5 Tips to Finance a Study Abroad Trip
I just found out that my kids are going to be studying this summer abroad! One (my daughter) will be Belize, while the other (my son) will be in India. Guess what’s on my mind? ….money, money, money…..
The average price tag for a study abroad experience in the 2012-13 academic year was $17,785, according to the Institute of International Education. Don’t let this number scare you if you want to spend a year overseas—with the right deals and some careful planning, college students can travel abroad for much less.
Choose the Right Program
The program you choose will make the biggest impact on your bottom line. A program that requires you to cover tuition and dorm fees will cost considerably more than a program that places you with a host family for free while studying independently. Programs like Student Project for Amity among Nations (SPAN) from the University of Minnesota let you pick a host country and put together your own independent project, saving you thousands of dollars over a conventional program.
Get off the Beaten Path
If you only go where the tourists go, you will pay the tourist prices. To truly see the sights and save cash, you need to get off the beaten path. The Lonely Planet guidebook series is dedicated to this concept, and you should always have a copy about your destination in your backpack. However, with an app like Minube, you can ensure that you always have up to date information as well. Minube covers more than 24,000 destinations in about 200 countries, and you can find everything from restaurant reviews to hiking tips.
Withdraw Cash Strategically
The prevalence of ATMs means you don’t have to exchange your money before arriving at your destination. However, check the exchange rates before withdrawing cash. Your bank will give you that day’s rate minus a small fee for each withdrawal. By making your withdrawals on days where the exchange rate is favorable, you add a few dollars to your cache. Check out the XE Currency app to get the most accurate currency rates.
Keep in mind that most foreign ATMs only accept four-digit PINs. If you have a longer PIN, call your bank and change it before going abroad. And always keep a bit of local currency in your wallet in case of an emergency.
Make a Backup Plan
No matter how well you budget, you may run out of cash. Unless you want to get stranded, make a backup plan. If you don’t have parents who will deposit cash into your account at a moment’s notice, you need to bring an emergency credit card.
Alternatively, if you currently receive a structured settlement or annuity payments, consider selling these payments to finance the trip. Weigh the pros and cons, including any penalty fees and taxes, when determining if this is the right decision. You can learn more about annuities at annuity.org.
Leverage your social media accounts to find like-minded travelers with whom you can split expenses—the hashtag feature on Twitter is ideal for finding traveling buddies or travel tips. Sites like CouchSurfing.org can help you find free host families in over 100,000 cities around the world. Sites like InterExchange.org can help you find jobs abroad that will offset some of your travel expenses.