How to Choose the More Affordable Study Abroad Options

by Published

If there is any impediment when it comes to studying abroad, it is the cost. Many students, and their parents, tend to think that studying abroad is too expensive to pursue. But, there are in fact a growing number of study abroad providers and organizations that offer reasonable, affordable program packages.

Do a lot of research to find the most affordable location.
Do a lot of research to find the most affordable location. Photo by Ian Delgado

The Most Affordable Locations

Location plays a big role in program expenses, not all countries are created equal when it comes to cost of living. Asian countries, particularly those in the southeast region, are among the cheapest to study in because of their overall affordable cost of living. These include India, the Philippines, and China. Japan and South Korea, meanwhile, tend to be more expensive than the aforementioned due to their location on the opposite end of the cost of living spectrum. If you want to study in South America, then perhaps you should look at countries like Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil, which fall in the middle range of program costs.

Unraveling the Hidden Costs

Another important thing to do is, search for the hidden costs before committing. While some programs appear to be cheap at first glance, there may be program fees which must be paid upon arrival. Thus, before applying make sure that the price is inclusive of all costs: tuition, books, room and board, meals, excursions, orientation, and visa processing. At the very least make sure that the costs you think you have covered, are truly covered, and you are prepared to pay the rest along the way. Don’t be afraid to ask the provider or university to which you are applying.

A woman carrying her shoes and her luggage

Cost-Cutting Alternatives

One of the most popular ways to cut the costs of studying abroad, arrange a volunteer abroad program. There are certain volunteer programs that can be converted directly into course credits, as long as they are related to your academic major. Volunteering will allow you to gain hands-on experience in your field of choice, as well as apply the lessons you've learned throughout your education. Volunteering abroad is sometimes a third of the price of studying abroad, so speak with an advisor if you’d like to explore the cheaper option.

Interning abroad works quite similarly. Rather than simply study on location, you can complete an internship that is also convertible to academic credits. Internships can be very useful in professional development, especially when your major has an interning stint built in to the curriculum. The experience will be invaluable when applying for future employment too. Like volunteer programs, internships are typically less expensive than study abroad programs. Internships also often introduce you more fully to a foreign language, another added benefit.


Typically it is cheaper to stay in university-arranged housing or at least those set up by the study abroad provider. Finding your own apartment will be pricey and time-consuming, whereas staying with a homestay will cut your costs dramatically and staying in a dormitory will provide you with less expenses to worry about in country. Opt for the furnished places and those that include at least some meals, the last thing you want to do in a foreign country is be hungry or without a bed!

A plane taking off


If all else fails and you can’t find a program affordable enough for your budget, look for some place close so you can cut your flight costs down dramatically. If you live in Europe try northern Africa, if you live in the U.S. or Canada try Mexico or the Caribbean. Flying to the other side of the world will be an incredible experience, but it also creates an incredible expense; so if you must, cut down your round trip mileage.

Topic:  Money Tips