What Does Study Abroad Cost? One Family’s Expenses and Some Money Saving Resources

by Julie on June 3, 2013 · 19 comments

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London-bound at the Kansas City airport.

She’s off!

Our daughter, Lindsey, left last Sunday to spend 8 weeks studying and interning in London. I am so thrilled that she is having this experience.

We’ve spent the last six months or so learning all about studying abroad. There’s so much to consider: Where? How long? And how much? As in money.

Because some have let me know that they found my What does college cost? posts helpful, and because those posts and the How much does prom cost? post have generated a lot of comments, I decided to break out the calculator and add this What does study abroad cost? post to the mix.

What does it cost to study abroad?

Let me cut to the chase: study abroad is expensive. It’s easily 2-3 times what my husband and I imagined it would be.

Having said that, there is a lot of variety in study abroad programs.  Things like which country you’re visiting, how long you’re staying, and whether you plan to do any side traveling will all affect the cost of the program.

KU’s Office of Study Abroad offers programs in dozens of countries — from Argentina to Vietnam — and in lengths ranging from Spring Break and Winter Break to a full academic year.

Like I said…a lot of variety.

In Lindsey’s case, she chose a summer program that includes some study for college credit, and also a 20-hour per week internship in her field. If you want to study abroad, but you’re worried about the prices, you can always obtain a degree online while temporarily living abroad. This will alleviate much of the financial stress associated with the process and allow you to obtain a great education in a new and exciting location.  If you’re pursuing a Master of Science in Renewable and Clean energy, as an example, you may be able to find more information about how the country you’re staying in deals with alternative energy. Studying abroad should be a consideration regardless of whether or not you’re going to school online or not.

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Channeling Mary Poppins in front of Buckingham Palace.

Here is what our office of Study Abroad told us we could expect for expenses for her program:

Tuition: $1600
Program Fee*: $6750
Airfare: $1150
Passport: $135
Visa**: $420
Housing Deposit: $150
Meals: $1100
Onsite Transportation: $420
Personal Expenses: $1000

Total: $12,725

* The program fee includes housing and internship placement costs.
** Required because she’s interning and not just studying.

Our actual expenses so far have been pretty close:

Tuition and Fees: $850*
Program Fee: $6750
Airfare: $993
Passport: $0**
Visa: $489
Housing Deposit: $150

Total to date: $9232

*After $500 scholarship
** She already had one from a previous trip.

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Their first bargain: a burger and beer for 7 pounds.

Obviously, the meals, onsite transportation and personal expenses have yet to be determined and those will be the most variable costs. Although Lindsey did report that they found a pub nearby on their first day that serves a burger and beer combo for seven pounds.

Part of personal expenses will include any sightseeing, day trips, and side trips to other cities. We’re encouraging her to take advantage of those opportunities while she’s there, so I’m anticipating personal expenses to come in at more than $1000.

Money-saving resources for study abroad

Despite the high costs of study abroad, there are some ways to save money. Here are a few we’ve taken advantage of and all the credit goes to Lindsey for doing the legwork on these.

Scholarships – We’re learning that scholarship opportunities don’t stop with your freshman year. Lindsey has one, main renewable scholarship that pays for over half of her tuition, but she has become a rock star at seeking out and applying for additional scholarships, including ones for study abroad.

She won two study abroad scholarships totaling $1500: one from her university’s honors program and one from the study abroad office. The first came in the form of a check, so it will offset the cost of food and personal expenses while she’s there. The second was applied to her tuition.

STA Travel – Another resource Lindsey was made aware of was STA Travel, which specializes in travel for young people, like students.  She was able to save on her airfare by going through STA Travel. She booked the airfare, so I don’t know the exact savings, but it was around $150-$250.

International Student ID Card – Obtaining one of these was on Lindsey’s to-do list for the week before she left. The ISIC comes with a number of benefits, including discounts with retailers and discounted airfare, train tickets and rail passes. You are eligible to get one if you’re over 12 and a degree-seeking student at an accredited school.

How to pay for a study abroad trip

Despite our initial sticker shock, this is something we all wanted Lindsey to be able to do. And we wanted to do it with cash. So we put together an “all of the above” strategy for paying for it, much like we’re doing for other college costs.

Here’s what it looks like:

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Tower Bridge photo op.

  • Some of the expenses (airfare, Visa, housing deposit) were due during the spring, so we cash flowed those items as they came up.
  • We used savings from our two college accounts to pay the big bills (tuition and program fee), which came due right before she left.
  • Lindsey saved as much money as possible from her campus job during the school year.
  • She received a very generous gift from her grandparents that she will use to do some special things, like see Les Miserables on the London stage and take some side trips.
  • Lindsey researched, applied for, and won scholarships totaling $1500.

Other considerations

The fact that Lindsey chose to go abroad in the summer means that she’s foregoing the income she would have earned by working full-time during that time. That was something to consider, although it’s possible that she might have been working an unpaid internship even had she stayed home.

On the plus side, it really helps that Lindsey attends such an affordable school to begin with. This experience would not have been possible, at least without debt, if she were at a more expensive school.

So that’s our experience so far. Did you study abroad in college? Is it something you would like for your kids to do? Do these costs surprise you?






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Heddi Cundle June 3, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Great article and good that you included the airfare. We see so many students who have forgotten to include the flight price in their budget. So they fundraise their study abroad trip on our site, http://www.mytab.co Just makes their budgeting so much easier and doesn’t melt their credit card at the time of booking :)

Donna June 3, 2013 at 9:56 pm

My daughter will be studying in Germany for her Jr. year of high school, leaving in August. She did get a CBYX scholarship, airfare, housing, insurance, etc., the uncovered expenses do add up and there are many hidden cost. Well maybe not hidden, but unexpected. It’s a great opportunity so I try not to focus on the uncovered, but they still add up.

Julie June 11, 2013 at 10:10 am

Same here, Donna. I don’t want to give the impression that we’re overly focused on the money, but it is a big consideration and one we weren’t 100% prepared for.

Congrats to your daughter. How did a study abroad year come about while she was still in high school? She’s a brave girl (and you’re a brave mom) but the experience will be life-changing I’m sure!

Charlotte June 4, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Really appreciate the detailed information! I don’t anticipate a trip like this for Eva but it’s good to have an idea of the expense in case she has the opportunity. I hope that Lindsey has a great time and learns a lot!

Julie June 11, 2013 at 10:11 am

Thank you, Charlotte! Eva is going to amazing things, it’s obvious! :)

Sharon June 4, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Well, Julie, you just confirmed for me that my kids will NOT be studying abroad. :)!! Actually, neither child has an interest in doing so, which helps my bottomline as well.

I’m so glad Lindsey had the opportunity to do so. She looks like she is LOVING it!

Julie June 11, 2013 at 10:12 am

Ha Sharon! I’m glad I could make you feel a little richer by sharing the costs you won’t be paying. Lindsey is indeed loving London.

Laura June 10, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Studying abroad is fabulous, a lifetime of memories! I studied abroad through the Butler University program, the best thing of all was that the price of the program was the exact same as regular tuition! The additional expenses were the flight costs, spending money and of course if you travelled on your own. The classes, board and room was the same as what you paid at your own school. At my university I did have a meal plan but opted out while studying abroad since my flat had a kitchen and could make my own meals, where in the US I don’t have access to a kitchen.
She will have a wonderful time and will remember it for the rest of her life. What great parents to let her have this fabulous opportunity!

Julie June 11, 2013 at 10:14 am

Thanks for your nice comment, Laura. Where did you study?

Yes, we heard on many college visits that there were semester-long programs that cost essentially the same as a semester in college. Those tended to be pricier schools to begin with, but it’s a great opportunity for the students at those schools.

I have a high school friend who attended Butler. Go Bulldogs!

Laura June 25, 2013 at 9:20 pm

Yay! Go Bulldogs! We live just less than 10 minutes away from BU and I still advise at my old sorority. I went to University of Stirling in Stirling, Scotland. Just a lovely place, I enjoyed every minute:)

Lily July 15, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Anyone reading this who doesn’t yet have kids, or has kids who are still very young, can take advantage of this advice: I highly recommend saving up for this sort of thing the old fashioned way – start EARLY. When our now 20- and 16-yr- old children were each born, we opened UTMA accounts for each of them and have deposited a meager $25 each month (meaning $50 a month ever since child 2 was born) – it’s what we could afford. This past semester (Jan-May 2013), our daughter studied abroad in the U.K. Her tuition was covered by scholarship, and the room/board at the British campus was part of her regular annual University fees, which in our case are paid partly by financial aid and partly by us parents. But her UTMA account covered her plane fare, passport, spending money, and all of her expenses for several side trips – which, with her very careful planning and budgeting, she was able to take nearly every weekend during school and several days after school was finished. She did not travel extravaganly – she and 2 friends booked air/train travel as far in advance as possible to get the best rates, and they used the web to find good rates for decent (safe) but not luxurious lodging. And, she came home with money left in that account! – When she first approached us about the possibility of study abroad, I was SO glad we had had the foresight to set up those accounts when our kids were were babies. Without that, it would have been difficult if not impossible for her to go. We also never would’ve been able to save back enough of our own money to go visit while she was there!

Julie August 17, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Such good advice, Lily. Even setting aside small amounts can make a difference. Thanks for sharing your experience.

andrea August 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Our son is leaving to study in Japan in 6 weeks & we’ve yet to find anyplace that will provide international student loans. Any info would be greatly appreciated!

Julie August 17, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Andrea, I don’t have any experience with this. I did find this page on the Department of Education’s site, if it helps: http://studentaid.ed.gov/prepare-for-college/choosing-schools/types/international.

Good luck!

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