Discover is no longer accepting new student loan applications.
Applications received on or before January 31, 2024, 11:59 pm CT will be processed as usual.

Discover Student Loans
Discover Student Loans

check mark   Article highlights

  • Studying abroad allows you to explore new cultures, gain an international perspective, and grow as an individual—all while furthering your education.
  • If you're wondering how to study abroad, see if your university has its own program.
  • The average cost of studying abroad ranges anywhere from $3,500 to $15,000.

Studying abroad is a chance to further your education while engaging in a unique, cultural experience. There are multiple ways to put a global spin on your learning. Some students spend a semester overseas, while others earn their entire degree in another country. If you’re curious about how to study abroad, there’s a lot to consider—including figuring out how to pay for it.

Ways to study abroad

Studying abroad means spending some or all of your educational experience in a different country. You might live on campus, in an apartment or house, or with a local family. Here are a few ways to study abroad.

A study abroad program through your university

Lots of US colleges partner with international schools so that students can earn credits abroad. Some even have satellite campuses in other countries. Check to see if your university has an international education office or study abroad home base. If so, you can likely connect with study abroad advisors and program coordinators.

A third-party study abroad program

These organizations provide study abroad programs for all types of learners. They typically coordinate the details around travel, lodging, course administration, and additional travel once students are abroad. Just be sure to vet the organization beforehand. That means digging into their reputation, licenses, safety record, and reviews from past students.

A foreign university

There might be a specific school in another country that you want to attend. If you want to earn your entire degree abroad, you can directly enroll in a foreign university. You might also be able to stay enrolled in your home college and take a semester abroad on your own. Check with your school first to ensure you’re able to be enrolled in two colleges at once.

Types of study abroad programs

“Study abroad” is an umbrella term that covers all kinds of opportunities. The right one for you will depend on the type of experience you want to have. That can include:

  • A semester or summer abroad
  • A dual degree program
  • A semester at sea program
  • Service-learning opportunities
  • International internships, which may be paid or unpaid
  • Student exchange programs
  • Earning an entire degree through a foreign university
  • Taking a gap year from your home college to learn abroad

What to look for in a study abroad program

Study abroad programs can vary widely. The idea is to enroll in a program that’s compatible with your education, personality, and lifestyle. The following criteria can help you find the right one for you:

  • Culture: Which destinations do you feel drawn to? Do you see yourself in a big city, a coastal town, or in the countryside? Do you want to be immersed in a foreign language? Think in terms of the cultural experience you want to have while abroad.
  • Safety: Even if the destination is approved by your college or third-party organization, living abroad comes with risk. Check to see if there are any travel advisories in place before you choose a destination. If you’re going with a third-party group, research their safety ratings.
  • Academics: Loving a destination doesn’t necessarily mean it makes sense academically. Research your options to find the right program for your long-term career goals. If you’re going short term, be sure your credits will transfer to your home university. If they don’t transfer, you might have to complete more coursework at home to graduate.
  • Finances: Studying abroad can be pricey. On top of your tuition, you’ll also be on the hook for travel expenses and living costs. Some destinations are more expensive than others. Comparing program fees and cost of living can help you find the right program for your budget.

How to pay for study abroad

The cost of studying abroad can vary widely based on location, housing, and number of credits. Here’s what the average numbers looks like, according to the University of Louisville:

  • One-month summer study abroad program: $3,500 to $6,000
  • Semester-long study abroad program: $7,000 to $15,000

If you already have a scholarship or grant, check to see if it can be applied to your study abroad expenses. Use a free online search tool to help you find additional scholarships specifically for studying abroad. You can also ask your home college and destination school if there are any scholarship or grant opportunities for students studying abroad.

If you’re unable to fully fund your study abroad experience, federal or private student loans can help cover the difference if your program is eligible.

Making a budget to study abroad

You’ll also need to budget for actually living abroad. That includes day-to-day expenses as well as extra cash to explore your new country and any additional travel on the weekends. If you’re hoping to earn some extra money, check the rules for working in your destination country first. For example, there may be a cap on how many hours you can work per week.

Before you leave, make sure you have a debit or credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. These fees can add up to a big expense while traveling.

How to study abroad

  1. Research different options: That includes school-sponsored study abroad programs, third-party organizations, and direct enrollment through a foreign university. Find out if your credits will transfer to your home college.
  2. Apply: The application process will look different depending on the school and type of study abroad experience. Get clear on what’s required and give yourself time to get it all done before you head off. Research what you’ll need to secure a student visa in your destination country—and have a valid passport on hand.
  3. Financially prepare: Make a plan for how you’ll pay to study abroad and create a budget to cover your living expenses while you’re away.

How helpful was this content?