Affording Your Study Abroad Experience: My Top Tips

Bella Santana
September 15, 2018

A little background:

Coming from a lower income family; with my mom being an elementary school teacher, and my father having passed away last year, studying overseas initially seemed impossible and financially terrifying for me. Even though I realized it would be hard to finance a study abroad experience, I knew that it was something I had to make work. Even though I am not from a well off family, I am incredibly fortunate with my current financial aid that I receive for college, which makes me feel like my advice can only be taken with a grain of salt, because as much as I know how hard it is to come from a lower economic background at times, I am so fortunate in the resources that have been made available to me throughout my college career.

My helping hand (financial aid):

I am a recipient of the 21st Century Scholarship that is available to all Indiana resident students from a lower economic background as long as they sign up by their 8th grade year and maintain a certain GPA in high school and college. This scholarship pays for my full time tuition at any Indiana public school (my choice being Indiana University). I am also a recipient of a Pell Grant from the US Government, as well as a Covenant Grant from Indiana University 21st Century Scholars office. I use both of these grants for books, rent, bills, and groceries.

This huge amount of financial aid that I recieve has allowed me to attend college without having to depend on either of my parents for bills, work full time during the school year, or take out loans. Even with the huge amount aid that I receive, I knew that studying abroad was still going to cost me quite a pretty penny. Since studying abroad for a semester is typically much more expensive than the amount of aid that I receive for the whole year, and the program I chose specifically is one of the more expensive ones, I knew I was going to have to work hard to make up the remainder of the money I needed to fund this experience.

Not letting money or life hold me back, my top tips:

I knew that this was an experience I needed to have, and I was willing to make it happen, which is my first advice for anyone in the boat of worrying about how they are going to fund their study abroad experience: if you want it, make it happen; use the resources available to you, work hard, and make your dreams a reality. It wasn’t easy to figure out how I was going to get here in terms of finances. There were many hours or stress and worry, but I did it, and I continue doing it every day. My main goal is for people out there to feel like they can achieve this as well, even if money stands in their way. I just want to give a little disclaimer and say that I am not by any means saying I am right, or what has worked for me will work for you, but I am here to try to help others that might be in a situation I was and am in when it comes to affording to study overseas. I hope that these tips may open your eyes to the possibility of making study abroad work financially for you.

  1. Realize that this is going to be hard, but do not let your financial situation hold you back. There are different kinds of wealth besides money, and studying overseas is going to bring you that wealth that lasts far longer than any type of monetary wealth.
  2. You will have to put in the time, effort, and dedication to get yourself to your destination. That means applying to scholarships, figuring out the money you can put towards it, your parents/other family might be able to put towards it, whether you want to take out loans, whether your current financial aid can be counted towards the program costs, etc.
  3. Check your schools scholarship options first, go speak to your scholarship office, your overseas office, and any other office that might have advice for you.
  4. If you receive a Pell Grant, apply for the Gilman Scholarship and other national/private scholarships.
  5. Spend hours on the internet searching and searching for random scholarship, you never know if you might be the lucky winner.
  6. Realize this is an experience, just an incredibly expensive one, and you are going to spend money. Budgeting is amazing and you should do it, but you will end up spending heaps of money. I personally came into the experience with the open mind that I was going to spend a lot of money, but that I was okay with it.
  7. The above realization does not mean you should be frivolous with your money once you get here; this is what budgeting is for, be aware of prices and money wastefulness! Realize what you want to spend your money on, whether that be experiences, items, or nothing, just pick and choose what you care about most and what you want to use your money towards. I personally have not bought many material objects while i’ve been here (keyword: many), but put the majority of my money towards weekend travels and eating healthy(ish) and good (my personal priorities).
  8. When it comes to buying your plane ticket to the destination look on Kayak and other websites that offer deals, and buy in advance in order to save money!
  9. Get a credit or debit card without any foreign transaction fees to save yourself money on your daily purchases once abroad.
  10. When it comes to packing, bring what you will need based on what you want to do, or intend to invest and then sell back before you leave. For example, I bought a cheap sleeping bag and pad off of the NZ equivalent to Craigslist or Ebay that I intend on selling back before I leave NZ, but I brought all of the clothing items I will need while I am here to be prepared for the elements while being outdoors.
  11. If you do need to buy clothing while here, go to second hand stores to save money.
  12. Don’t eat and drink out during the weekdays, or even every weekend. This is a huge money stealer!
  13. Stay at campsites to save money when traveling, but also hostels and Airbnbs are much more economic than hotels and motels when traveling with others.
  14. If you make friends that have cars, then you only have to pay for splitting gas when traveling! (This is easier said than done, because you can’t just befriend someone because they have a car, that is not nice or even likely)
  15. The more the merrier in terms of travel and splitting hostels, rental cars, gas, etc.
  16. Have a grocery budget.
    • Meat is more expensive, try eating a vegetarian diet more frequently!
    • Shop the clearance foods and off brands.
    • Make choices and sacrifices in terms of the expensive foods you decide to buy.
    • Choose the fruits and veggies that are in season; they are often cheaper!
    • Buy bulk items, they’re often cheaper.
  17. You might have to make sacrifices in order to do something that is expensive.
    • Example: do you decide to travel for one weekend or eat out five times a week?
  18. Decide what needs vs wants are.
  19. Look into the best phone plan for you. Do you really need data? Do you need to constantly be connected?
    • I for one have Sprint, which allows for you to have international texting and data for free (the data is never available in New Zealand, FYI) and free wifi calling. This adds no extra cost to my regular phone bill, and all I have to do is sacrifice being constantly connected to the internet, which is actually incredibly good for me! Finding deeper connections in things besides the internet does wonders for the soul. ;)
  20. Do free activities such as art shows, music events, museums, getting out in nature (**my favorite choice), hanging out with friends, etc.
  21. Figure out how much money you are absolutely willing to spend at the end of your experience and decide the things you want to do while abroad depending on that budget.
  22. Potentially get a job while abroad if you have the time, but also realize that working a lot and saving before you go might be better in order to have ample time for exploration while abroad.
  23. BUT MOST OF ALL: Realize this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you deserve to have fun, experience the country, and make the most of the situation you are in by not letting money hold you back.

I hope my advice gives some potential ideas to those feeling stuck! Remember: money is important, but living and experiencing what the world has to offer, that to me, is even more important. Allow your personal and experiential wealth to grow, and you will feel rich in so many ways.


Go out and get em!



Bella :)<3


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Bella Santana

<p>Hello all! My name is Bella. I am 21 years old, and am a lover of the outdoors, yoga, hula hooping, and music. I believe that life is about enjoyment, happiness, and exploration, and I hope to share my everyday findings of happiness and life with you all!</p>

Home University:
Indiana University
Chesterton, IN
Environmental Studies
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