Budgeting for study

How to make a semester abroad affordable

By: Francesca Gugino

Studying abroad is a great way to travel, experience a new culture, enrich college education and even seek volunteer or internship opportunities in a field related to one’s major. However, only about 10% of United States’ students study abroad during undergrad. Why? For some, being far away from home may not be ideal, maybe there is a fear that going abroad may delay graduation and for others it’s the dreaded FOMO (fear of missing out). For students with any of these fears should know that the experience that are to be had abroad can be life changing and eye opening. Most programs allow for students to take 15-18 credit hours so time will not be wasted. But, there is one overarching worry: cost. How can I make a living in a foreign country for four or five months affordable? How can I budget day to day? What are some tips to help save big?

One of the most important things to note before deciding to study abroad is that there is a variety of programs: semester based programs, summer studies, January term and short departmental trips. The greatest difference lies between direct exchange programs and third party programs. Study abroad via an Exchange Program (which can be found on Niagara’s study abroad website) means that a student will pay the same amount for the semester and retain the same scholarships and aid to study abroad as that student would for the semester at NU. While third parties such as the Center for International Studies, CIS, and the American Institute For Foreign Study, AIFS, can be a bit more pricey. While summer studies, January terms, and short trips can be a great alternative for students who want to go abroad but are afraid to miss a semester, it is important to know that these trips are often out of pocket with little financial assistance.

According to Kathryn DeCecco, Assistant Director of International Student Services and Brennan Center/ International Relations, it is important to “plan a year out” and look into any possible scholarship and aid opportunities that present themselves. The two specific scholarships that DeCecco mentioned were the Gilman International Scholarship and the Kakos Study Abroad Scholarship. The Gilman Scholarship is need based, those eligible are US undergraduates who plan to study abroad and are Pell Grant Eligible. More information about this scholarship can be found online (https://www.gilmanscholarship.org/). The Kakos Scholarship is funded by Niagara University alumni. Applicants are awarded between $500 and $1000 on average. Students applying for this scholarship must have a 3.0 GPA, complete pre-departure and post-abroad assessments and commit to either writing an article about their experience abroad or working with the International Relations office to promote study abroad at NU. There are also many opportunities for third party scholarships, aid and grants if a student chooses to do a semester abroad that is not an exchange program.

To save money for study abroad, students should plan to work and save the summer before going away, cut back on unnecessary spending and learn to better manage a budget. Working during summer and seasonally over winter break can help students to save for any travel they want to do once abroad and discretionary money for souvenirs, excursions, nights out etc. Cutting back on unnecessary spending, like that $11 Chipotle meal, $5 Starbucks latte or even skipping a few nights out with friends can make a huge difference in savings. Another great way to plan and budget spending is through apps such as: Mint, Spending Tracker, and Good Budget. These apps allow you to create your own plan of how much you want to spend in each category weekly and alert you when you go over the set amount. The best part about these apps is that they not only help you budget, but they are also free!

So if money is what is making you weary of study abroad, the first step is to talk with financial aid, find the best program and location for your major and interests, work on saving and applying for scholarships, and making a budget that works for you. Study abroad is definitely doable and there are many ways to avoid taking out loans for spending money as long as you plan ahead.


(Luquillo, Puerto Rico)


(Monte Cristo, El Salvador)


(Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica)


(La Citadel, Haiti)

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