Can you image completing your homework assignments under the shade of the Eiffel Tower or in a remote village in a South American country? If so, a study abroad experience may be in your future. College is one of the few moments in your life where you can take some risks and try new things, such as studying in a foreign land. With so many programs to choose from, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination and your wallet. Although most colleges and universities offer a wide variety of study abroad experiences, very few programs are covered completely by your financial aid. In most cases, you’ll need additional funding to help cover all the expenses you’ll incur during your time away. Not only will you need to pay for tuition during the semester (or longer), but you'll also need funding to cover travel expenses, insurance, and living expenses — just to name a few. Unless you have a wealthy relative or some cash stashed away, you’ll need to plan ahead if you want to travel abroad. In fact, it’s best to start saving for a study abroad experience at least 12 to 18 months in advance, if not longer. Not sure where to start? Consider these creative ways to fund your study abroad experience.
Believe it or not, there are quite a few scholarship programs that are specifically for study abroad opportunities. Many awards will be offered through a specific college or university, but some programs are also open to students from any institution. Here are just a few:
The Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA) is a nonprofit organization that helps North American undergraduates earn academic credit through various study abroad programs. Although the organization is affiliated with Butler University, students don't need to attend Butler to participate or qualify for scholarships. The IFSA provides general study abroad, country-specific, and program-specific awards that vary in value from $500 to $10,000, depending on the length of the program selected.
U.S. undergraduate students who are receiving Pell Grant funding are encouraged to apply for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. This program is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (U.S. Dept. of State) and provides eligible students with up to $5,000 in funding. More than 2,300 scholarships are offered annually. Those who are selected to receive a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship may also receive an additional $8,000, if they are studying a critical-need language while abroad.
The Boren Awards for International Study provides assistance to undergraduate and graduate students. Undergraduate students who plan to study in areas of the world critical to U.S. interests, as well as studying less commonly-taught languages, may receive up to $20,000 through the Boren Scholarship program. Boren Fellowships, which are available to U.S. graduate students, provide up to $30,000 in funding to those who plan to increase language proficiency by studying in designated areas.
You can also browse a list of study abroad scholarships by visiting StudyAbroad.com, or search for scholarships specific to your area of study and location by using the free search tool located on the Institute of International Education website.
Once you have decided on a location and date for your study abroad experience, it’s a good idea to register with a crowdfunding website, such as GoFundme.com or YouCaring.com. This will make it easy for you to solicit donations from friends, co-workers, and family. Of course, you’ll need a good plan if you want it to be successful, so I suggest checking out my ‘5 Steps to a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign.’ The key is to start early and make it entertaining. Be sure to keep everyone in the loop, too. Send out a monthly e-newsletter updating your donors on your progress, and don’t forget to add new content to your crowdfunding page on a regular basis.
3. Connect Locally
You know that restaurant you hang out at all the time? Ask the manager if you can place a donation jar near the register or hang a flier about your crowdfunding page. Research local civic groups that may have a connection with the country you plan to visit. The members may be willing to sponsor you in return for a presentation about your travels once you return. They may also provide some tips on where to find the best local food or what points of interest should be on your to-do list. Don’t forget to check with your place of worship, as well. Your church, mosque, synagogue, etc. may be willing to sponsor you or at least allow you to host a fundraiser to help you with your expenses.
4. Host a Yard Sale
Do you have old movies, books, and other items collecting dust in your room? I bet many of your friends and family members do, too. Ask them to donate used items, and host a yard sale. Be sure to promote your sale on social media (don't forget Craigslist!) and place fliers throughout your community. At the sale, display a board with information about your upcoming study abroad trip and have a donation jar nearby. You could even sell baked goods to bring in some extra cash.
5. Odd Jobs
In your spare time, you could be earning some extra cash by picking up a few odd jobs. Offer your services as a photographer at birthday parties or other events. Mow yards. Babysit pets or small children. Run errands for people. The possibilities are endless! The point is, whenever you have some free time on your hands, find a way to make some money.
It’s Totally Worth It!
I have never met anyone who regretted a study abroad experience, regardless of how much it cost. Although the price tag may be considerable (depending on where you go), don’t let that prevent you from enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime experience. With a little bit of effort and planning, you should be able to find the funding you need to make it happen. And one thing’s for certain — the memories you’ll create will be priceless.
Looking for more ideas on how to fund a study abroad trip? Check out GoOverseas.com and Studylands.com.
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