There are several reasons why a study abroad program can be beneficial to a student. First, there is the obvious; the excitement of traveling to another country alone is enough to have most immediately packing their bags. Second, studying abroad offers an opportunity to experience a new and different culture, thus developing a more worldly view, an important quality in today’s global environment. Depending on your location choice, you might also get the chance to tour neighboring countries on your off time (weekends and vacations). Who knows? You may even learn a new language! Being multilingual is a definite plus in today’s very competitive and global economy. Third, you will be able expand your networking opportunities and possibly even form some new lasting friendships. While the hard work and the time you are putting into getting your education should not be overlooked; we must point out that often who you know can make all the difference in the world when it comes to opening doors. People prefer to hire people they like and strongly consider recommendations from people they trust. Network! Network! Network! Fourth and importantly, your study abroad experience will make you stand out to recruiters and open up an even broader variety of career path choices for you in areas you may or may not have of even considered prior to your travels. According to a study conducted by the International Education of Students (IES), studying abroad definitely impacts most students’ career and/or education decisions.
When questioned about academic pursuits, 87 percent of respondents said that study abroad influenced subsequent educational experiences, 63 percent said that it influenced their decision to expand or change academic majors, and 64 percent reported that it influenced their decision to attend graduate school. Nearly half of all respondents have engaged in international work or volunteerism since studying abroad.
Understandably, the continuously increasing cost of education along with the cuts in available grants and government funding can make one less inclined to consider the additional expense of studying abroad. According to Forbes Magazine,
At an average cost of $31,270 per semester, these programs run about double what a semester at private colleges run. In fact, the cost of study abroad was cited as the single largest nonacademic deterrent among students. Abroad fees only get higher when you tack on living expenses like sightseeing, dining and traveling to nearby countries.
Take a breath! Step back and rethink your position. If you can muster up some extra cash…DO IT! DO IT! DO IT! While it may be tight on your wallet, this is an investment that will benefit you, your career and your bank account in the long run. Not to mention, it will be a wonderful life changing experience.
• Be strategic about booking your airfare. Don’t buy your ticket at the last minute! Book at least 21 days in advance. Additionally, flying during off peak hours and on weekdays is often cheaper.
• Get International Student Status! For an investment of about $4 – $20, you can purchase the International Student Identity Card (ISIC), which will enable you to take advantage of discounts on airfare, magazine subscriptions, movie passes, restaurants, books and countless other perks for 16 months!
• Explore study abroad opportunities in less costly destinations. For example, countries like South America, Asia and Africa offer study abroad programs, but are generally less costly than the European programs. Additionally, the value of the dollar tends to be higher than the currency in these countries, thus making spending while there easier on your wallet.
• Chose the local experience over the tourist experience. Services or venues targeting tourist can be pricey. Rather than spending your cash on guided tours, save your money and use the public transportation system to get around the country. This is great way to really learn and experience the true essence of the country.
• Apply for funding. Of course the favored way to save money is to finance your trip on someone else’s dime! Right? There are numerous programs focused on providing funding for student travel. If your grades are stellar you may qualify for international student scholarships. Also check out some of the US government sponsored programs that offer scholarships for student travel. If you are already receiving Federal Student Aid, the government may cover the costs of round-trip transportation, visas, housing and health insurance. Pull out that laptop and do your research!
• Bank wisely. Make sure you understand your bank’s fee policies on overseas transactions. Some banks reduce fees for foreign students. Additionally, there are banks that offer lower ATM withdrawals and foreign transaction fees. Some of the larger American banks have “sister banks” in other countries and don’t charge you extra ATM fees. Additionally, most of the major credit card companies charge international fees on top of the ATM fees that the local banks charge. Check with you bank. If you find your bank fees are too expensive, you may want to consider opening an account at a bank that will allow you to bank more cost effectively while away.
• Reduce your dining expense. If you have access to a kitchen…COOK! Going out to eat is almost always a more expensive option than a home cooked meal in any country. Of course, when in a foreign country, you want to try out the local cuisine. Try a neighborhood restaurant versus paying high prices to eat in the tourist district. The local spots tend to be more authentic and less expensive.
• Skype! Using your cell to call loved ones while abroad will run up your bill quicker than you can blink. Ok. Maybe not quite that fast, but fast enough to put a major hurting on your wallet. Use Skype to phone or video call your peeps and avoid the ridiculously high fees!
• Understand the exchange rate. In order to properly budget, it is vital that you understand the value of the currency in the host country versus your U.S. dollars. Note: The exchange rate can change daily in some countries.
• Check out your schools study abroad options. Universities often have relationships with universities in other countries and/or organizations offering study abroad programs thus enabling them to offer their students discounted options.
• Choose accommodations near campus. The closer to campus your housing is the lower your transportation expense. If you’re lucky, the host university provides dorm or special student lodgings for international students.
• Get a part time job. First, check with your school to see if they will allow you to work. If yes, you can earn a little pocket change to pad your wallet with a part time gig.
What are you waiting for? Apply Now! The world is waiting on you!