Studying abroad can be the experience of a lifetime... but it can also cost a pretty penny. Luckily, there are more than a few choices if you want to study abroad for cheap – or even study abroad for free.
The secret to offsetting the cost of studying abroad is to remember that much of what you pay to study abroad is for peace of mind and ease. Study abroad programs charge you extra to help you find housing, help enroll in foreign universities, or even facilitate your visa process. By taking on some or all of these tasks on your own, you can make your study abroad experience a whole lot easier.
Here are some ways you can cut some of those costs down and study abroad for cheap or even free!
1. Choose a country with an affordable cost of living
You don't have to break the bank just to take your studies overseas. By setting a clear budget, picking an affordable study abroad program, and opting for a destination with a cheap cost of living, you can make your study abroad dreams a reality!
Get started by exploring some of these popular and affordable study abroad countries, based on average cost of living and tuition.
- Average monthly cost of living (with rent): $550-$750
- Average cost of a semester (without housing) through direct enrollment:$200-$3,000
- Average cost of a semester (with housing) through third-party provider: $14,000-$17,500
If you're looking for culinary delights, adventure, and art all wrapped in one, Argentina would be a great place to study abroad! There's so much to do and see, from exploring the vibrant city of Buenos Aires to hiking the stunning Iguazú Falls.
Plus, studying in Argentina can be more affordable than attending a university here in the states! Your typical everyday living expenses, such as groceries, going to the movies, buying a latte, and even paying rent, are much cheaper in Argentina.
- Average monthly cost of living (with rent): $800-$1700
- Average cost of a semester (without housing) through direct enrollment: $2000-$7000
- Average cost of a semester (with housing) through third-party provider: $7500-$12000
For students looking to immerse themselves in ancient history, art, and wisdom, taking your studies to China can be a great low-cost option, compared to many other popular study abroad destinations.
While studying abroad in China, you can budget and keep costs low by enjoying food from local markets, applying for scholarships, and utilizing the local public transportation.
- Average monthly cost of living (with rent): $550-$850
- Average cost of a semester (without housing) through direct enrollment: $1,000-$5,000
- Average cost of a semester (with housing) through third-party provider: $7,000-$19,000
If you're looking for to enjoy a country with a buzzing social life Brazil can be a great option for your upcoming study abroad adventure. Not only is Brazil a country with plenty of lively music, delicious food, samba dancing, beaches, and more, but it can also be quite affordable, depending on the program or university. While your tuition costs may seem high, the rent and cost of living will likely be much lower compared to studying abroad in a country like Japan or France.
Read more: How Much Does it Cost to Study Abroad?
2. Enroll directly in a foreign university or language school
While universities in the United States tend to be quite expensive, many countries offer free or low-cost schooling... even for foreign students.
Paris’ La Sorbonne, for example, has no tuition fees and only a modest registration fee -- about $200. The only downside? French universities teach in French so there is a language prerequisite to enroll. For non-francophones, Australia’s University of Tasmania comes with a reasonable price tag hovering around $6,000 dollars, while New Zealand's University of Auckland is a touch more expensive at just under $9,000.
And English-language programs aren't confined to English-speaking countries. The University of Nottingham’s campus in Ningbo, China offers programs in English with tuition coming in at just under $7,000.
Consider making a shortlist of five countries where you would like to study abroad. Next, check public university websites in those countries to see if the cost of tuition is manageable for you. Also, bear in mind cost of living in these countries: Norway's public universities are free, even to international students, but the high cost of living might make this option less enticing than some others.
3. Complete a work-study
Working while studying abroad is often complicated for international students, who don’t have the requisite visa to be employed in a foreign country. But some programs afford the ability to bypass this sticky situation so that you can offset the cost of your study abroad program by earning a paycheck. Consider enrolling in a course to become a teacher of English as a foreign language or choosing a country that allows you to work during your program, such as Australia or New Zealand.
Also bear in mind that many E.U. countries will allow you to work part-time, depending on the length of your stay overseas. In the UK, for example, you can work part-time if you’re staying longer than six months, while in Spain, you can work as long as it’s in a job relevant to your field of study. Our handy guide will help you find out more about labor laws in various study abroad locales.
4. Opt for a cheap study abroad program
If you want to spare yourself the headache of concocting your own study abroad experience, you can always simply opt for a study abroad program on the less expensive side. Here are just a few with a much more reasonable fee:
5. Apply for scholarships & grants
This is an obvious one, but we couldn't leave it off the list. Study abroad scholarships and grants are the easiest way to cut your study abroad costs. Of course, they're also more competitive than some of the other options we've recommended, so they might not work for everyone.
Here at Go Overseas, we have an extensive list of study abroad scholarships and grants across different subjects, countries, and programs. Google is another great resource to find scholarships specific to your study abroad program, the subject you're studying, or the country where you want to study abroad.
Bonus: Study abroad virtually
While perhaps unconventional, virtual study abroad is another great option to cut down on costs while still getting international exposure. Even though you won't physically be in a different country, you'll still get to practice a new language, meet people from around the globe, and learn about different cultures and histories. And for those of you who are thinking about starting an international career after graduation, it's a great opportunity to make global connections and expand your network.
Options for virtual study abroad range from courses on innovation and entrepreneurship to internships in the field of your choosing. If you're feeling unsure about this option, check out this article on what virtual study abroad is and why you should consider it.
Whichever way you choose to try to study abroad for cheap, taking full advantage of the opportunities afforded to you is the best way to offset the cost. The memories you make overseas will be priceless!
This post was originally published in August 2019, and it was updated in January 2022.