Affordability is perhaps the biggest barrier to college students studying abroad, and it is completely understandable why. One CEA program for studying French language abroad in Paris can cost upwards of $22,803-$31,173 according to the CEA website’s estimate, and unless you’re paying full price at a private university, chances are the cost of staying home for a semester is much cheaper.
However, although affordability is no doubt a challenge, it is not one that is impossible to overcome, and given the value of studying abroad, it is one well worth fighting through.
But that is much easier said than done, and I know that from experience. Therefore, I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned through my own experience, to hopefully help more Salem Sibs make their way overseas.
The first step to studying abroad affordably is finding an affordable program, and although this may sound self-explanatory, it can still be difficult. A lot of programs will name themselves as an ‘affordable option,’ only for you to find a huge price tag attached. Additionally, if you simply google ‘affordable study abroad’ or something similar, the first few results are going to be clogged with advertisements for those same programs that are simply out of budget.
The key to breaking through this wall of false promises and advertisements? Knowing what you’re looking for, specifically what kind of study abroad host you’re looking for. From my observation, there are three options: private companies, universities and colleges, and finally non-profit groups.
The first type of study abroad program hosts are companies. These programs are by far the most expensive, however, they may provide you with some services harder to find from other program hosts. For example, your teachers may all be American, you may be guaranteed a host family or internship, or a meal plan may be included. Depending on what you’re looking for and if you’re willing to pay a lot of money, this solution may work best for you. Don’t necessarily write these programs off just because they are expensive, although that is something to keep in mind.
The next type of program is those hosted by American universities or colleges. For example, the University of Minnesota allows for students from other universities and colleges to attend their Arabic language program in Morocco for a fairly inexpensive price. These programs can be a bit harder to find as they’re typically advertised to the students of the universities and colleges that host them, but they can be a great option. Keep in mind that, like the price of college in general, you are more likely going to find an affordable price tag if it is connected to a public university, although there are always exceptions.
Lastly, a program may be run by a non-profit study abroad network. In my research, I have found exactly one that is accessible to Salem College students, and it just so happens to be the one I’m using. The organization is known as USAC and it has programs in over 25 countries covering a variety of majors, all for affordable prices. For example, the program I am currently completing through USAC will likely cost me around $15,000, which, although expensive, is still much less expensive than the CEA program quoted above. Additionally, the program I have chosen is hosted in a country with a high cost of living, France. A program in India or Thailand could very well have a price tag under $10,000 for a semester.
Once you’ve found your program of choice, hopefully with help from the information above, it’s time to find solutions to the costs outside the program fee itself. Namely, the flight and often times the cost of meals.
Flights from the United States are incredibly expensive. I’m not going to lie and say why that is, I don’t know, but it’s expensive. My flight to France was over $1,000 and I doubt I could have found a price tag cheaper. However, I still didn’t pay as much as I could have, because I understood some of the ins and outs of airfare costs, which can unfortunately often feel like you’re playing a game of chess with airlines.
The ins and outs you need to know?
Plane ticket prices will vary significantly over seemingly insignificant things, and often the pricing of tickets can seem counter-intuitive. For example, fewer flights to get to your destination should mean a lower price tag, right? Wrong. Direct flights are insanely expensive, and chances are the more layovers you have, and therefore the more flights you take, the cheaper your ticket will be. Additionally, the amount of time in advance you book your ticket can cause the price to fluctuate. Finally, something as mundane as which date your plane departs can change a flight’s price, Thursday being more expensive than Saturday which is cheaper than Sunday but just as much as Monday.
Thankfully, statisticians have found a way to help us beat the game with the airlines, and it’s through flight watchers. These are apps that use math to predict the cost of plane tickets and when it is cheapest to fly and when it is cheapest to buy. The app I used was called Hopper, and it’s free and easy to use. Even if you aren’t studying abroad, you should download it, just in case you ever want to take a vacation.
The next major cost you’re likely to encounter is food. Unfortunately, not every university has an unlimited meal plan for the rat. Even unfortunately, this cost is much harder to game in comparison to flights. In fact, as far as I’ve been able to encounter, there is only one way to cut down on the expense of food without starving: cook your own meals and pack your own lunch. It isn’t glorious or a quick or easy fix, but it will save a lot of money. Groceries for one person a week in France is about $75 while eating out for one meal is close to $15. Multiply that by every meal you eat a week, and you’re far surpassing that $75 grocery bill.
Finally, there is the matter of college savings, scholarships, and financial aid, and it’s about to sound a lot like senior year of high school again.
Financial Aid & Scholarships
There are a variety of scholarships available to people studying abroad. Some are from the government; the Lucy Rose Center should have more information on these, and others are from the programs you apply to themselves. Unfortunately, like college scholarships in general, these will require applications and, yes, essays. However, although tedious, the payoff has the opportunity to be well worth it, as sometimes all you need is $2,000 off to make the dream work.
As for college savings, you’re in luck as they can often be applied to study abroad programs. However, they vary between how your savings may work and what program you’re looking into. Therefore, before you pick your program, make sure your college savings plan can be used towards the expenses you’ll incur during your semester.
Finally, financial aid. Sadly, I don’t personally have any experience of Salem financial aid transferring over to study abroad, but I know from a meeting I had with the Financial Aid Offices at Salem that it is a possibility. So, once you’ve decided on your program, be sure to stop by and talk with them, I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to help you!
Hopefully, with this knowledge, the barrier of affordability seems a bit more surpassable! It may be a difficult process, but it’s worth it.
(If you have any questions you want to ask about study abroad or articles you want to see, or are just curious about what I’m up to, message me on Instagram @laurenkaytravels, I’d be more than happy to hear from my Salem Sibs!)