host city, and research how much you’ll need to budget for other necessary expenses.
The last major expense to take into consideration will be travel costs. Some programs will include the cost of flights to your host country, some won’t. You’ll want to make sure you know exactly what your program fees cover ahead of time.
Beyond the major flights to and from your study abroad destination, you also want to take into consideration that you’ll likely be using public transportation on a daily basis and also doing some traveling on the side while you’re overseas. These costs (as with rent and other daily expenses) are much cheaper in certain parts of the world than in others, depending on the economic standing of your host country.
Sound like a lot? Take a deep breath. Many universities will help rollover tuition so that you won’t be paying double, and so you may end up even paying less to study abroad than you would to study at home.
4. On Going, On the Ground Support
No one wants to wake up in the middle of the night puking their brains out (ever), but not especially if you are alone in a foreign country, with minimal communication/language skills and only a vague idea of where to find the nearest clinic. This is a pretty awful example, but it does allude to the value of paying for on going, on the ground support while you are abroad. In instances of medical emergency, theft, confusion, etc., you'll have multiple point-people to refer to and help get you on the right track.
This support can vary from telling you the best joint in town for dumplings or empanadas to holding your hand while you get an IV put in your arm at the hospital. Their 24/7 support is hard to attach a dollar amount to, but in instances where you really need it, you'll find it priceless within the cost to study abroad.
How to pay for study abroad
In budgeting for, and funding, your study abroad trip, the first thought that comes to your mind should be scholarships. Between those offered by universities, government organizations, not-for-profit enterprises, and other private foundations, there are literally thousands of grants and scholarships out there ready to be plucked up and put to use every year. Check out our Scholarships Directory for some ideas on where to get started applying and apply to win one of GoAbroad’s 20 Year Anniversary Scholarships (<-- free money for travel!).
If you’re embarking on a shorter study abroad adventure such as an extracurricular summer program, crowdfunding is also a great way to go. Start a campaign with FundMyTravel sooner, rather than later. You’ll be surprised at how generous friends and family members can be when something like studying abroad is on the line, especially if they’ve been through the experience for themselves and know firsthand the impact it can bring about.
Lastly, it never hurt anyone to work with their own two hands. Getting a summer or campus job and saving up for your travels will add an extra sense of ownership over your experience, knowing that you worked hard to get where you’re at. And when other institutional or individual funders see you’re toiling for it, they’ll be more likely to pitch in as well.
Affordable study abroad programs to check out
To save a pretty penny here and there, without sacrificing any aspect of the experience, take a look at these affordable study abroad programs:
- CISabroad: Study abroad across the globe with CISAbroad
- Center for Study Abroad: Direct-enroll in affordable study abroad programs with CSA
- Maximo Nivel: Study in Central and South America with Maximo Nivel
- International Studies Abroad: Just stick a pin in the map to study abroad with ISA
Not finding what you’re looking for? Browse all study abroad programs.
What your study abroad cost REALLY pays for
If all this seems like a lot of information, that would be because it is. There’s a lot to figure out before studying abroad, and no one will fool themselves into thinking that the financial details are particularly fun.
But, the important thing is that the study abroad cost is worth it. Every penny. No matter how much does it cost to study abroad, the experience will not only impact you deeply as an individual and irrevocably alter your worldview, it will also open up a world of opportunity through the global friendships and connections you make, as well as that final stamp you get to place on your resume. Think of it as the best investment you’ll ever make — in your education, in your qualifications as a future employee, and in yourself as a 21st century citizen.