How Not to Move Back in With Your Parents

Beyond Tuition Costs Podcast Episodes

Study Abroad
Study Abroad

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This week, Pete and Alex are joined by caller and IU alumna Sydney Hofferth, who studied abroad in her junior year. Sydney shares her experience traveling to France while maintaining a frugal mindset.

Read the Show Notes

Whether or not to study abroad is often a consideration for many students that comes with an all or nothing mentality. Either “I can’t afford it all,” or “I’ll allow myself to spend once I leave – because hey, how often will you get to travel to different countries in a short time span?”

As someone who decided not to study abroad after budgeting around the holidays in my sophomore year and figuring it was way too expensive to bother weighing the option, had I had a little more information about how to do it wisely, I might have thought twice. Sure, there might be more upfront costs than you would be used to once you start factoring in transportation and housing options; but what you do during your study abroad experience and how you spend your money can take a number of avenues. Here are some points to consider as you think about studying abroad for yourself.

Talk to Your Study Abroad Advisor

The Office of Overseas Study is likely going to be your first stop in getting information on different programs and in finding out what each program has to offer. Also, be sure to plan ahead with your academic advisor to make sure the courses you take abroad count toward your degree.

In selecting the program that best fits you, you have a number of considerations to keep in mind. Not only are you looking at which programs fit best into your academic curriculum; you also want to think about programs in terms of how long they last and which option will work to your advantage the best with your schedule and graduation plan. You might even be able to save some money in the long-run because you could have the opportunity to fulfill some of your core class requirements while abroad. Be sure to check study abroad programs within your academic college or department as well. Many times, they even have different funding options and scholarship opportunities.

With location, you may want to consider a less-traditional route, especially if you are already thinking about cost of living and balancing that with opportunities to have different cultural experiences. A study abroad advisor can help you look at the factors that matter to you most and help you find a location that works with all those considerations in mind, including your budget.

Scholarships & Financial Aid

Sure, some of the costs associated with traveling overseas are unavoidable. As Sydney mentions in the study abroad podcast, there are some things that simply are out of your control wherever you go, like the cost of your plane tickets and the exchange rate.

But there are some things you can control. First, do your research on program types. How long you spend abroad can play a large role in the spending you do before, during, and after you go.

Second, do your research on financial assistance available to you from your campus. Consult financial aid and study abroad office(s). In addition to the Office of Overseas Study site and financial aid suggestions they present here, make sure you take a look at any additional resources available on your campus. If you do your research, you can find both need and merit-based scholarship and grant opportunities through other IU offices and through national and program-specific organizations. Here are a few places on each campus to find out about what options there are to help fund your study abroad experience:

As far as tuition goes, most forms of regular financial aid, including federal student loans and grants, can be used on study abroad programs. And in-state student rates pay more affordable rates for study abroad programs that IU administers directly.

Aside from the fixed costs associated with traveling abroad, be mindful of where else your money could go. What else will you be doing once you get there – shopping, clubbing, more traveling? All of that will affect your spending budget and your overall cost. These expenses are also ones that are in your control. If you happen to be working while you travel, that may help; but don’t forget to budget for your living situation and budget for your spending.

Talk to other students who have already studied abroad. Whatever you do to find more information, be sure to utilize your resources at IU once you leave, both for additional funding and to find out about other opportunities.

The Experience

We would be remiss in not mentioning where study abroad can take you – not literally, but in terms of broadening your horizons for your life after IU. Before you go, during your international travel, and once you return, you will want to take some time to do some reflection on the overall experience and where it will fit into your goals. It’ll certainly depend on the intent of your experience.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What are some reasons you would like to study abroad?
  • What do you expect to be the most valuable part of your experience?
  • What do you want to get out of it for when you return home?

At the end of it all, you may be asking yourself: is it all worth it? Once you consider what the experience can do for the skills you build and opportunities you take, you might find that the worth of the financial cost will depend on where you see your future after graduation. And speaking of your future, think about how it could affect your potential for internships, job opportunities, and graduate school: how you can gain perspective and broaden your global consciousness, build your foreign language competency, or grow your networks through building new connections. What do you want to be able to tell employers about your experience? How do you want to be able to talk about it? Again, it’s all in how you look at and reflect upon the experience.

When you weigh it with the overall financial cost associated with traveling abroad, it all boils down to the research you do beforehand to prepare yourself, how well you take advantage of the resources your campus provides, and your MoneySmart mentality you have about how to spend and where to save while you travel.