Mike Merrill, assistant director of the Study Abroad Office, provides answers on how to make study abroad a financial reality, so you can take on your world.
Is study abroad worth the cost?
Everyone chooses to invest their money differently, and for many students, the experiential value of studying abroad and living among another culture is worth the financial expense. Additionally, studies show that students who study abroad have greater success finding jobs shortly after graduation or getting into graduate schools. Employers consistently describe the skills acquired while studying abroad as desirable, and students who have studied abroad report that the skills they gained aided them in their professional pursuits. In nearly every field, having a global experience is an extreme positive, as the world is becoming more interrelated every day.
How do students financially prepare to study abroad?
Once a student knows they are planning to study abroad, or even has an idea that they may want to, they should come visit our office. The entire process (including financial planning) takes time, so it is much easier when the students are proactive and plan well in advance.
The best way to financially prepare to study abroad is to understand what costs they will be undertaking. Then they can then apply for scholarships, start crowdfunding websites and/or get part-time jobs to support their study-abroad journey. Talking with Student Financial Services is also a very important piece of the puzzle.
How exactly does financial aid work abroad?
We recently moved to a home-tuition model, which means students on any semester- or year-long-approved program pay tuition to St. Edward's exactly as they otherwise would. All scholarships, loans, grants and other forms of funding still apply. Additionally, when students are filling out their FAFSA, they can include any additional study abroad costs as a part of their educational expenses.
How does financing differ between semester or year programs and summer programs?
With semester- and year-long programs, students' tuition will be the same as if they were studying at St. Edward's. All grants, scholarships and loans can apply to their study abroad. With summer programs, there is a specific cost for each program. After we meet with a student and discuss the financial logistics of their specific program, we recommended that they talk with their financial aid advisor to discuss what amount of their St. Edward's funding can be applied to the specific program, as well as other funding methods to bridge any financial gap.
What are the differences among study-abroad scholarships?
There are a wealth of scholarships available to study-abroad students. Some scholarships are specific to locations, areas of study, demographics, financial need and more. Pell Grant–eligible students can apply for the Gilman Scholarship, which provides up to $5,000 per semester. There are other scholarships that fund study in Asia or in regions where Americans don't usually study. When we meet with students, we talk with them about scholarships that we know will apply to them, and we recommend where they can look for additional scholarships and funding opportunities.
What are some of the best ways to budget abroad?
The first step is to identify all the associated costs that are known (i.e., flights, visa fees, housing, food, phone plan and passport fees if needed). We work with every student to identify these costs in the process of applying for a program.
We then encourage students to create a weekly budget using various resources that show the cost of living in different cities around the world. In this budget, we recommend including eating out, entertainment/travel, souvenirs, shopping, groceries and transportation. Of course, every student has individual spending habits, but we try to encourage following a budget to ensure financial security throughout the duration of the program.
What are some of the best ways to budget additional traveling while abroad?
The best way to budget traveling while abroad is to plan ahead. It is very easy to get caught up in the moment and travel at the drop of a hat, but it is a lot more fiscally responsible to plan side travels in advance. This allows students to incorporate the extra travel into their overall budget, secure cheaper lodging and transportation, and research any deals that are available for specific events or attractions that they are interested in. Budgeting and planning are crucial skills for life after college, and at the end of the day, we are all trying to prepare our students to be successful in whatever direction they decide to go in life.
Laura Irwin ’19 is Writing and Rhetoric major. She studied abroad in Madrid, Spain.