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Bangs, Bucks, and Other Financial Matters
Thursday, July 14, 2016
When it comes to money matters, I prefer to be blunt. So here I'll attempt to give my most straight-forward and useful advice for financing a study abroad trip.
The short end of it is this:
Studying abroad will cost you, at minimum, a few thousand dollars.
Obviously, there is A LOT of variation in cost depending on where you're going, how long you're staying there, what type of accommodations you'll have, etc. But my general rule of thumb is this: If you're not prepared to spend at least $3,000, you probably want to wait until you are.
"But what about scholarships?"
Again, A LOT of variation. There are many scholarships out there. But there are also many stipulations with scholarships that you need to be aware of before making the decision to travel out of the country. The following are among the most important:
Many scholarship applications for study abroad will ask you to provide "proof of acceptance" to a study abroad program before you can be considered for the scholarship. And anyone who has ever applied to a study abroad program knows that there is typically a very small window between acceptance and having to make your first payment towards the program. Therefore, it is entirely likely that you will have to pay for your program long before you will be notified of whether or not you'll receive a scholarship.
Some scholarships are only available as a reimbursement. This means that after you have paid for your program costs, you must show receipts to whoever is dispersing the scholarship, and they will pay you back the costs. So again, you will have to pay for your program out of your own pocket first.
Scholarships are paid in different ways depending on where they are coming from. Some may want to pay directly to the study abroad program itself without going through you at all. Others may deposit the money into your bank account, and some might just mail you a check. Understanding these different methods is important because it will affect the time frame in which you receive the scholarship.
The tricky thing is...most scholarships will not tell you how they plan to award you the money until after you've been notified that you're a recipient. This can make things difficult sometimes because with studying abroad there are often a lot of hard deadlines when it comes to things like program costs, buying plane tickets, etc. So my recommendations:
Plan well in advance and save as much as you can to ensure that you can support yourself as much as possible. I would suggest giving yourself at least one full year to begin preparing, saving, researching, etc.
Budget your costs. Figure out how much it's going to cost you to get to your location, pay for housing, buy food, and everything else right down to the amount you want to spend on souvenirs. If you have a plan, you're less likely to spend frivolously. (For this, I use YNAB. It's free for students and incredibly useful for all kinds of budgeting.)
No matter what, make sure you have an emergency fund in cash of the currency that you will need in whatever country you're going to. Don't be too dependent on credit cards or ATMs if you can help it. In addition to foreign transaction fees, not all places accept cards the way they do in America. In Italy, for example, many restaurants will only accept cash, and some of the places that accept cards have inconsistent card readers that will not always work. So make sure you have enough cash to afford the essentials.
That's all my advice for now.