How Much Does It Cost to Study Abroad?

What to know so you can afford it

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Study abroad programs can be an enriching experience for American students. In an increasingly globalized world, it’s never been easier to navigate foreign countries and explore new cultures. The average cost of studying abroad depends on the U.S. college you’re enrolled in and the foreign country and city you wish to visit for your overseas program. Though some programs have lofty price tags, there are ways to reduce the cost of studying abroad that can make the experience affordable and accessible to all students.

The Price of Studying Abroad 

Before deciding on your place of study, consider the expenses of different academic programs to determine the total cost of studying abroad. Your college or university’s study abroad department may have information and resources on what different programs cost.

For example, Iowa State University offers a sample budget sheet for a semester abroad in Germany. After host institution tuition and fees, room and board, insurance, meals, airfare, books, supplies, and other potential costs and fees, the study abroad program could cost $13,580.

Comparably, the University of Washington breaks down the potential cost for a semester abroad in Madrid, Spain. After tuition, program fees, books, housing, food, transportation, insurance, and other potential costs and fees, the study abroad program could cost about $13,800.

While every program differs in price, there may be some consistent expenses that every college student studying abroad can expect to pay. Understanding what those are can help you plan your study abroad budget better.

What Do Students Spend Money on Abroad?

Paying for a study abroad program, beyond its cost, involves many of the same expenses you’d have at your U.S. college, such as housing, food, and transportation. Beyond that, additional costs, including flights and unforeseen or recreational travel expenses, can also affect a student’s total cost for attending school abroad. 

Here are some of the most common expenses, broken down by popular study abroad destinations.

A 529 plan can be used to pay for qualifying higher education expenses both domestically and internationally. If the school abroad is eligible to participate in federal student aid programs, then it might also accept funds from a 529 plan.

Housing

Depending on the continent, country, and city you choose for your study abroad program, housing prices will differ. If your school doesn’t offer student housing options, you’ll want to weigh the cost of living in different cities before deciding on a place to study abroad. The prices listed here are for a studio apartment, and do not factor in potential roommates or currency fluctuations 

  • Paris: About $1,300 to $1,800 per month for a studio apartment
  • London: About $1,500 to $2,200 per month for studio apartment 
  • Hong Kong: About $2,200 to $3,400 per month for studio apartment 
  • Melbourne: About $900 to $1,200 per month for studio apartment
  • Rome: About $800 to $1,200 per month for studio apartment 
  • Moscow: About $600 to $1,000 per month for studio apartment
  • Barcelona: About $800 to $1,200 per month for studio apartment
  • Cape Town: About $500 to $900 per month for studio apartment

Transportation

While you can always opt to take a more expensive form of transportation, like an Uber or taxi, public transportation is usually an option in study-abroad destinations. Again, prices may vary slightly due to currency fluctuations over time.

  • Paris: About $83 for a monthly transportation pass
  • London: About $172 for a monthly transportation pass
  • Hong Kong: About $62 for a monthly transportation pass
  • Melbourne: About $100 for a monthly transportation pass
  • Rome: About $41 for a monthly transportation pass
  • Moscow: About $31 for a monthly transportation pass
  • Barcelona: About $54 for a monthly transportation pass
  • Cape Town: About $30 for a monthly transportation pass

Food

Like many costs associated with your study abroad experience, food and drinks can be an area in which you can save or splurge. Below are the average prices of a casual meal in the city.

  • Paris: Meals range from $9 to $17 on average
  • London: Meals range from $7 to $13 on average
  • Hong Kong: Meals range from $5 to $12 on average 
  • Melbourne: Meals range from $7 to $12 on average
  • Rome: Meals range from $8 to $15 on average
  • Moscow: Meals range from $4 to $6 on average
  • Barcelona: Meals range from $8 to $15 on average
  • Cape Town: Meals range from $4 to $8 on average

Flights to Your Destination

The cost of your flight to your study abroad program will depend on the city from which you’re departing. The following flight costs are calculated via Google Flights for one round-trip ticket from New York’s JFK Airport. Keep in mind, the closer you book to the date of your departure, the more expensive tickets may become.

  • Paris: About $600 to $1,200
  • London: About $500 to $1,200
  • Hong Kong: About $800 to $1,300
  • Melbourne: About $1,300 to $2,100
  • Rome: About $500 to $1,200
  • Moscow: About $500 to $1,200
  • Barcelona: About $400 to $1,000
  • Cape Town: About $1,000 to $2,000

Additional Costs and Fees

It’s important to consider additional hidden costs and fees that may be necessary for your study abroad program. Ask your college or university’s study abroad department if there’s anything extra like this that you need to factor into your budget for your specific study abroad program.

Using Loans When Studying Abroad

If you’re a U.S. citizen looking to take out a loan to study abroad, you have options. The federal government encourages students to travel abroad, offering the same loan process to those studying domestically and internationally. You can apply for international federal student loans in the same way you would apply for federal student loans domestically—by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, form. To get started with the process, find out if your desired overseas school abroad participates in the Direct Loan Program and check out the Federal Student Aid website for more information.

Federal Pell Grants and other grants offered by the U.S. Department of Education are not applicable for international schools.

While federal student loans often come with lower interest rates, private student loans may also be an option to consider. If you’re already using private student loans to finance your higher education, contact your provider to inquire whether the funds can be applied to your semester abroad.

Tips for Minimizing the Cost of Studying Abroad

Travel can be as expensive or inexpensive as your budget allows. Try these hacks for cutting down the cost of studying abroad.

1. Use public transportation.

Many overseas cities have well-designed public transportation systems. From Tokyo to Paris, London, Shanghai, Berlin, Singapore, and beyond, many parts of the world are ahead of the U.S. when it comes to efficient public transit. Research the public transportation system in your study-abroad city and save money by skipping expensive alternatives like taxis. 

2. Cook meals at home with your roommates. 

Food is an important part of experiencing a new culture, but eating out can add up. If your school abroad doesn’t offer a meal plan, a good way to reduce the cost of attendance is to cook at home. Get to know your new roommates by making dinner with them a few nights a week and save money in the process. 

3. Minimize weekend trips.

Many students like to book weekend trips and additional excursions when studying abroad in order to see as many new places as possible. If you’ve got a tight budget, consider limiting add-on flights to new destinations. Instead of taking a weekend trip to a new country, use the weekend to explore new parts of the city you’re already in. This allows you to better immerse yourself in your temporary home and control costs at the same time. 

Article Sources

  1. Iowa State University. "ISUAbroad Programs Budget Sheet," Accessed Oct. 16, 2019.

  2. University of Washington. "Program Cost Comparisons," Accessed Oct. 16, 2019.

  3. All prices: Expatistan. "International Cost of LIving Comparisons," Accessed Oct. 4, 2019.

  4. Google. Google Flights data for all fare quotations, Accessed Oct. 4, 2019.

  5. University of Washington. "Study Abroad, " Accessed Oct. 16, 2019.

  6. Federal Student Aid. "How Much Can I Receive in Federal Student Loan Funds?," Accessed Oct. 4, 2019.