How to Afford Your Dream Study Abroad Experience

By Emma Way

Senior Elm Writer


There’s no quick answer to affording a semester or a year abroad. It requires preparation and saving for many years, but there are some ways to boost your savings to make study abroad even more attainable.

If you’re in the same boat as me, paying for a semester abroad puts a tremendous strain on your bank account. I’m paying for this almost entirely on my own, which has turned my finances inside out but has also made this an incredibly rewarding experience.

I have been saving for something big since I was 12 years old. My mom always urged me to save half of anything I earned in order to pay for a car, an apartment, or a trip abroad. I chose a trip abroad.

Once I decided to study abroad I figured out exactly how much I needed before I left for Italy, which equaled about $1,000 for every month. Depending on where you go, you should plan to have about $1,000 of just spending money for every month. Obviously destinations like South Africa or Peru are going to require less, but I was planning for Italy – one of the most expensive places I could choose to go, aside from the United Kingdom.

I hate being bored, and I’m honestly pretty awful at relaxing, so instead of breezing through my time at Washington College, I worked seven jobs at a time to continue saving up the money necessary to study abroad.

It sounds impossible and crazy to work seven jobs, but I knew I’d have to work a lot to pay for studying abroad and that my experience abroad would be worth all the hours spent working.

Aside from working as much as possible, there are other avenues available at WC for students trying to save up for studying abroad.


Cater Society

The Cater Society of Junior Fellows is an organization on campus which encourages students to participate in research in exchange for bringing back those ideas and sharing them with the other members of the Cater Society. They encourage this continuation of learning through research grants.

Getting accepted in the Cater Society is no easy feat (it took me two tries) nor is getting a grant approved easy, but receiving a grant can significantly help with the cost of doing research while abroad and thus help to finance part of your time abroad.


Other Grants 

The grants at WC are like well-kept secrets. Whenever I discuss the grants I’ve won from a variety of outlets at WC people are almost always surprised that there are many. You certainly can’t count on winning them all, but a well thought -out research proposal can help your chances significantly. For different majors, there are different grants available, and all this information is easily searchable on the website.

Although the majority of this money is not for the purpose of studying abroad at its base level, you can propose to do research while abroad on a particular topic or participate in an internship and receive funds towards that. Assistant Dean for Academic Initiatives Dr. Andrea Lange is the expert on these grants, and she has helped me significantly in my past traveling abroad endeavors.

Talking to your department head is another great way of seeing if there are any grants specifically for your major and whether or not you qualify.


Ask for loans

Sometimes our pride gets in the way of asking for money, but I learned to swallow my pride and ask for a loan when I knew I really needed it for an experience like studying abroad. Fortunately for me, I had two grandparents who were willing to loan me the money I needed to make this semester possible, and I am forever grateful.

Paying for five months of living and traveling around in a completely new place is expensive, especially when you’ll have no income coming in. It can be scary to commit to spending thousands upon thousands of dollars in one semester. I had to accept that my bank account might be at zero when I come home in July, but that’s okay. Studying abroad is worth destroying my bank account.

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