Financial Aid, TuitionStudy Abroad

How to Fund Your Semester Abroad

Studying abroad is an alluring and adventurous alternative to spending another semester at your home university and in the same culture you’ve been accustomed to your entire life. Taking the traveler’s route and studying abroad for a semester, however, can be expensive. Luckily, there are ways to make this dream a reality if you know where to look and are willing to be creative.

study abroad


This is probably the most obvious way to subsidize the cost of going overseas for a semester, and should be a priority in your research and planning. One of the first places to visit is your college’s study abroad or international education office, both to get a better understanding of the overall cost of your study abroad experience and the scholarship options that exist to offset that cost. Usually, scholarship opportunities within the university will only make up a small portion of the overall cost, which is likely to be relatively high.

Your scholarship search should not end at the study abroad office. The Institute of International Education (IIE) provides an excellent resource on their IIEPassport Study Abroad Funding Page, where you can search for study abroad scholarships based on location of study, as well as field of study. However, you shouldn’t limit yourself to scholarships specifically for studying abroad. Do a wide range of searches for general scholarships for which you might be eligible. College Board has one of the largest scholarship search databases out there, and is a great resource to find even a small sum of money to help you reach your goal.

Funding from friends and family

Directly asking friends and family for support can feel awkward. Why not take a more creative approach and make a website for your semester abroad? Outline the specifics about to your plans to study abroad: timeframe, location, funding goal, and your reasons and motivations to study abroad. This process, known as crowdfunding, is an increasingly popular way to come up with funds for studying abroad and travel. GoFundMe, a widely-used crowdfunding site, provides a platform for your fundraising efforts in exchange for minimal transaction fees. Once you’ve met your goal, consider writing a blog about your new experiences to show your funders how valuable their donations were.


Picking up odd jobs or additional hours at your current job may be an excellent way to earn some extra cash for your semester abroad. For example, checking Craigslist for gigs in your community is a simple way to earn quick money, whether it’s helping someone move for the afternoon or doing yard work. Tutoring or offering services for something you’re already good at by posting flyers around your campus, community, or even to the online marketplace Fiverr, is also something you might want to consider.

In addition to working up until the point you leave for your adventure, consider finding work while you are overseas. Many student visas allow travelers to do minimal amounts of work while they are studying in their host country. If you are traveling to a non-English speaking country, try teaching or tutoring English. There are numerous online TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification programs, including TEFL Online. Finding work teaching English once you are abroad can be relatively easy by searching for job postings online on sites like LingoBongo.

Cut back on current expenses

No time to pick up an extra shift? Finding creative ways to save money can be a key factor in whether or not you will be able to meet your goal in raising funds for your semester abroad. Here are some easy ways to cut back your spending without doing too much additional work:

  1. Going out: Try to cut back on the number of times you go out to eat per week. Cook more meals at home, and if getting together with friends, suggest meeting at your home or apartment.
  2. Cable/television: Consider getting rid of your cable services and stick to internet subscriptions like Netflix or HuluPlus.
  3. Entertainment: Make use of your local library for entertainment such as reading, music, and movies instead of purchasing these items.
  4. Transportation: If you have a car, try to use it less. Get around by other means, such as bicycle or on foot. If you can get by without a car, you might even consider selling it! Depending on where you live, you might be surprised at how easy it is to get used to life without a car, and how quickly you accrue money once it’s gone.
  5. Unnecessary purchases: Try the 30 day rule. If there’s an item you feel like buying that’s not an absolute necessity, make it a point to wait 30 days before buying it. Often times you’ll change your mind, and end up saving the money you would have spent on something you really didn’t need.

Student loans and grants

Student loans should be carefully considered, but are an option for covering any remaining funding gaps when planning your semester abroad. Stop by your college or university’s financial aid office to ask about available loans or browse the FAFSA (Free Application For Student Aid) website for more information. In some cases, you may be eligible for a low-interest Direct Subsidized Loans through the U.S. Department of Education. Furthermore, you may be eligible for a range of student grants, which are based on student need and do not have to pay back.

Additional resources

  1. How to Fund your Semester Abroad Study
  2. How to Learn a Language for Free
  3. How to Attend College for Free in Germany
  4. English: The Impact on Higher Education Abroad
  5. Career Benefits of Studying Abroad: It’s Not Just a Vacation

Photo: The Pantheon in Rome. Credit: Thomas Shahan / Flickr

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The Author

Dave Harriman

Dave Harriman

Dave Harriman, SHRM-CP, has a background in human resources, anthropology, and international education. His experience teaching English abroad during a gap year as an undergraduate student in Spain ignited his passion and advocacy for student travel. As a human resources professional, Dave is interested in helping students prepare for future career growth, and for helping facilitate social & cultural inclusion in the workplace.