Study Abroad: It May Cost You, But It Will Pay With Employers

By on June 2, 2018

The benefits of doing a college semester abroad does not stop at the foreign experiences, new friendships or countless selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower. Students who study abroad gain useful exposure to different cultures as well as acquire marketable skills, such as independence, flexibility and self-awareness, that are sought after by employers.

As we continue to move towards a more global economy that requires a broad spectrum of knowledge and international experiences, companies will be looking to leverage these behaviors and knowledge base to their advantage. The study abroad program itself may not make a difference so much as the contextual lessons one learns about oneself while traveling and juggling university requirements.

Many students think they cannot afford to study abroad; truth is, studying abroad can be much more affordable than you think. Students may be eligible for financial aid, however there are also scholarships, loans and personal ways to finance a semester in a foreign country.

Remember before you apply for a study abroad program, speak with your parents (or guardian), your financial aid officer and student counselor about which study abroad programs fit your academic goals and personal financial situation. Once you have decided to pack your bags, work with a trusted financial advisor to explore all of the options and resources available to pay for everything from tuition to travel, entertainment and living expenses on the study abroad program of your choosing.

Paying For A College Study Abroad Program

Financial Aid and Student Loans

Did you know that federal aid disbursements and some loans can be used for study abroad expenses? If you’ve never taken the time to fill out a FAFSA application, this may be the year to do it. Even a small loan from the government may be helpful paying for housing, books, etc.. Colleges want students to engage in these exchange programs, so stop in to your financial aid office and ask about your eligibility for any financing to study abroad for a semester.

Study Abroad Scholarships

The first stop on your scholarship hunt should be your university’s study abroad or international exchange office. The staff there will know of scholarships available exclusively for students enrolled at your university or the program of your choice.

You can take advantage of the endless amount of scholarships from private and public organizations looking to enrich student’s lives thru foreign exchange. Many organizations, both university-related and not, such as regional heritage groups, hobbyists, businesses and even college language departments, set funds aside for student scholarships to study abroad.

Apply for any and every scholarship for which you are eligible. Unlike student loans, scholarships are FREE MONEY which do not have to be repaid; making study abroad truly affordable for many students.

If you are a student eligible for the Pell Grant, you may also apply for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which may pay for up to $8,000 of expenses in a study abroad program. That won’t cover all of your costs related to travel and living expenses, but with the support of other aid, loans, or scholarships you are well on your way.

Financial Investments and Family Support

Parents may find they have other resources available to come up with extra funds to cover the cost of a student’s study abroad programs. Aside from personal loans, parents may want to speak with their trusted financial advisor about using funds from 529 Plans, cash-value life insurance policies and other investments to cover costs.

The 529 Plan

A parent or grandparent may have one of these investment accounts to cover your educational expenses. While travel tickets, spending cash or health care may not qualify as eligible expenses, the study abroad program’s tuition fees and textbooks may qualify; provided the student is still considered a half-time student and attending an IRS-designated eligible educational institution. Avoid using 529 funds for non-eligible expenses as this tends to create a taxable event and/or penalties.

Permanent Life Insurance with Investment Component

Some parents purchase permanent life insurance policies which have a cash savings or investment component. These policies, such as Indexed Life or Universal Life, allow the policyholder to withdraw funds from the policy. Unlike the 529 plan, the funds can be used for any purpose. Speak with an experienced financial advisor for more information about these flexible investment vehicles which may also be used for retirement, home buying and more.

Other Investments

Parents and students may have other investments they are willing to cash in to pay for a study abroad program. Perhaps you have some bonds saved in the bank, some stock options to sell or income from a rental property to lend. Deciding to use any money from an investment should be done with the assistance of an advisor to avoid risk to the performance of the overall portfolio.

Borrowing money from family members is not always that simple, whether you plan on paying it back or not. Parents should assess their financial situation and evaluate each associated cost before determining both what expenses they are willing to pay for and what can be withdrawn.

Earn Your Way – Work for it!

Want to know the easiest way to raise money for your study abroad semester? Work for it. You can potentially save a decent amount of money just taking a part-time job. There are usually a number of local retailers willing to employ students part-time, not to mention marketers, private tutoring and on-campus work-study programs which may help you save for current tuition so you can use your loans for going abroad.

Don’t Pass Up an Opportunity to Study Abroad

If you can afford it — and there are many ways to come up with the money to pay for it — do not pass up an opportunity to study abroad. You can continue to fulfill your major requirements while gaining experiences employers are often willing to pay for after college. And best of all, you get a chance to see and live in places most of us can only dream of. Speak with a college planner, your financial aid officer and student advisor, as well as your family to start planning for your semester abroad today.

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About Amanda Jensen

FSN college advice columnist - Amanda gives parents and students knowledgeable advice on college planning, tuition financing and scholarships. With up to date and accessible information covering everything from personal finances to federal government policies, she is determined to make the college experience a painless one for all party's involved. You can find Amanda on !

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