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One Student’s Advice On Paying For Study Abroad

Whether you’re funding study abroad yourself (like myself!), splitting with your parents or just looking for a way to help your parents save some cash, here are some tips and tricks to saving to study abroad on your own!

1. Don’t Settle for Minimum Wage

“Ugh I need a job.” The mantra of college students everywhere. Although it’s people’s impression that there are “no job openings” ever, I’m here to tell you that there most definitely is. More often than not, people just aren’t willing to give up their Friday and Saturday nights for some extra cash. Especially if they pay is only minimum wage.

I will be totally honest, you WILL NOT make even a fraction of the money you want to save to study abroad at a minimum wage job. It’s just not possible unless you start saving about 3 years in advance. As students, you are most likely unable to work full time, so working a minimum wage job for 20 hours a week just won’t cut it.

To this I say, just say no (to minimum wage!) There are plenty of jobs that don’t pay minimum wage. Do your research, ask your friends, hop online. There are many ways to make a higher wage or gain tips to increase your income.

With that being said, you need to be prepared to sacrifice a lot more of your time and effort in exchange for a higher pay. Having worked for In-N-Out Burger, whom are known for paying their employees well, for over year, I can vouch that I definitely EARN my money. I work 35 hour weeks quite often and don’t get home until 3 am some nights. It’s worth the work when you get that paycheck and think about that weekend trip to Berlin you’ll get to take while abroad though!

2. University Chosen Programs

Some universities have specific programs that they encourage students to go to more than others. For my school, Chapman University, they encourage students to choose to go to Prague, Czech Republic by paying for their round-trip plane ticket. That’s about $1,500 I’m saving for doing nothing! So make sure to research all the programs your university programs offer and look into whether or not one is subsidized or sponsored by your school.

3. Crowd-funding Campaign

A recent trend that has emerged among students is creating online crowd-funding campaigns to garner donations from friends, family and anonymous donors who believe in what you are trying to accomplish.

If you are paying to study abroad yourself, you probably have a unique story to tell. People will be able to read about your story and know more about you. Some unexpected donors will definitely emerge!

The best way to gain exposure is to email it out to every family member (extended and immediate), family friends, friends of your parents and to post it to Facebook around once a week. People will be turned off if you spam them with it too often, so post it/tweet it/Instagram it sparingly to keep people on your side!

  1. Do your research – Know what percentage the website platform will be taking from the donations.
  2. Set an achievable goal – Platforms will take a higher percentage if you don’t achieve your goal so keep it realistic!
  3. Promote your campaign – Social media is the easiest route to go, but don’t be afraid to reach out to blogs or publications that may be interested in featuring your campaign.

Take a look at my crowd-funding campaign for ideas on what your story can look like and perks you can offer to your donors.

4. Commute for a Semester

“Commuting” is the most unappealing term for many college students who love their independence. When it comes to studying abroad, though, sacrifices must be made. If you are fortunate enough to live within commuting distance of your college, this is definitely a viable option. If you are paying your own rent and utilities bills, moving home can save you a boatload of money. Even if you choose to pay your parents rent, like myself, you can still save hundreds of dollars each month on little costs, such as groceries. Not so glamorous, but an extremely practical and effective way to save money!

5. A Parent Loan

One option that myself and a few other people I know have done is to take out a private loan from your parents. This isn’t your parents paying for the trip and you hoping they won’t make you pay it back. Your parents won’t bite. The way I am doing it is that my father has drafted an official document that outlines a set amount that will be loaned and the time frame I will be granted to make monthly payments to pay off the loan. If it is within your means, start paying the moment you get back from being abroad, or you can request to defer the payments until after graduation. Sign the form. Enjoy the loan!

6. Tax Returns

Elect to study abroad in spring and enjoy a nice influx of cash when you get your tax return around April! Most students working in college with a properly filled out W-2 Form can expect to get a decent size tax return halfway through their study abroad semester (a thousand or so in my experience.) Even better, request that your parents not claim you as a dependent and you’ll get a little extra cash thrown your way!

7. Scholarships

There are many government and privately funded scholarships that can be obtained for studying abroad. Depending on your major or future career goals, there are even more opportunities to receive scholarships to pursue education abroad. Most university study abroad counselors should be able to provide a list of popular outside scholarships for you to consider. Along with that list, don’t forget to do some personal research yourself. There are many scholarships that aren’t as notable that your university may not be aware of, but can still be a viable source for financing. (Money is money, am I right?)

8. Choose a Cheap Cost-of-Living

One of the biggest factors to consider when choosing somewhere to study is the cost of living in that city. Are they on the Euro? The Pound? The Swiss franc? The strength of their currency can have a serious impact on the amount of money (US Dollars) that you end up spending while abroad. For instance, one of the reasons I am choosing to study abroad in Prague is because their currency is the Czech koruna, which is not all that strong. Typically countries with a less valuable currency will have a lower cost of living which, in turn, will allow you to save more! Check out sites, such as www.numbeo.com, to determine where you’ll get the most bang for your buck!

The biggest advice I can give for paying to study abroad on your own is to start planning early. By early I mean a year in advance at least, possibly more. Knowledge is power and you need to know exactly what is expected of you financially when the time comes to start paying fees. The worst feeling would be getting all amped to study abroad and then have to withdraw because you were not prepared financially!