With its cosmopolitan cultural scene, diverse geography and great wine, Argentina has long been a favorite destination for students who want to improve their Spanish abroad. The country used to be a fabulously cheap destination for foreigners, too, but inflation has dramatically increased the cost of living over the last few years.
Still, you shouldn't let a more expensive steak dissuade you from experiencing one of South America's most gorgeous countries. While you may not be able to get away with paying nothing, you can certainly spend much less than you think.
Read on for suggestions on how to study abroad in Argentina and come back home with some cash to spare!
Apply for Scholarships
This is a no brainer! Although you're not the only one going to Argentina to study, there is plenty of funding available to help you offset the costs of your program. Students from all over Latin America come to enroll in the great universities in Argentina - as such, many different types of scholarships exist for people looking to study abroad. Some are country-specific, others depend on your field of study, and some are just a free-for-all.
You may not think you qualify for a scholarship, but it's always worth checking. Talk to your school's study abroad and financial aid offices to see what your options are, and then go online and do some research to see what else is out there. Consider selecting a study abroad program that offers scholarships to participants, like GIC and API.
Check with other funding sources in your campus community or your hometown. Consider fundraising before your trip to earn some extra cash.
Bargain Shop for Programs
Research about your program options now will literally "pay off" in the long run - here's where we suggest starting if you want to study in Argentina for cheap!
Low cost study abroad providers:
Low cost language program providers:
Some of the aforementioned programs offer better services to students than others. Check out their ratings and reviews to compare alumni' experiences and see how these programs stack up.
Enroll Directly in a University
The public universities in Argentina are some of the best schools in the country. The best part is: they're free! There are also tons of good private universities - they're not free, but they're certainly not expensive by Western standards. The act of directly enrolling can be tricky to figure out if you are not confident in your Spanish skills, but the extra effort will translate to mucho dollars saved. You have many different options for university study in Argentina.
There are some programs designed specifically for foreign students, especially people learning Spanish. Private universities like Belgrano and Palermo offer programs tailored to Spanish language learners. The programs aren't free, but they're typically much less than your average study abroad program, so it's worth going through the university instead (as long as you're still getting credits!).
UBA's gorgeous campus.
Remember, though, you can't just waltz into any university you want. The Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA) is one of the most prestigious and competitive universities in Latin America - not just in Argentina - so you have to be a good candidate to catch their interest. And be careful with requirements - some universities are fine with you studying as a foreigner, while others, like UBA, require a student or resident (not a tourist) visa. Check with your embassy and the school about particular requirements before enrolling anywhere.
And, of course, you'd better be able to follow an energetic lecture entirely in porteno Spanish (the dialect spoken in Buenos Aires)!
If You're Going to go with a Program, Time it Right
This is how I pulled off studying abroad in Buenos Aires and emerged with my bank account intact. My university operated on a quarter (trimester) system, which meant we had three quarters in the school year, rather than the normal two. Because the study abroad program was on the semester system, I spent my winter and spring quarters in Argentina - but only paid the price of one quarter! My study abroad program fee was roughly equivalent to the price of a quarter's tuition, but I was out of the country for two quarters, so I got two for the price of one!
Obviously, this strategy won't work if your university is on a normal semester system, but check out the timelines of various programs to see if they overlap in any way. Very often, the price of a year abroad is significantly less than the price of a year at your regular university - especially in a place with schools as cheap as Argentina!
Get a Longterm Visa or a Part-Time Job
An Argentine resident, study or work visa will clear a path for many opportunities in the country - free tuition at UBA, for example! But they're not just handing out visas like candy at the Embassy. Applying and getting approved for one is a long, complicated and often expensive process. Still, if you're going to be in the country for a year or longer, especially if you're affiliated with a university, it's worth a try.
Buenos Aires is overflowing with foreigners these days. Tons of people, both fresh out of college and well into their retired years, have moved to Argentina for the beautiful scenery and cheap wine (and maybe some business opportunities). It's almost a guarantee you'll be able to find someone from your university or home state living there. Make connections with other foreigners, find people on LinkedIn or Twitter, ask around and use your skills to get hired somewhere. Even if it's just working at a bar or a hostel front desk, you'll be getting paid and meeting people all the time. Plus, it'll give you a great opportunity to practice your Spanish!
If you can, get paid in dollars rather than pesos. This might be hard if you're working for an Argentine employer instead of a foreign one, but it's worth asking. With all of the recent inflation and economic issues, the peso is worth less than ever, and the dollar is a much stronger currency. You want your paychecks to be strong, don't you?!
QUICK TIPS FOR LIVING ON A STUDENT BUDGET IN ARGENTINA:
- Street food! Argentine street food - from empanadas to choripan - is super tasty. And more importantly, it's cheap!
- Don't get too addicted to the boliches. The party never stops in major cities, but if you're out every night, your wallet is going to start looking sad pretty fast. When your nights start at 8 p.m. and end at 8 a.m., it's easy to spend a month's worth of groceries. Make a fiesta budget, and stick to it.
- Look at other cities like Rosario, Salta or Mendoza. Buenos Aires is the big draw for everyone, but other, slightly smaller cities are much less expensive and might make job-hunting easier. Don't worry - they still have good universities!
- Get a bike! Public transportation in places like Buenos Aires is pretty efficient and not too expensive, but commuting adds up. If you don't have to go too far, it might be worth investing in a pair of wheels to get across this flat city. But don't expect any bike lanes.
- Take it to the streets. Art, theater and dance are huge draws in Argentina, and events like tango shows are deservedly popular. But there are tons of people showing their talents almost for free on the streets, especially during weekend fairs. Instead of spending 100 pesos on a tango show, save a few pesos for the talented street dancers at the San Telmo market.
Teach English (or something else!)
English is in high demand in Argentina. As a native speaker, you have an inherent advantage over other teachers, and you can negotiate to be paid accordingly. It's up to you whether you want to do this through an institute or possibly your school, or if you would prefer to work independently. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so think about how comfortable you are working on your own, how much stability and control you want over your own schedule, and your time management before getting started.
You don't just have to teach English, though. If you're an expert in something else - Java, pastry decorating, sculpture - start a class! Advertise through your friends, your neighbors, your school - anywhere people will listen. Find a way to use your skills to your financial advantage, and you'll probably end up getting some great friendships out of it.
Don't spend all your money at the boliches!
And get creative about your sources! Sites like Couchsurfing can be great resources for finding people willing to trade lessons, living space or tour guide services for English classes. If you play your cards right and find willing students, you could probably stay for free for months.
If your main goal is learning Spanish rather than being waylaid by overzealous communists on a daily basis at one of Argentina's excellent, politically active universities, you may want to consider joining a volunteer program instead. As the world's eighth-largest country, Argentina is incredibly diverse in terms of climate and terrain, and you can find all kinds of different opportunities - anything from teaching English to helping with a community outreach cooking program in Buenos Aires to volunteering with disabled children in Cordoba.
Some volunteer programs will provide housing and food in exchange for work, so this is a great method for studying in Argentina for free! Living with a host family will help you absorb the language and culture and you will walk away having learned a great deal about Argentina and Latin America in general. You'll also be proud of your contributions to a great cause!
These handy tips will help you study abroad in Argentina for cheap. Whether you're planning your study abroad in Argentina trip or reading this from Buenos Aires, we wish you (and your wallet!) the best of luck!