Study abroad

Study abroad the moneysmart way

It is possible to study abroad without going into debt—you just have to be mindful about your budget. Get some tips on how to do it.

Podcast transcript


PETE: You’re listening to How Not to Move Back in With Your Parents here on the IU MoneySmarts Radio Network. I’m Pete the Planner, there's Alex.

ALEX: How’s it going?

PETE: How are you, buddy?

ALEX: Doing well.

PETE: We are talking studying abroad today, the economics and the financial implications of studying overseas because there are implications. And we’re joined by Sidney who has studied abroad and is certainly gonna shed some light and perspective on what she’s dealt with. Sidney, hello.

SIDNEY: Hello.

PETE: Now you’re joined by us on the IU MoneySmarts hotline. We got you on the phone. Are you abroad right now?

SIDNEY: No, no, no, I’m in sunny and exotic South Bend, Indiana.

PETE: That’s someone abroad, I guess.


PETE: Just go to a restaurant like a Mexican restaurant or something. And just do everything from there.


PETE: So, you studied abroad, where did you study?

SIDNEY: I did, I studied in Paris, France.

PETE: All right, Alex, have you ever studied abroad?

ALEX: No, I wasn’t able to. I’m actually saving up to go after graduation.

PETE: That’s not studying, you’re just going abroad.

ALEX: I’m just going, yeah.

PETE: I studied abroad, went to Spain and Belgium for five, six weeks or so. Sidney, how long were you gone abroad?

SIDNEY: I did a summer program that lasted six weeks.

PETE: Now was there extra tuition involved with that or was it regular tuition rates or how did you stack that up?

SIDNEY: Well, it was it ended up being more obviously just with the exchange rate and with the plane tickets there and back. And it was more expensive than just staying in the United States and taking summer classes for sure. But I will say that it was definitely worth the extra cost. There’s nothing that can come close to french baguettes and cheese, so-

PETE: You’re not gonna argue with me in regards to cheese. It’s the greatest product in the world. Help me understand this, Sidney. Did you do the whole hostel thing or how did you live actually?

SIDNEY: I lived with a host family. So I had the option of either staying in a dorm, with other students from the program, which was a little bit more expensive. Or you could stay with a French host family that agreed to host American students for the program. And so I opted for that.

PETE: How much less? So that was cheaper, the host family thing?

SIDNEY: Mm-hm, mm-hm.

PETE: You know how much cheaper it was, by chance?

SIDNEY: I wanna say it was maybe $200 or $300 or euros. I guess that’s a big difference. But I don’t exactly remember. But, it was a big enough difference for me to opt into that experience over the other one. And just because it’s way more fun to live in a house and get free French food.

PETE: Yeah, I can’t disagree with that. So Alex, as we’re thinking about studying abroad and talking about the finances of it, let’s make a list of expenses here that we need to account for. We’re starting with just the tuition cost to be a student, right? We’re gonna start there?

ALEX: Tuition cost to be a student, living there at the same time. And then also I’m not sure what you did. But people like to travel to different places around Europe while you’re there as well. Did you do that?

SIDNEY: I actually didn’t do that. That was kind of one of the deals I made with my parents is that I would be really low budget while I was there, so I stayed. I think the farthest I went was to Versailles, which was just by train. And I think it’s technically outside of Paris but I never left France.

PETE: I think it’s pronounced Versailles. No, it’s Versailles, I’m just kidding.

SIDNEY: Versailles, I’m sorry [LAUGH].

PETE: Well, we’re in Indiana so it’s Versailles. So you didn’t travel abroad when you were abroad, which I gotta think saved you a ton of money, right?

SIDNEY: It did, yeah, it definitely it did. And thankfully I made another friend with a girl in the program who was also doing a really low budget [LAUGH] trip. And so our other friends would go out to different countries on the weekend sometimes. And It was nice to kind of just hang out with her and be able explore the city. And thankfully Paris has a lot to see and do. And so we were never bored.

PETE: So how many weeks did you say you were, six weeks, is that what you said?

SIDNEY: I was there for six weeks, yeah.

PETE: So flight over there, what 1,000 bucks or so to get over there?

SIDNEY: Yes, yeah.

PETE: So that’s gotta be the biggest chunk of it all, right?

SIDNEY: It definitely is. It definitely is because you cannot get around it. You can eat cheaply and you can be pretty frugal when it comes to traveling around the city. But you have to get there [LAUGH]. That’s the hard part.

ALEX: Definitely, so as far as building up to your study abroad trip, how did you save up? How did you live in college before that, to make it so that you could do that?

SIDNEY: Yeah, so I did a lot of research into different scholarships. Thankfully, one of the certificate programs that I was in at IU, the Lamp Program offered, well that stands for Liberal Arts and Management Program. They offered a study abroad scholarship, so I used that. And then I kind of saved up on the side from the UTI job, the teaching assistant job I had during a semester. And I definitely cut down on going out and I ate in a lot. It was all worth it, and thankfully I had help from my parents as well. So we all just, it was a team effort definitely to make that happen.

PETE: So it sounds like you definitely did it the right way. And you got to witness some people from a financial perspective that did it the wrong way. Do you happen to know any of the ill effects of doing it the wrong way that you got to see at the end?

SIDNEY: Yeah, there was, I don’t [LAUGH]. I’m not gonna make any moral judgement. But I will say that there were some people who were lot more stressed out leaving than others. And there was a lot of shopping that was done that maybe shouldn’t been and just some eating out or going out to the bars or going clubbing in Europe, which is I respect the desire to do that but it is an expensive choice. And I think that there were some regrets after that. But thankfully I didn't fall into it.

PETE: I gotta think we don’t want anyone to necessarily not have fun. We encourage people to live their life. But you can’t just throw your hands in the air, hey, wave them like you just don’t care. But B, just say look, I’m only gonna do this once so I’m gonna spend whatever. That’s never a really good approach to this situation or frankly in financial life in general.

SIDNEY: Yeah, no, I totally agree. And it’s silly to say but honestly the most fun that I had when I was there, at least one of them was through fun experiences, was going to the museums. And thankfully they had so many different student discounts at all the museums. So I went to the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay and a couple of other ones that were way fun. And those experiences were priceless. And it was only a few euro to get in but also just like picnicking in a garden. It’s, you don’t pay anything, you just walk in. And you can have a great experience without really paying anything, so-

PETE: Yeah, before we let you go let us know from the host family perspective was that through a particular program? Was that through IU they were able to find that host family? Where can students find to do the host family thing?

SIDNEY: So my program was, it was joint through IU and then IES, which is the, it was the Institute for the Education of Students. And it’s a very vague name. But it coordinates a lot of study abroad programs.

PETE: Seems made up.

SIDNEY: Yeah, it totally is.

PETE: The institute, wait, hold on, I gotta get after this. The Institute for the Education of Students?

SIDNEY: Yeah, and I think it was, like, more complicated than that. But all I remember is that it was IES. And we tried to use those cards to prove that we were students in Europe. Thankfully, a couple people bought it but some didn’t. But the vaguely name group that IU programmed the trip with, they were the ones who coordinated the host family. So you listed your preferences in a survey before you went abroad. And then they matched you up with the different host family. So you could choose to have like have a roommate or not have a roommate and if you were okay living with kids, or whatever. And I actually ended up living with a retired couple, which was pretty nice cuz everything was very calm.

PETE: Nice, all right. Well, Sidney, well we always appreciate last year on program, and of course certainly this year. So best of luck to you. And thank you for sharing your experiences studying abroad.

SIDNEY: Thank you very much for having me, it was a pleasure.

PETE: Our pleasure, Alex, the Institute for Educating Students.

ALEX: Good one.

PETE: I think it’s owned by Vandelay Industries is my guess. So hey, if you want more information on all this stuff go to And of course, thank you for listening to How Not to Move Back in With Your Parents here on the IU MoneySmarts Radio Network.