How To Finance Your Studies Abroad

By Jean Folger | October 30, 2011 AAA

Overseas education gives students the opportunity to enhance traditional academic experiences while increasing cultural awareness and tolerance. Students who study abroad often develop a deeper understanding of the world, and learn skills that contribute to both personal growth and career marketability. Many employers seek diversified employees who can communicate well with others and who have cross-cultural competence. Cultural immersion through a study abroad program can be worth the expenses when it comes time to land a job: a person with international experience may be the stand-out candidate for a position. (For more, read You CAN Afford To Study Abroad.)

TUTORIAL: Education Savings Account

Even though students can rationalize the expenses as investments in their futures, both personally and career-wise, finding the money to study abroad can still be a challenge. Fortunately, financial assistance is available for those students who wish to combine higher education with international and cultural exploration.

Scholarships and Grants
Scholarships and grants are called "free money" because these funds do not need to be paid back, making them the most attractive method of funding study abroad. Scholarship deadlines often fall between October and March of the year before the funds will be needed. The search for scholarships, therefore, should begin at least one year before the money will be needed. Certain scholarships, such as the Rotary Foundation's Ambassadorial Scholarship program, offer money only to students who are studying abroad.

Financial Aid
If a student is pursuing a study abroad program while still in high school, he or she is not eligible for federal financial aid. For university and college students, however, as long as the student's U.S. school appears on the Federal School Code list, the student's federal student loans, such as Stafford and PLUS, can be used to pay for a non-US school. The Federal School Code list can be found on the U.S. Department of Education and Federal Student Aid website at www.ifap.ed.gov. (For more on student loans, check out An Introduction To Student Loans And The FAFSA.)

Sallie Mae International has loans that can be used by U.S. students to study abroad, or by international students who wish to study in the U.S. American students who are enrolled full time at a college or university abroad and are expected to earn a degree while abroad, or who are studying abroad temporarily and expecting to earn a degree from an institution within the U.S. may be eligible for Sallie Mae International private student loans. The private loans are:

  • Sallie Mae Smart Option Student Loan
    Students can borrow up to the full amount of their education, less any other aid that has been received. This loan program is ideal for students who need additional funds after they have maximized free money (scholarships) and federal loans.

  • Global Health Residency and Relocation Loan
    This loan is available for medical students and assists with the costs associated with finding a residency, including travel for interviews and the costs of relocating (these costs are not covered by federal student loan programs).

Interning Abroad
Interning abroad provides students and new graduates valuable opportunities to work in specific career fields while enhancing their abilities to work in cross-cultural environments, both of which help provide distinction among prospective employers. Interning abroad may reduce the costs of studying abroad, but should not be considered a way to earn money. Websites such as https://www.iesabroad.org/IES/home.html (the Institute for the International Education of Students) and www.internabroad.com are updated frequently with international internship opportunities. Students can search by country and by type of internship, such as "Croatia" and "Economics." (To help you score an internship, see Internships: Find The Best One For You.)

Fellowships and Assistantships
Graduate students may be eligible for an international fellowship or assistantship. Fellowships allow students to perform research or specialized work in a particular field at a university abroad. Organizations such as the Institute of International Education (www.iie.org) have information for graduate students interested in these opportunities. The IIE also lists other scholarship and award opportunities, as well as information on the Fulbright Program, a U.S. international exchange program that is administered by IIE. Assistantships typically involve working for a university as a teacher or in an administrative role. Individual schools can be contacted to learn about available assistantships.

A Penny Saved
In addition to financial aid and scholarships, students can help raise money to study abroad by spending less on unnecessary splurges. When purchasing the newest iPad, for example, students should ask themselves if they want it more than they want to study abroad. Students should ask themselves if they are willing to make the sacrifices at home for the opportunity to study abroad. Every dollar saved is one dollar closer to the financial requirements for the study abroad program and in the end it all adds up.

Additionally, students who wish to study abroad can start a travel fund to save for international educational opportunities. Students can write blogs to provide updates to friends and family, and add a PayPal donation button to the blog to make it easy for people to make a monetary contribution.

The Bottom Line
The costs associated with studying abroad are seen by many as a sound investment in a student's personal and professional development. By starting the process early, students can take advantage of the many funding opportunities available for studying abroad. (For those who are doing post-graduate degree abroad, check out The Pros And Cons Of Going Abroad For Your MBA.)

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