Study Abroad Series – Part II: Financing a Study Abroad Experience

Last week I talked about choosing a study abroad location. Choosing where in the world to go is exciting, but nothing can kill a study abroad dream quite like a look at the program price tag. Money doesn’t have to be your deciding factor, though. There are some things you can do to get funding and minimize – even eliminate – what you’ll have to spend on your program.

1. Scholarships

Study abroad scholarships are offered in a variety of capacities, including merit-based, student-specific (i.e. minority scholarships), destination-specific, program-specific (your home or destination school or program may offer scholarship options), and subject-specific (very common for language study, but also available for almost any area of study).

Studyabroad.com offers an extensive database of study abroad scholarships, and the Institute of International Education offers good search options for destination and subject-specific scholarships.

It’s important to pay attention to deadlines; many study abroad scholarships require early action. There are, of course, some that you can apply for on a rolling basis, with little time before you leave.

2. Study Abroad Loans

You can find a database of study abroad student loans here. The great thing about study abroad loans is that transportation and cultural excursions are eligible expenses.

3. Crowdfunding Websites

GoFundMe – This website is amazing. It allows you to quickly and easily set up a fundraising page with a goal, photo and description, and makes it easy for people to donate to the page. Another great crowdfunding website is GoGetFunding.com. Once you’ve created your page, share it via social media and email to all your family and friends, asking them to support you in your dream to study abroad.

In your email, it will help to lay out what exactly your expenses are, what their donations will be funding, and your study abroad goals/things you want to experience. Providing a suggested amount (keep it low so people aren’t deterred), and list what exactly that amount will cover (i.e. a week of groceries, an unlimited train pass, etc.) And of course, be sure to thank everyone and offer the option to pass on donating. You can even request that they share it with other friends.

You can select either a personal funding campaign or an all-or-nothing campaign. The all-or-nothing contains a goal and time limit, while the personal funding does not. With all-or-nothing, you only get donations if you reach your goal, whereas you get all donations from a personal funding campaign.

4. Find an exchange program

I did this, meaning my school exchanged me for a student from the school at which I studied. The reason this option rocked so much was that I had no added costs to my university tuition (besides my flight); my costs actually were lower because I didn’t have to pay my university’s housing or meal plan, plus all of my regular university scholarships still applied in addition to an extra study abroad one. Check with your university to see whether it has exchange programs, and how fees are allocated.

5. Holiday Gift Requests

Send out a mass email, e-card or letter to all family members and friends who typically give you birthday or Christmas gifts. Let them know that in lieu of gifts, you’re asking for funds to go abroad.

Like GoFundMe, list your expenses and goals, and why it’s so important to you to go abroad. You could even list interesting facts about your university and location; that gets people excited.

6. Local fundraising

This works well in smaller towns or suburbs. Ask local restaurants or businesses, particularly those that you spend time at often, to place a donation jar at the counter. While this won’t earn you outrageous amounts of cash, it is an effortless way to earn some extra spending money.

Be sure to leave an info sheet by the jar or can explaining what the fundraising is for and why it’s important to you.

7. Garage sale

Any type of sale is great, but I hosted a garage sale before my trip and made $600 from it. That paid for two months’ rent (my student housing was cheap) and it also helped me de-clutter, so it was a win-win. Hosting various sales, like art sales, bake sales, book sales etc. may, again, not earn you mass sums of money but can get you some good spending money.

If you really have a lot of stuff and your sales do well, you can even earn enough to cover your round-trip flight to and from your host country and more.

8. Odd jobs

Walk dogs, mow lawns, photograph events, babysit… anything you’re good at that can bring in some extra cash. All it takes is a little simple networking and some flyers.

So, between scholarships, loans and personal fundraising, you may be able to raise enough to study completely cost-free.

What tips do you have for funding a study abroad experience? Any creative ways to make money?

Image: Kristina Zuidema, Flickr