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Though study abroad participation dropped sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a strong rebound in both American students studying abroad as well as international students returning to the U.S.
Most undergrads do a study abroad program in their junior year, but these days you can find programs that are a good fit no matter where you are in your undergraduate experience. If you’re considering one of these programs, it’s best to start planning early to find the right fit for your academic needs and interests and budget for any extra expenses.
Study abroad statistics
- In 2018-19, 347,099 students participated in study abroad. That was up 2.3 percent from the previous year.
- 27 percent of study abroad students are in their junior year, while more than 33 percent are in their senior year.
- Around two-thirds of study abroad students are women.
- Many study abroad programs are based on your usual tuition costs, but there may be several thousands of dollars in expenses added on top.
Average cost of studying abroad
How much a study abroad program costs depends on a wide range of factors, from what the baseline education costs are in a particular country to what the study abroad program itself includes. The University of Louisville estimates that a semester-long study abroad program averages around $7,000 to $15,000.
The cost of studying abroad doesn’t just include tuition; you’ll also need to factor in flights and other transportation, meals, health insurance, class materials and any souvineers you want. Below is a sampling of estimated fees from a variety of programs.
|Washington State University (resident) Madrid
|University of Iowa (resident): Florence
|Pace University: Costa Rica
|Syracuse University: Wroclaw
|$7,507 (includes board)
|Study abroad fee
Cost of study abroad by region/country
The most popular destinations for study abroad are Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, France and South Korea. However, some of these destinations are also among the most expensive. Research finds that Australia is the most expensive country to study in based on annual university costs and annual cost of living, while the United Kingdom and France are not far behind.
|Estimated annual cost (tuition and cost of living)
|Source: APRIL International
Cost of study abroad by program/agency
A thriving ecosystem of companies organize study abroad opportunities for students. Many of these are nonprofits that partner with a broad range of universities and colleges to offer for-credit courses. They are often the link between an American university and an international university, and they frequently augment the coursework with excursions and events.
Here’s a snapshot of some of the most popular organizations and how they stack up.
|Number of countries
|Estimated program costs for one semester in London, England
|Included in cost
|Tuition, housing, insurance, personal advising, on-site support
|Tuition, housing, field trips, insurance, on-site support
|Tuition, housing, insurance, field trips, on-site support, academic advising
|Tuition, housing, field trips, on-site support, alumni network
|Tuition, housing, field trips, personal advising, on-site support, supplemental health insurance
|Tuition, housing, field trips, personal advising, on-site support, supplemental health insurance, scholarship advising
How to pay for study abroad
If you’re considering study abroad, make budgeting a part of your planning process from the very beginning. Studying abroad is expensive, but it is also entirely doable if you keep the numbers on track from the get-go. Be realistic about what your costs will be in a given location and know the ins and outs of what the different program options include. And don’t forget to squirrel away a bit of cash for souvenirs.
The good news is that much of your existing financial aid can be used for study abroad costs. You may be able to use:
In addition to your existing aid, there are many scholarships targeted specifically at students studying abroad, which you can uncover using a scholarship search engine. Third-party companies that facilitate study abroad programs also often have their own scholarships.
Once you’re at your destination, look for any discounts that can defray your costs. For example, many major cities offer student discounts to museums and national landmarks.
Is it reasonable to go on study abroad if you have student loans?
Many study abroad programs are eligible to be paid using student loans. Whether the decision to pursue study abroad makes financial sense to you will depend on the program you choose, how expensive it is, and how much value it may add to your degree. If you are studying a foreign language, art history, or international affairs, for instance, a study abroad trip may contribute positively to your employment prospects upon graduation.
At the same time, not all study abroad programs are created equally. Some may cost far above what a regular semester at your home university does, and depending on your student debt burden, borrowing to cover costs may not be a wise choice.
Consult with your university’s financial aid office and study abroad offices for other considerations you should weigh before planning a trip. With federal student loans due to enter repayment later this year, it is wise to be realistic about the monthly expenses you will be able to afford upon graduation.
The bottom line
A study abroad program can be a rich opportunity to pursue your education and experience another culture at the same time. While some opportunities will exceed the cost of your regular tuition, room, and board, others may be attainable at a comparable cost. Connect with your university to explore the programs available and weigh the possibilities.
Frequently asked questions
Study abroad is a program that allows students to earn academic credit at an international college or university. Study abroad programs are offered through international partnerships between universities and are generally available to every student in good academic standing.Students can choose to move abroad for an entire year, an academic semester or a few weeks. There are general study abroad programs, where students can take college courses as they would in their home country, and there are also major-specific programs where the sole purpose is for students to focus on their field of study.
Study abroad requirements will vary depending on the school you attend and the program you choose. You’ll need to be in good academic standing, often with a GPA of at least 3.0, and you may need to take a language proficiency test.Here’s what you may need to have on hand for the application:
- Photo ID (driver’s license or passport photo).
- Academic transcript.
- Proof of secondary education, like a GED or high school diploma (if applying as a freshman).
- Program admission test results, like GRE results (if applying for a graduate program).
Ultimately, the best country to study abroad in depends on your personal interests, your field of study and what you’re looking to get out of your time abroad. For example, the United Kingdom may be the top pick for an English literature major, while Spain is an ideal location for a Spanish major.Study abroad isn’t just an academic opportunity; it’s also a chance to experience different cultures and see new parts of the world. Consider the destinations you’ve always wanted to see and where you might be able to travel while you’re abroad.