- by Azani
Think about it.
Living on an island. Paradise. Meeting new friends. Experiencing a new culture. Sipping a virgin mojito along finely-grained sand while overlooking the turquoise, baby blue and foam green sea.
Sound like a dream come true? It was for me. And it can be for you too!
Although this sounds ideal, the thought of financing studying abroad can be draining when you think of the costs vs. your bank account. But don’t let it stress you, there are some ways to finance study abroad and come out of it completely debt-free.
For me, studying abroad wasn’t a “realistic” option. My parents couldn’t afford to pay for it, I didn’t have nearly enough savings to cover it and, on top of that, none of my family had ever traveled out of the country — so I was void of having any people to give me tips and advice based on their experience.
Yet and still, somehow or another, I managed to study abroad (and I still can’t believe I actually went)!! Here are 5 things I did to help finance my trip, and I hope it helps you too!
1.) Save — I know. Not the most encouraging step you were looking for. But there are ways to save that you may not realize.
If you’re in a position where you don’t have any savings at all, this is where sacrifice may come in. Cut back $20 a month on eating out. Think about getting a part-time weekend job or being a one-day-a-week babysitter. Purpose in your heart to put all of that to your study abroad savings for one full year. If you earn $30 a week and save it all for a year, that puts you at more than $1,000! Of course, to do this you must plan your trip in advance, be consistent, be persistent, and be dedicated.
2.) Ask an adult you know to join you as you save — When I told my dad that I was going to study abroad, he agreed to give me $X a month to put into my study abroad savings account as long as I also saved that same amount. Basically, he matched my own contribution to my study abroad fund. If you can find a close friend, parent, relative, mentor or family member to save with and for you (e.g. every month they will send you $5 or $10 or $30 until you leave) then you’ll definitely be on your way to studying abroad!
3.) Send Direct Mail to Friends and Family — A few months before my trip I wrote, printed and mailed out letters to about 30 close friends and family members informing them of my decision to study abroad and asking for their support. In the letter, I let them know that any amount would help! Some gave more than others, but from that alone, I managed to get about 1/3 of the money I needed, which helped fund my trip SIGNIFICANTLY. This may take a little bit of money on the front end, but on the back end it could help tremendously.
4.) Apply for as many scholarships as you can — especially the ones specifically for students at your school. A large majority of the money I received was solely in scholarships, many of which I got from my school. Make sure that you apply not only to the ones from your study abroad office, but also from the department that your major is in! Do research as well to help find scholarships in which you qualify for. This will take time, but if you do your best on each one it’s likely that you’ll get something.
There are also some AMAZING scholarship opportunities if you qualify for financial aid. The Gilman is one of them. I had a friend who went abroad for a whole year, traveled to 10+ countries while gone, and it was completely paid for by this one scholarship. Please, please, please don’t count yourself out from studying abroad because you think you don’t have the money. There are SO MANY scholarships out there that you could receive!
5.) Pray — Many of the things I mentioned above may seem like they absolutely wouldn’t work for your situation or circumstance. For instance, you may not have close friends or family who can give you money, or you don’t have the time to pick up another job. That’s okay! When I knew I couldn’t afford study abroad, I gave it to God and I truly believe that he moved through people to help provide for the trip. People who ordinarily wouldn’t have gave, did. Scholarships that I definitely would have never gotten (and literally did not qualify for and literally did not even apply for), I received. It’s only because of God. Without his guidance, I KNOW I wouldn’t have been able to go. If you and no one else is able to make a way for your trip, God is the one who can — so ask him humbly in prayer to meet your study abroad need, if it be his will.