Study Abroad

6 Ways to Study Abroad for Free or Cheap

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 six ways you can cut some of those costs down and study abroad for cheap or even free!

1. Enroll Directly in a Foreign University or Language School

Study Abroad for Free - Nora B., University of Limerick, Ireland

While universities in the United States tend to be quite expensive, many countries offer free or low-cost schooling... even for foreign students.

Read more: How to Study Abroad for Cheap: Direct Enrollment

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.

2. Volunteer Abroad Instead

Study Abroad for Free - Ashley O., Love Volunteers Morocco

Who says that studying abroad has to be carried out at a university? Immersive volunteer experience is the perfect opportunity to gain valuable foreign language knowledge and hands-on experience without paying any tuition fees at all.

Read more: How to Volunteer Abroad for Free

While some programs charge students to pair them with volunteering programs overseas, one free option is WWOOF -- a worldwide organic farming network that pairs eager volunteers with farmers in need of extra hands. In exchange for your work, you’ll be provided with free housing and food, and if you put in the effort to learn the local language, you’ll come away with far more than callouses!

There are also plenty of low cost or no cost volunteer options that don't include farm work. For instance, Global Work & Travel sends intrepid volunteers to Tanzania and IVHQ sends volunteers literally all over the globe! If volunteering is the path you choose, consider how you can shape your time to feel like a study abroad experience. Perhaps sign up for language courses or volunteer with a program that also includes study about the local culture and history.

3. Complete a Work-Study

Study Abroad for Free - Emily G.,, IFSA Butler Queen Mary University of London

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. Work as an Au Pair

Study Abroad for Free - Katelyn W., Wanderlust Au Pair China

Going overseas as an au pair may be the best way to offset the cost of your study abroad program. Not only does working as an au pair ensure that the cost of housing is taken care of, but most au pairs overseas also have phone and transport covered – and earn a bit of pocket money, too!

There are a variety of au pair resources here on Go Overseas to help you find the perfect family in a country you want to spend time in.

5. Choose a Cheap Study Abroad Program

Study Abroad for Free - Shannon, Athena Dublin

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:

6. Apply for Scholarships & Grants

Study Abroad Scholarships and Grants Featured

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.

Go Overseas has 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

Virtual Study Abroad

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 July 2020.