Money Matters: Finding Affordable Study Abroad Programs

One of our biggest priorities at USAC is providing immersive, academically-driven study abroad experiences that don’t break the bank. We work hard to keep program costs down by carefully considering where we host our programs and by providing customizable program offerings, such as housing options and optional tours, to let you pick and choose what you want to participate in (and pay for!). If you’re on the hunt for an affordable study abroad program that is chock-full of immersive experiences, keep reading.

Opt For a Non-Traditional Location

One of the best things about USAC study abroad programs, in our opinion, is that we offer programs off the beaten tourist path. Chances are that you haven’t even heard of some of our program locations. So, why is this important for the student on a budget? Well, not only are non-traditional locations the place to go for a fully immersive, authentic experience, but they are also typically much more budget-friendly than their touristy neighbors. Popular travel destinations often have relatively high costs of living compared to smaller or lesser-known locations in the same country (think Paris versus Pau or Hong Kong versus Chengdu.).

Obviously certain countries are more expensive than others no matter which city you live in, but if you’re looking for a location that will make your wallet happy, we recommend digging beyond your vacation bucket list.

Students ride bikes with locals in Khon Kaen, Thailand. Photo was taken before COVID-19.

Set Your Priorities

No matter where you choose to study abroad, chances are that you will have to make some sacrifices. This is even more true if you are working with a limited budget — but that’s OK! It’s important to set goals for your study abroad and establish your priorities before you begin your search for the right program for you. Do some self-reflection to determine what is most important to you when it comes to studying abroad: is it participating in an internship? Acing all of your courses? What about strengthening your language skills? No matter what your goals are, knowing what you want to accomplish during your abroad will help you prioritize program add-ons into must-have features and those you can live without.

Woman studying with her friend at cafe. Photo taken before COVID-19.

Understand Program Costs

No matter where you want to study abroad, we recommend research program fees before making your final decision. Sometimes this means comparing costs from multiple providers to understand which program is going to give you the most bang for your buck. Fortunately, USAC is very transparent about our program fees so you know exactly what you’re paying for.

Our Interactive Budget Sheets are a great way to see how you can customize your study abroad to fit your budget. Play around with this sample budget sheet for our program in Florianópolis, Brazil to get an idea of how these budget sheets work and to understand where your money is going.

Students who are studying abroad gathered around a market in Shanghai, China
Students who are studying abroad gathered around a market in Thailand. Photo taken before COVID-19.

Search for Scholarships

We know that study abroad is an investment. One that most students and their families have to carefully consider and plan for before submitting their applications. To help offset costs of study abroad, USAC awards scholarships and discounts for all programs and a variety of demographics. We also accept external scholarships, such as the Benjamin A. Gilman and Freeman-Asia scholarships, as well as financial aid.

Once you have applied for your USAC program, you will have access to our scholarship application. However, we recommend doing your research on scholarships and financial planning before you apply. Chat with a USAC team member about the different ways you can fund your study abroad experience and take a look at our website, read our blogs on finances or listen to Season 1, Episode 5 of the Students Beyond Borders Podcast below to learn more.

For a complete list of USAC programs, organized by program price, visit the USAC website.