Financial Factors in Studying Abroad

By Ashley Paskill on August 24, 2021

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Many students dream of studying abroad during their college careers. What many do not realize is that it may be more expensive than they anticipated, especially with costs they may not have thought about. When you are considering whether you want to study abroad and where, be sure to keep in mind various factors that can impact your expenses and budget so you know how much funding you will need.

Financial aid options

One of the biggest factors that affects where you study abroad, if you do, is the financial aid that is available to you. You will want to check to see what kind of scholarships and grants your school offers and how to apply for them. You will also want to check to see if there are any outside scholarships or grants that you can apply for. Be sure to start this process with enough time to get your applications in to ensure you maximize your chances of receiving funding. Also, be sure to find out if FAFSA aid will apply.


Different countries have different costs of living. Talk to a study abroad financial advisor to help you decide which countries would fit your budget best. Even your lodging accommodations in relation to other things you want to do will add to the money you will have to spend. When creating a budget, be sure to include things like getting around, lodging, food, and activities that you want to do into your budget. If you want to go to a specific country that is expensive, do some research to find the most cost-effective options are.

Image: KaLisa Veer

Money apps

If you are studying abroad with friends or classmates you know, consider using apps to reimburse each other for costs you may incur. Using PayPal, Dwolla, Splitwise, and Converter Plus can help repay friends for expenses or have them repay you. Be sure to plan ahead and set them up in advance as many of these types of apps require you to verify your bank information prior to gaining access to all of the services.

Credit and Debit Card Usage

If you are planning on using your credit or debit card while studying abroad, be sure to alert the company or bank that issues the card so you have access to it. If you don’t, the card issuer may flag any international transaction as suspicious and may freeze your account. Letting them know when you are beginning and ending your studying abroad will allow them to know that you are the one using the card. Also, research which credit cards are accepted where you are planning on studying abroad. Some cards, such as American Express, are not widely accepted in Europe, so you may want to consider getting a different credit card that you can use.

Extra costs

When studying abroad, it is easy to focus on the main expenses and lose sight of the little expenses that may make a big dent in your budget. Things like buying a local SIM card, souvenirs, and personal necessities can add up super quickly and will cut into your budget. Having some leeway in your budget in case of an emergency is also super important as things will likely come up. Be sure to have money set aside for weekend adventures and activities in your country so you can get the full experience.

Exchange rates

Another important factor that goes into the cost of studying abroad is the exchange rates between the currencies you use. Some countries have exchange rates where your home currency can go further, while others have exchange rates where you need more of your home currency to make ends meet. Do research to see what the exchange rate is in the country you want to study abroad in so that you know how much money you will need to have set aside for studying abroad.

Tuition and fees

When you are studying abroad, you will have to keep in mind what your tuition and fees will be. Some colleges have you take fewer classes, meaning your tuition will be lower. You may take the same number of classes, but the tuition rate may be more due to it being a study abroad program. Talk to your school’s study abroad office to see what the tuition and fees are and plan accordingly. This will help you know how many loans or scholarships you will need.

Student discounts

Check to see if the business, museums, and even transportation services where you are studying abroad have student discounts that can help you save money. If you are unsure, feel free to ask. Make sure you take your student ID so that you can make use of these discounts. This will help you save money, even if the discount is seemingly small.

Finances are super important when you are thinking about studying abroad. There may be things that you did not think of that you need to factor into your study abroad budget.

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