Tips on Making Your Study Abroad Experience Affordable

Financial matters often limit students’ ability to study abroad. If you’re looking to go abroad, but you’re not sure how to pay for the experience, here are some resources that may be helpful.

Understanding Study Abroad Finances 

First, you may want to consider whether a semester-long or shorter program might be right for you. For a semester program, your Elizabethtown College tuition and financial aid package will transfer to your program costs— if you choose from the list of Etown-affiliated programs. This is not true for summer programs; they are an additional expense on top of your tuition, ie. you’re responsible for the full cost of a summer program, as it’s outside the academic year when your financial aid is typically used.

There is also a $250 Etown study abroad fee for all study abroad programs (excluding faculty-led programs) —this is what allows you to be enrolled in two universities at once and covers the extra layer of support you receive from the various on-campus offices involved in the study abroad process. For non-affiliated semester programs, this fee increases to $1,000.

Shorter programs can have fewer expenses—you’ll spend less on food over a period of a few weeks than over a few months, and you likely won’t need a visa—but you still have to pay for airfare and a passport, prices that don’t vary based on your study abroad program length. Prices on short-term programs vary, however, and it may be more cost-effective to select a summer or winter program or faculty-led program rather than a semester abroad.

Because you will not be living on Etown’s campus for a semester, you will not be charged for Etown room and board expenses or a meal plan; however, you will have to pay the housing costs of your program, which can vary by the cost of living in your host country and your type of housing (apartment, student residence hall, host family, etc.). At first glance, living in campus housing or an apartment is cheaper than living with a host family in a homestay. However, the fee to live with a host family usually includes majority of your meals, so it may actually be more affordable to live with a host family.

Programs with Most Affordable Housing

If you are looking for a program with an affordable housing cost, consider the following options, which have the ten lowest housing costs of Etown’s affiliated programs. The fall 2020 housing fee is listed after each program:

You will also be responsible for providing your own meals in many programs, which may be an adjustment if you’re used to eating all of your meals from a dining hall. While you will not have to pay for a meal plan, you’ll still have to account for food costs. Food prices will obviously vary greatly by location, but this website offers information on the cost of living in multiple countries in the local currency, which can help with budgeting. Be sure to consider that eating local food is often an important part of a study abroad experience, which may lead you to spend slightly more than expected on food. Food shopping and eating habits will frequently vary by country, and adjusting and adapting to local customs may help you learn to save money—something that will only come with time spent in your host country. Contacting your program directors can also help you to know how much you should budget for food. For some general tips on food budgeting, see this article, but remember that food might be an unpredictable expense once you’re abroad.

Cost of Living Per Country

If you would like to be mindful of your general living costs while abroad, including food costs, here are countries that have a generally low cost of living. All of these countries have an average cost of living that is at least 40% lower than that of the United States:

While this metric doesn’t take program costs into account, students with little disposable income after paying program costs might want to consider studying somewhere that gives them access to more affordable food, products, and services. As an additional point of interest, the only countries with Etown-affiliated programs whose average costs of living are higher than that of the United States are Australia, France, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, and South Korea.


One of the biggest financial hurdles students face is paying for airfare, which can be several hundred or over a thousand dollars. Booking your flight far in advance and working with a student travel company like STA Travel can save some money. Plus, their Book Now, Pay Later Program enables you to freeze the price of your ticket and make gradual payments. Nonetheless, the prices can still climb to a considerable expense. With that in mind, here are some of the options you have to minimize flight costs.


If you are part of the Honors Program, you are eligible to receive up to $1,000 in grant money, which many students use towards plane tickets or other aspects of their study abroad experience. You can learn more about Honors Program grants here.

If you are not part of the Honors Program, there are other resources available to help cover costs. Etown offers scholarships to students from diverse backgrounds, first generation college students, academically accomplished students, and STEM students, each of which is worth $1,000 for a semester abroad or $500 for a short-term program. The Center for Global Understanding and Peacemaking also offers grants that can be applied to internships or service learning abroad. Additionally, the Gilman Scholarship, which specifically funds students to study abroad, is available to Federal Pell Grant recipients. By applying for this scholarship, Etown will also waive the $250 program fee. Another option is external scholarships to study abroad, some of which can be found here.


Some students also like to start a page on a crowdfunding website to help pay for their time abroad. If this is an option you want to try, Indiegogo, GoFundMe, and Kickstarter are all general websites for fundraising, while FundMyTravel is, clearly, specifically for travel.

Travel Documents

Another consideration is potential costs for travel documents. If you need to get a passport, it will cost $145. Renewing your passport costs $110. Entry into most countries also requires a student visa, which confers an additional cost that varies by country.

In addition to a student visa fee, many countries also require proof of funding to acquire a student visa. This means that you or a parent must demonstrate sufficient funding to support you financially while abroad, a measure of which many students are unaware. This is not money that needs to be spent, so it’s not a study abroad expense, but rather a necessity to obtain your visa so it’s very important. This can be a tricky requirement to meet; if funding is a concern for you, you may want to avoid the countries with higher requirements. Here is a good resource with some general information on visa fees per country.

Planning Ahead 

If you know you want to go abroad far in advance, start saving money for the experience if you can. If you plan to go abroad junior year, try to start saving in your first year of college. This can help to cover anything that’s not covered by financial aid, scholarships, and grants, and can also provide extra funds for travel, souvenirs, and treats.

Before you depart, check with your bank to learn whether your credit or debit card can be used in your host country and to notify them that you will be traveling abroad. Check with your program directors to learn which ATMs in your host country charge low or no fees for withdrawing money from a foreign bank. Even though transaction fees might just be a few dollars, that can add up over time. If there are no ATMs with low fees accessible, minimize the number of times you visit the ATM and instead withdraw a sufficient amount every few weeks.

One last consideration is the exchange rate between U.S. dollars and your host country’s currency. Depending on the strength of the currency in your host country, by exchanging your money here for another currency, you may be gaining or losing money based on the amount of goods you can buy with an equivalent amount of each. This is also related to the cost of living. Because exchange rates can be unpredictable, this shouldn’t be an absolute measure of assessing a country or program’s affordability, but monitoring it may be helpful.

Visit this page for a fuller explanation of study-abroad-related financial information. This article also has several helpful tips to save money when traveling abroad—not all of them may apply to studying abroad, but some are very helpful. If you have any further questions or concerns, contact or

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