After spending six months in Brisbane, Australia, Lauren Rice would like to clear up some myths about studying abroad. Read Lauren’s full article, as it appeared in the June 29, 2010 Minneapolis/St. Paul Star Tribune.
After returning from six months in Brisbane, Australia, I worked for the International Academic Programs office at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. I know, from personal experience and from working with prospective students, that the decision to go abroad can be overwhelming. There are multiple factors to take into consideration and preparation begins months ahead of time. Students are often concerned with financing the trip, asking themselves, “how on earth am I going to pay for this?” Well, life experience is priceless; however, it’s hard telling that to a college student facing 50K of student loans. In this post, I’d like to clear up some of the myths often associated with studying abroad in hopes of turning your hesitations and concerns into informative answers.
Myth # 1: Studying abroad is only for rich kids.
FALSE! I’m not going to sit here and pretend that studying abroad is inexpensive. It’s not, especially when you want to travel. However, it’s not as expensive as people think, and there are definitely ways to pay for it. For example, when I studied abroad in Brisbane, I went as an exchange student. That meant that I paid about the same amount in tuition costs than what I normally would pay at my home university. Because I pay close to in-state tuition, I was looking at about $5,500 in tuition costs. I encourage all students interested in studying abroad to check with their own universities for similar programs. There is actually a year-long Spain program at Madison that costs less for out-of-state students than a year at Madison. Madison also offers scholarships, loans and grants to help students cover the costs of going abroad. I was able to use the money from my FAFSA to cover my tuition costs as well.
1. Look for exchange programs, or programs with reduced tuition costs.
2. Apply for FAFSA. Even if your parents make above the amount to qualify for need-based funds, you can still qualify for other types of need.
3. Apply for as many scholarships as you can. Check out www.fastweb.com or similar sites.
4. Find a way to work abroad. Even if it’s for 10 hours a week, it’s a great way to earn extra money and meet locals.
5. Make a “study abroad” jar and put all your excess change in it. You’ll be surprised how quickly it adds up.