Telling You Everything I Know About How To Study Abroad For Free
I haven’t found my dream job that takes me around the world, but that’s because over the last 5 years I’ve been studying. But studying and living in 4 different countries.
While this is obviously not something to do forever–being a student CAN enable you to travel A LOT, if you play your cards right. And let’s be honest, most of us haven’t figured out the “And what are you going to do with your life?” so why not keep studying if it keeps you traveling?
Before I move on, it’s important to note I have an Austrian passport and am telling this from an EU point-of-view.
So how to make the most of your student life? Here are 3 ways.
1.Study Abroad For Free
This is a classic and by now a lot of programs even require you to do a study abroad for a semester or year.
While it may sound cheesy or cliché, I had the time of my life! It was pure chance that I ended up in such a beautiful country, but I’m so glad I did! I’d probably say the same had I landed somewhere else, but had that happened, I wouldn’t have met my boyfriend, I wouldn’t speak Spanish (almost) fluently, and I wouldn’t be craving a good ceviche or pie de limon every day. Most importantly, I wouldn’t have made myself a second home in this beautifully diverse country (like, seriously! There’s the coast, mountains AND the jungle! What more could anyone want!).
You’re probably thinking now that that’s all great, but how can you do and afford the same?
Most universities have a link on their website that is titled something along the lines of “Going Abroad” or “Become an exchange student”. You’ll want to do some research on if the university in the country you want to go to has the courses offered in that country’s program.
For me, the university in Peru was perfect because they had the exact courses I needed for one of my specializations. So I sent in a bunch of required documents and did an in-person interview, then off I went to Lima, Peru for a year.
After you apply and get accepted–now comes the question of financing your year abroad. Remember, how I told you that a lot of programs now require you to go abroad? This works very much in your favor because this also means there’s a lot of financial support and scholarships available.
For me the university had a program that supported me, our local government offered a scholarship AND a fund that supports students developing their skills abroad with financial support. My university has one person in charge ONLY of advising students on the different scholarship options, so he knew pretty much everything that was available. Even if your university doesn’t have someone like that, just Googling around a bit helps a lot. For me potential search terms would be: Austrian studying abroad scholarships; studying in Peru scholarships, Austrian living in Peru scholarships, etc.–you get the idea.
Now apart from the scholarships, how did I finance my study abroad?
While this varies strongly individually, to visualize the costs, here are my expenses:
Monthly Expenses: 386 € ($475)
|Living Expenses/month||180€ ($220)|
|Supplies & Care Products /Month||120€ ($147)|
|Public Transport/ Month||5€ ($6)|
|University stuff: Books, Copies,etc.||5€ ($6)|
|Insurance /Month||36€ ($44)|
|Other (i.e. Going out) /Month||~40€ ($49)|
Other Expenses: 2300€ ($2816) Overall
|Flights to and from Peru||1400€ ($1714)|
|Language Classes in Peru (2 Months)||300€ ($367)|
Travel: 4000€ ($4898) Overall
|5 weeks (Buenos Aires, Iguazu, Rio de Janiero, Sao Paulo, La Paz, Puno, Cusco, Lima, Quito, Banos, Galapagos)||2400€ ($2939)|
|Weekend Trips within Peru on Average||200€ (*8 = 1600€ / $1960)|
So, during my year in Peru, I spent overall $13,414, of which I got $4,442 in scholarships. That means I had to come up with $8,972 myself spread out over the entire year or $748/month. This is still quite some money so I worked 2 jobs for the 2 years before going abroad, which then gave me the freedom to also splurge on all those experiences I mentioned above.
Also, what I did before going abroad is calculating how much I would’ve spent staying home. In Austria, a double room in a student house would’ve already cost me around $470/month, whereas Peru was just $220/month, giving me wiggle room to go on weekend trips and travel around South America.
So I actually spent less money in that year than I would’ve spent staying home. Other countries may be more expensive, but the scholarships are calculated based on the living costs of the country you’re going to, so you can get more financial support accordingly.
Where To Start Looking For Study Abroad Scholarships
While studying abroad is definitely easier coming from one of the richest countries in the world, the scholarship opportunities nowadays are seriously endless.
I’ve helped Peruvian friends who wanted to study in Europe look for scholarships. There is truly something for everyone. If you’d like to see another perspective for someone with a Ecuadorian passport, click here!
Last step! Courses, Visas, and Vaccinations.
The following are details about the process that no one tells you about:
- Pre-validating your courses: This process depends on your university, such as how many credits you’re required to do and which courses you’re allowed. My advice would be to talk to the people who went abroad before you. There were many mistakes that had already been made that saved me so much time just by talking with someone who went previously.
- Visa: There’s a cost involved in getting your visa and to determine which one you need, you’ll need to talk to an advisor or to someone who went before you. For example: Peru theoretically requires you to change your tourist visa into a student visa, however nobody ever checks that and it costs you around another 400€s. I’m not saying don’t do it, but I’m also not saying don’t not do it 😉
- Vaccinations: Depending on the country, you’ll need to get vaccinated. There’s a cost involved in this also. There are tropical institutes in most big cities and they’ll advise you on which vaccinations to get and generally also have student discounts.
- Insurance: I used Care Concept AG, but there are loads of options out there and most are pretty similar by now when it comes to prices & offerings.
- Accommodation: A good way of finding accommodation is asking the people before you. They may directly give you the room they lived in or have some great recommendations on where to live. When I went abroad, I was just happy having found a place and I didn’t take into account at all that different living arrangements will have different perks.
- For example: you can either live in the dorms or find yourself a host family. Both have their advantages and disadvantages and I’d say there is not one better than the other, they’re just very different. Living in dorms or in a shared apartment with other international students generally leads to loads of contact and interaction with other internationals, parties and reunions at your place, and a strong “international” network or group of friends. On the other hand, living with a local family will probably give you more privacy and less partying (at least at your own place, since families are generally less keen on having strangers in their house every weekend). It will also give you the chance to experience local life firsthand and eat delicious local foods and treats every day. It 100% depends on what you want to experience during your time abroad.
But what happens when you study abroad for free and get the travel bug and want more?
2.Do your entire program abroad, of course.
To this day, I don’t know how I got my parents on board with that, but after a lot of research, I ended up doing my MSc in International Management in Dublin, Ireland last year. Not because master programs in Austria suck (there’s some quite good ones), but because after finishing my Bachelors, I wanted to go abroad again, but this time for my entire degree.
Financing Your Degree Abroad
As opposed to study abroad, this was definitely more expensive than doing a program in Austria – mostly because Austria does not have tuition fees and Ireland does. However, talking to people from the US, tuition fees for them were half of what they would’ve been in the US, so it always depends on you frame of reference.
If you’re interested in the financials of studying in Europe, check out this article – it has a great list of how much it costs to study in each country in Europe plus an average calculation of living costs. (I don’t recommend Dublin if you want to do it cheaply. I paid 700€/month for a tiny room in a shared apartment where there was fungus on the ceiling of the bathroom.)
But again, there are a lot of scholarships out there, you just have to look for them.
Here’s a little overview of my expenses – again this is very specific to me and studying in Dublin:
Monthly Expenses: 1015 € ($1,241)
|Living Expenses/month||700€ ($856)|
|Supplies & Care Products /Month||200€ ($245)|
|University stuff: Books, Copies,etc.||15€ ($18)|
|Other (i.e. Going out) /Month||~100€ ($122)|
Other Expenses: 14 000€ ($17,130)
|Tuition Fee||14 000€ ($17,130)|
Overall, I spent $32,022 over the entire year.
The Difference Between Study Abroad and Program Abroad
Doing a whole program abroad is a very different experience from study abroad, because you’re required to do a lot more work. While during my exchange I did random classes with all different kinds of people, during my Masters we were one tight-knit class and a community of Irish, French, Chinese, Indian, American and German people, all doing the same classes! I wouldn’t say there is one better than the other, but it is a very different experience.
The process is pretty similar to the process of studying abroad, except for the application. This time you’re applying directly to the university that you want to attend. Don’t let yourself be overly intimidated by not 100% complying with all their requirements – you can make up for some shortcomings in other areas. For example: I didn’t have the most amazing grades during my Bachelors, however I did a bunch of volunteer work and was active in a variety of student organizations, which made up for that! Sell what you did, emphasize what you bring to the table, and own up to your “shortcomings”.
One tip here – include how impressed you are with the amazing ranking of the university in you motivation letter. I swear, they love to hear that.
All other aspects mentioned before apply here as well – get your visa in order, find accommodation, insurance, and get vaccinated. Well, not if you’re going to Ireland, but you know.
3.Student Conferences Means Free Travel
Over the last 5+ years, I spent 10 days in Norway, 10 days in Romania, 1 week in Brussels, and 4 days in Poland paying only 150€ or less for my flights and nothing more. No, I didn’t sleep on the streets. How, you ask? I attended student conferences.
Student conferences are one of the cheapest ways a student can travel–and I think it’s one of the best ways to learn and grow as a person, in addition to your core studies. It’s incredibly affordable, and almost all of them offer financial support for travel if you can’t afford to buy your ticket.
How Do You Find & Attend A Conference?
If you’re interested in participating in student conference, check out
Most subjects have an international association that you can participate in (General ones for all subjects: AEGEE; AIESEC), that offer conferences all over the world!
Application procedures generally consist of a rather extensive survey that includes some essay questions on your motivation and your relation to the topic of the conference.
Scholarship applications are often just an additional form with more questions on why you should be chosen.
To be picked as a participant in such an event, it’s beneficial to have some volunteering experience or experience holding a position in a student association, however, every conference is different – and a big focus is generally also put on what you want to do with what you learn at the conference.
Now, what do you actually do at such a conference?
It’s usually days filled with workshops on the topic of the conference followed by evenings of partying, karaoke, salsa dancing, or cooking together. Often there were also one or two days planned for sightseeing or cultural activities. The workshops can be designed in a variety of ways – it can be lectures, trainings, working together in small groups, and learning from one another.
So while such a conference usually doesn’t get you in a 5 star hotel, you get to meet people from all over the world, learn about their background and points of view, and learn about your topic – and you get to travel very cheaply 😉
Study Abroad Conclusion
As studying goes nowadays, we have so many opportunities on where we allot our time, might as well make use of it, right? Many schools give you the freedom to pick and choose your courses and make your own schedules. Why not give yourself an amazing international experience?
Studying abroad is becoming more and more common with each passing year. It’s amazing how encouraging the world is becoming. You can go once, even two or three times if you schedule your classes effectively! Oh, so many options. So while this is not something you will be doing forever, it is definitely something to take advantage off while it lasts.
About The Author
Viktoria lives in Austria and is no longer a professional student but a professional consultant. She still loves to travel. Follow her on the social media buttons below: