For a first-generation student, finances and the perplexing processes that surround them tend to be a top priority. When going through the study abroad process, I wasn’t remotely aware of the financial impact that attending a foreign university might have. In fact, there are a number of surprising investments that have to be made prior to departing to your abroad dream. While considering and planning study abroad, it’s critical to prepare for some of the costs you might endure and how you can combat them. Throughout the application process and before departing, there are a few mandatory items that end up costing a pretty penny:
- Passport – If you’re looking at going anywhere abroad, you’ll undoubtedly need a passport. This will cost over a hundred dollars, not to mention the long period that it takes to get it. Apply early on so that you don’t end up needing to pay extra money to get your passport rushed!
- Visa – While my student visa was free for New Zealand, some countries charge several hundred dollars for the visa and application process.
- Flight – Depending on where you’re going, you’ll have to buy a flight far in advance. These can be extremely expensive – mine was over a thousand dollars from Michigan to New Zealand.
- Necessities – While I had a lot of the clothes and equipment I was going to need in New Zealand, there were some necessities that I was going to have to invest in to get the most out of my experience. For example, Auckland is a rainy city, so a good raincoat was a must. I also needed some hiking shoes and a hiking backpack for some of the weekend camping trips I was dying to go on!
- Camera – A common investment for study abroad students is a quality camera. If you’re travelling half way across the world to spend a semester in another country, you’re going to want to capture your experiences. Getting a good camera and learning how to use it will pay off in the long . I went with the Nikon D3000 series camera – a beginner camera that capture remarkable pictures.
- Program fees and deposits – Depending on how your home institution handles study abroad programs, you could end up spending quite a lot of money here. Some colleges and universities offer the ability to simply pay the same tuition and they will handle the study abroad program costs. Others tell you to pay for the program costs. At a minimum, you’ll have to pay a deposit and for your housing early on. Some programs allow you to defer the payment of deposits and housing until a further date until you have the money together – my home school refunded me money from student loans to cover these costs. If you don’t work a plan out with your home institution, you should plan ahead for these upfront costs. For example, you could contact your prospective study abroad program to determine the costs and start saving ahead of time.
You haven’t even touched foot in a new country and you’re already going to be spending quite a lot of money. Keep in mind – these expenses are a necessary investment for the remarkable experiences you’ll have in the months following, and a lot of them are necessary for other travelling anyway.
One way to help curb some of the costs of studying abroad is by applying for scholarships. My scholarship covered huge costs that could have been a major financial burden: my flights, my passport/visa costs, and book costs. People are eager to support you in your endeavors. There are a few places to look for scholarships you could apply for:
- Your home institution – Many colleges have information for scholarship to help fund your journey. Contact your study abroad office or advisor to see if there’s any options that you’re eligible to apply for!
- Your study abroad program – This is where I found a scholarship that I was eligible for! IFSA-Butler has a First Generation Student program, and I have strong feelings on this topic. Search the website and contact your program coordinator to see if there’s any options for you.
- Your host country – Many countries encourage students to study in their country. The New Zealand government has set up several scholarships that incentivize students to study all over the country! The best way to find this is to head to your favorite search engine and see what you can find.
- Your host institution – The college that you’re studying abroad at might have some scholarships set aside for international students that are interested in attending. It couldn’t hurt to contact the institution to see if there’s anything that you could apply for.
It’s a heavy task to look for scholarships and apply for them, but it’s one that pays off. The scholarship will come with some commitments and stipulations, but these are opportunities! My scholarship through IFSA-Butler yielded me the opportunity to share my experiences and perspective as a first generation student through blog posts.
It’s Expensive, but Worth it.
Overall, your pre-departure expenses are guaranteed to enter the magnitude of at least a couple thousand dollars. Taking a global look at all of the expenses is necessary to understanding the financial reality of studying abroad. Yet, I can’t find a single person that would say they regret the cost. Even when the early spending hurts, it’s an investment into unforgettable memories to come. Just a few weeks in my studies at the University of Auckland, and the early investment has already been worth it many times over.
Brandon Barry is a Computer Engineering major at Brown University and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at the University of Auckland in New Zealand in Spring of 2017. He is a contributor to Unpacked for IFSA-Butler through the First Generation Scholarship program.