Is Studying Abroad in College Worth the Money?

Studying abroad is a potentially life-changing opportunity, but it is also potentially frightening, both financially and logistically. If you're toying with the idea of spending a term in Prague, this article can help you weigh out the pros and cons of international study.


To Travel or Not To Travel?

A recent report from the Institute of International Education reveals that more U.S. students than ever (about 304,000) are studying abroad. Despite this news, economic challenges are causing many individuals to reconsider going abroad to study. Here are ten questions to ponder before signing on for a term away.

1. What are the costs of the program?

First things first: What will the cost of tuition be? Many programs allow students to pay for a term abroad the same amount in tuition they'd spend to stay at home. Others are much more expensive. Get precise figures on program costs so you can begin your analysis of whether studying abroad is worth it to you.

2. What additional costs will you be responsible for?

The next thing you'll need to know is what other expenditures you'll be expected to cover. Among these might be accommodation, food, travel and other living costs. Know that many programs feature (potentially costly) academic excursions in host countries.

3. Where do you want to go?

In estimating non-academic expenses, you'll need to factor in where you plan to study. Living costs may be very high, and currency exchange rates might not favor the dollar. Your school can likely provide estimated living costs. Make sure you know what this estimate does and does not include.

4. Are there scholarships available to help offset extra costs?

While there are exceptions, studying abroad will nearly always cost more than a term or year at your home institution. Before you commit to going, then, do a search for scholarships that can help cover additional expenses that you'll have. A study abroad adviser should be able to help identify opportunities.

5. How will you be financing additional costs?

If you're already borrowing money to go to college, the idea of having to take out additional loans to study abroad probably isn't appealing. With that said, additional loans are likely available if you really want to go. If a parent or family member can afford to help you out, your decision might be made easier.

6. Will your financial aid remain in place?

It's very important to look into what effect studying abroad may have on your financial aid package. Some institutions have specific rules for study abroad programs, and aid for subsequent terms can be affected. Be sure to discuss this with a financial aid adviser.

7. Why do you want to study abroad?

Wanting to immerse yourself in another culture to learn a foreign language is a pretty good reason to study abroad. So is going on an excavation in support of your anthropology degree. (There are many other good reasons, of course.) If you just want to travel, you can do that more cheaply on your own over the summer.

8. What are the benefits of the program you're considering?

Many study abroad opportunities include experiences with a tangible benefit. A certain program might look great on your grad school application, or perhaps you can get foreign work experience in your professional area. Taking the plunge can be easier if you see an obvious payoff.

9. Will your coursework transfer?

A hidden cost can emerge after completing a term abroad. Credits you earn at a foreign institution may not transfer perfectly (or at all) to your home school. Be sure to talk specifics about credits with an academic adviser before going. You don't want to later have to take additional classes and maybe delay graduation.

10. What about intangibles?

Most of the above questions refer to very practical concerns, but studying abroad is about more than just the pragmatic. You'll have the opportunity to experience firsthand another culture while becoming more self-reliant and making new friends from around the world. That kind of experience can be invaluable, but also be prepared for dealing with culture shock and homesickness. Knowledge about the culture and an open mind will both become invaluable tools during your study adventure.

Would you like to start saving up for a term abroad? Learn 30 easy ways to save money next month.

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