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6 Ways To Cut The Costs Of Your Study Abroad Program

July 18, 2014 in Homestay

When recent Cornell University graduate Evan McElwain, 21, interviewed for his current job at a major financial firm, the first topic of discussion wasn’t his expert knowledge of the markets or opinions on quantitative easing. Instead, he delved into stories about backpacking across mainland China and getting trapped in a flood en route to a music festival at the Great Wall.

“[If] every candidate a company is interviewing comes from the same school, took the same classes, got similar grades, had leadership roles in similar clubs ¬ – it really comes down to who the interviewer thinks is the most interesting,” McElwain said. “Traveling does wonders for making people more interesting.”

Study abroad programs are the stock and trade of most top tier four year colleges and for students who choose to enroll in them they can become an edge in the job search. However according to a report from the British Council, a U.K. non-profit that promotes overseas educational programs, the number of American students considering study abroad has slumped 12% from last year.

A teacher instructs a group of Oglethorpe University students during a semester abroad.

A teacher instructs a group of Oglethorpe University students during a semester abroad.

Why? Study abroad program inflation. At an average cost of $31,270 per semester, these programs run about double what a semester at private colleges run. In fact, the cost of study abroad was cited as the single largest nonacademic deterrent among students. Abroad fees only get higher when you tack on living expenses like sightseeing, dining and travelling to nearby countries.

Amid rising interest rates on student loans and state spending cuts, it’s understandable why study abroad has taken the back seat to more pressing expenses. Although flying halfway across the world for a semester is definitely not a drop in the bucket, it can be an affordable investment with careful research and planning. Many US students are unfamiliar with the financial realities of foreign study, with only 23% aware of government-sponsored programs – up from 6% in 2013. In addition to these federal scholarships and grants, there are countless other ways to travel on a budget. We’ve outlined the best tips below so you don’t have to sacrifice your experience to save a buck.

Rethink How You Book AirfareIt’s commonly known that airfare prices balloon as flight dates approach, yet abroad students habitually reserve seats on the fly. A quick Expedia.com search shows waiting to book airfare until a week before a trip can drain hundreds of dollars from your bank account. While some of the most memorable mid-semester excursions are planned at the last minute, students shouldn’t overpay for the sake of spontaneity. Do yourself a favor and book in advance.For those studying in North America and don’t want to commit to plans that are up in the air, travel booking site Options Away can lock-in current airfare rates for up to 21 days. After the hold period, customers can exercise their right to purchase tickets or forego the transaction completely for a small $5 fee. The site is currently in the process of expanding their operations to Mexico and Canada.

Leave Your Old Credit Card At Home Most credit cards will bill customers a foreign exchange fee, which is a 1-3% charge on every purchase made overseas. After living in a foreign country for six months, this expense can become pretty substantial. It may be in students’ best interest to sign up for a credit card without exchange fees, such as Capital One’s Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card or the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card. With no annual membership fees, 1.5% cash back on all purchases and various rewards for spending $500 in the first 3 months, your savings account will thank you.

Get International Student Status If you’re over 12 years old and a full-time student, then there may be one piece of plastic missing from your wallet. The International Student Identity Card, which is issued in over 130 countries, gives cardholders discounts on any product, service or experience relevant to student life and doubles as proof of student status. Airfare, magazine subscriptions, movie passes, restaurants and countless other everyday services are all included in the perks. The card varies in price between $4 and $20, depending on the country of registration, and is valid for 16 months so you can continue to rack up savings even after you return home.

Travel The Unbeaten Path Western Europe may the most popular destination for studying abroad, but it is also the most expensive. Opt to explore vibrant cities across South America, Asia and Africa for a unique experience with a lower price-tag. In addition to being at the epicenter of some major research efforts, these areas tend to have favorable exchange rates that stretch the value your dollar. According to Dr. Kristen Grace, associate director at Cornell Abroad, students interested in sustainability and climate change should consider programs in Santiago or the Amazon, while business and prelaw students, looking to establish professional connections, might want to hedge their bets towards China.

Immerse Yourself To get the most out of your experience for as little money as possible, get to know a country’s culture by living like a local. Not only will you have a more authentic experience, but you’re more likely to avoid expensive tourist traps. Depending on the country, expensive restaurants are often catered towards tourists and don’t offer a true reflection of a region’s cuisine. Chat up locals to discover neighborhood hot-spots that will be kinder to your taste buds and your wallet. The same goes for visiting landmarks and national sights – don’t hop on the nearest tour bus. Finding your way through a foreign country can be its own learning experience and allows you to absorb your surroundings at your own pace without the added pressure of a large group.

Apply For Funding With thousands of international and domestic organizations dedicated to funding student travel, every student can find a scholarship, loan, grant or fellowship relevant to their needs. Sifting through these opportunities can be overwhelming, but search engines like studyabroadfunding.org, simplify the process by filtering programs according to field of study and country. When filling out scholarship and other applications, Daniel Obst, deputy vice president of the Institute of International Education, urges students to carefully articulate why study abroad would be valuable to them and how it fits into their broader educational and career goals.

In addition to US government-sponsored programs — like the Fulbright Scholarship, Gilman Scholarship and Boren Awards for International Study — opportunities are also available from host countries looking to add a diversity of thought to their classrooms. For those who already receive Federal Student Aid, the government may cover the costs of round-trip transportation, visas, housing and health insurance if one’s home institution approves of the program.

Author: Alexa Davis

Source: http://t.co/c54jQkGYwB

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