Studying abroad is seen by many as an indispensable university experience. You get the opportunity to learn about new cultures, meet new people and continue the education you've been working on back home. But how do you afford it?
Like studying in the states, student loans can be a great way to open yourself up to educational opportunities you wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise. But not every study abroad experience is worth signing on the dotted line – read on to find out which is which.
If you'll receive work experience. Some study abroad experiences actually pair students with companies that offer internships. While these are often unpaid, having international experience on your resume can make you stand out to potential employers.
If you'll immerse yourself in a language. It's said you can't properly learn a language until you've been immersed in it – hard to do on a normal college campus. Those with international-related majors may also find it beneficial to study abroad and observe the culture first-hand.
If you want to work abroad. Networking is one of the most important ways you can find a job after graduation, and making connections in a different country can be vital for those who want to work abroad. Finding a company who will take a chance on you may be easier to do in person than when you're back home.
Not Worth It
If you already have considerable student loans. It can be easy to think, "I already have loans, what's another few thousand dollars in debt?" Well, those dollars can add up quickly when you study abroad, especially if you choose an expensive city like London, Paris or Tokyo. Paying back those student loans can take years, which may not be worth it for a few weeks in another country.
If you will take classes you can take back home. The difference between an enriching study abroad trip and an expensive vacation is the value you get out of it. If the only classes you take abroad are those you could have found on your college campus, it's likely not worth the cost. Find programs that are specific and unique to the country you'll be in to get a truly unique experience.
If it will delay your graduation date. If the classes you take while studying abroad will not count toward your necessary credit hours or require you to spend an extra semester at school, it may not be worth the cost to study abroad. Plus, delaying graduation will cause you to spend more in tuition and living expenses. Find a program where your classes will keep you on track to graduate promptly.
Ways to Minimize Student Loans
Apply for study abroad scholarships. Many universities offer special scholarships to those studying abroad, but you may have to dig around. They may be available in various departments and schools, so don't be afraid to call around.
Raise money. Crowdfunding is a popular way fto raise money for passion projects, and you may be surprised how much support you can muster for a study abroad experience. You can set up an account at a website like Kickstarter or Indiegogo and reach out to friends and family.
Live on a budget. It may be tempting to eat out and buy souvenirs when you're studying abroad, but you need to have the same mindset about spending money as you do back home. Pack your lunches, use public transportation and find cheap ways to entertain yourself.
If you decide it's worth it to study abroad and you do need to take out loans to do so, make sure to shop around on LendingTree in order to get the best rate possible on your loan.