Paying to Study Abroad: Tips for Funding Your International Education, part 1

By Staff

Studying abroad is a rite of passage for many students — an experience that’s rewarding far beyond the time spent in the classrooms of a foreign university. Apart from the typical costs of the study abroad program itself (which usually include tuition, housing, some meals and some trips), it can be pretty easy to rack up expenses like additional meals, shopping and side trips.

Despite the costs, study abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most; one that you should not eschew only because of expense. Many grads acknowledge that their biggest college regret is not studying abroad. So don’t let a few — or a few thousand — bucks get in the way of your international adventure.

Paying for the adventure may not xome easily. But with sufficient effort and mental fortitude, you’ll be able to realize your study abroad dreams.

It’s a lot of work to search and apply for scholarships. But your hard work could pay off big time. Just think: If you spend five or ten hours applying for a scholarship like the Gilman (mentioned below), and receive a $4,000 award that you can spend on whatever you want or need for your trip, you’re getting paid $400-$800 an hour! Not too shabby right?

Apply for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. If you’re a strong student and you receive Federal Pell Grant funding, I highly recommend applying for the Gilman scholarship. While the program is competitive, they award over 2,300 scholarships per year with an average amount of $4,000. So unless you’re a D-student with a seven-figure trust fund, you really have nothing to lose by applying, except maybe a few hours of your time. The deadline for Summer/Fall is usually around March 1st, so be sure to

The Gilman is great, but don’t discount the small scholarships either. Sometimes there is less competition for say, a $100 scholarship, and every bit really does help! Here are some tips for your scholarship search:

Check with your school’s study abroad and financial aid offices to find out how paying for study abroad will work for you. In study abroad programs through your school, you will typically pay normal tuition and rooming fees. In most accredited schools, your financial aid will transfer. This means that study abroad is (theoretically) financially feasible for many students. However, this may also mean that you may not be eligible for certain outside scholarships, such as those offered by the study abroad programs themselves. Different schools have different rules, so make sure you know what you’re looking at financially before you start applying for programs and/or scholarships.

Apply for other study abroad scholarships. Unfortunately, this means doing your fair share of research. Study abroad scholarships may be specific to a country or language, may only be offered once (as opposed to recurring scholarships like the Gilman), and can have applications that range from just filling out a form to essays, recommendations and more. and have some great info to get you started.

Ever heard of a virtual assistant? Thanks to resources like Skype, Google Docs, and Drop Box, more and more people are moving their work online and hitting the road. You may not be able to earn money working for a company in your host-country while you’re abroad, but there aren’t any laws against working for a company or individual(s) back home, while you’re abroad.

Do what you enjoy/what you’re good at. Love organization and communication? Virtual assisting might be right for you. Do you speak another language fluently? Consider giving one-on-one language lessons over Skype. Are you a social media marketing or website development maven? Offer to build people’s online presence for an hourly or project fee. The more you like what you’re doing, the more likely you are to stick with it (and hopefully earn some major bucks in the process), so make sure your “business” is something you enjoy.

Set up a simple website or Facebook page and email everyone you know. These days, it’s almost impossible to run a successful business without having a website, or at least a Facebook page, that explains who you are and what you do. Fortunately, it’s very simple and costs next-to-nothing to make your own website using a WordPress template. And of course, Facebook is free. Once you have an online presence, send an email to your friends, family and other key contacts explaining that you are looking for clients, and ask them to pass it along to their friends. Include your contact info and a link to your website and you should get some response in no time.

Set realistic expectations. Start with a couple of clients/projects before you go abroad, to test out your idea and get a feel for how many hours a week you’re realistically going to put in while you’re abroad. Whatever number you come up with, cut that in half, and try to make up the difference by working and saving money before your trip. Remember, the point of going abroad is to have fun too, and despite your best intentions work will probably be one of the last things on your mind. That being said, keeping one or two clients that are flexible about you setting your own schedule can be a great way to earn extra cash when your reserves start to run low.