Costs of Studying Abroad


Whenever we ask students why they don’t want to study abroad, we always hear “It costs too much!”. Let’s discuss that, shall we? First of all–studying abroad can be affordable. The costs are entirely based on the program you choose, where you are going, and when you go. Some programs cost more than others, but have really great scholarship opportunities (programs in Japan, Hong Kong, or Korea, for example). Others might cost a bit more (summer internship in Shanghai) but will be totally worth it when you get to list it on your resume. Finally, some programs aren’t all that different from a semester in Lawrence. It just depends.

There are a lot of reasons why students think they can’t study abroad. One of the most common misconceptions is that studying abroad is too expensive. In the chart above we compare the costs of studying in Lawrence to studying in other cities around the world. One thing you’ll notice? Out-of-state students pay in-state rates when they study abroad on a KU-sponsored program for a semester.

Do you already have scholarships? Grants? Loans? Other funding? Often, students can use the financial aid they already have when they study abroad. To find out what you can and can’t use, you can meet with a financial aid advisor in our office. To set up an appointment just give us a call!

Here’s the thing: Studying abroad CAN be expensive. Lawrence, KS, is a pretty cheap place to live.  When you study abroad on a KU-sponsored program, your tuition and fees don’t change that much. What DOES change is your cost of living. Some cities are simply more expensive to live in than Lawrence. Like London. Or Sydney. Or Hong Kong. Others may be less or close to the same. You’ll have other expenses though, too…

This shows a breakdown of how many students spend “extra” money while they are abroad. Something you’ll notice though, is that many of these expenses are based on your own spending habits. If you go to a country where flights and travel are cheap, or you choose not to travel as much, you can save money.  If you don’t need to do a lot of shopping or if you prefer to find free ways to keep yourself entertained, you can save money too!

So, what are some tricks to saving money abroad?

  1. Always consider a semester program first.  Do you normally take classes over the summer or winter break? No? So, if you go abroad in the summer, you will be spending money that you don’t normally spend. Also, there’s more financial aid available for semester programs.
  2. Apply for scholarships! If you go in the summer, fall, spring, or over a break, APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIPS! The OSA gives out more than 100 scholarships each year. The U.S. government gives out scholarships, too.  And many schools and departments also have study abroad scholarships. Learn more in our Scholarship Guide.
  3. Consider the cost of living.  Emily Farnan, our fearless peer advisor, has told me she chose to study in the Czech Republic because it was still Europe, classes were still in English, but the Czech Republic isn’t on the Euro. She saved money by choosing a country with a better exchange rate!  Incidentally, she also got a bunch of scholarships through the KU School of Business because they wanted to send more people to the Czech Republic. Some countries are cheaper to live in (Costa Rica) than others (Spain).
  4. Consider the cost of living! Not to be too repetitive, but seriously! Consider the cost of living! London costs more than Exeter, Prague costs more than Brno, Washington, D.C., costs more than Lawrence. If money is a major concern for you, avoid big, popular cities, because they will cost more than smaller college-towns.
  5. Cook your own meals and eat like a local. I knew people in the ’90s who would load up their suitcases with peanut butter, noodle packets, and Ramen. They saved money by bringing and eating cheap food. If you don’t feel like wasting precious baggage space on peanut butter, learn to eat like a local. Buying American ingredients can sometimes be expensive. Instead, learn to make traditional dishes and figure out what college students in your host country are eating.  No matter what country they are in, college students are usually on a budget, so eating like them will probably save you money.
  6. Travel smart. A lot of students want to travel when they are abroad. Do it the smart way. Stay in hostels, buy a rail pass or get a student pass in your host country, take buses when available (and safe), buy a good, reliable guide book (for Europe, I strongly recommend Rick Steves!), and most importantly PLAN WELL.  Sometimes hitting up the most over-photographed landmarks isn’t your best option. Hiking in a national park or visiting smaller towns might help you better understand the culture as well as save you money.
  7. Compare the costs of flights, visas, and food before you go abroad. Trying to decide between two programs while also pinching pennies? Start doing some research! Is there a big difference in the cost of flying? Do you need a visa? How much do those cost? Do a Google search for the cost of living in those countries. Compare, compare, compare!

Finally, if you want to study abroad but are struggling to find a way to pay for it, you can also apply for other forms of financial aid, like student loans.  The amount of student loan money you are eligible for can be adjusted based on your study abroad expenses, so you may actually be able to apply for more money than you realized!

Have questions? Let us know! Email us at OSA at KU dot EDU. We look forward to hearing from you!