So, you dream of learning about tropical ecology in South America or taking design classes in the heart of Europe? There’s only one problem: you don’t quite know how to make that dream a reality because of the cost. You want to expand your horizons and learn about the world, but you’ve always heard about how expensive it is to study abroad. So, this starry-eyed dream just remains that—a dream. Well, let me tell you about how I’ve made that dream my reality, and hopefully, I will inspire you to re-evaluate and create achievable goals by following a few easy steps!
The first step to being able to study abroad on a budget is to find an affordable program. Through programs like ISEP, you have the option to looks for schools that have low expenses. This step requires you to be open about where you want to live for a semester or a year. But hey, there are people to meet, languages to learn, and adventures to be had anywhere you may find yourself. Be flexible and ready to go with whatever options you are given.
You can also look into the Costa Rica Gap Year through Ecology Project International (EPI). This program is only 6-12 weeks, but it gives you the opportunity to work directly with researchers studying some amazing species like the leatherback sea turtle and the Agami heron.
Once you’ve picked a program, the next and big step is to find funding. Contact your financial aid department, and see if any scholarships, grants, or loans you have currently will be applicable to your study abroad program.
Next step: find outside scholarships. First, contact your college to see if they offer study abroad scholarships. At my university, the Honors College, as well as the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, offers a scholarship for students studying abroad. Apply for these scholarships – you have good chance of getting them, since there are less people that apply for campus-sponsored scholarships than there are people who apply for bigger scholarships. Then, look for statewide scholarships with organizations like PFLAG or Elks, church-sponsored scholarships, sorority/fraternity scholarships, or other programs that your state may have. Finally, look for nationwide scholarships or even worldwide study abroad scholarships. One in particular is the Fund for Education Abroad—one I have personally applied to. You can find scholarships like these through Google searches, in college newsletters, and from college counselors and/or study abroad counselors.
Final advice: make sure to have good relationships with your professors, because you will be asking them to write recommendations for these scholarship applications. Always make sure you have someone read over your essays and get advice on how to improve them. You really want to stand out in these applications to give the reviewers a good sense of who you are and why you want to study abroad.
If you follow these steps, you’ll be on a plane and ready to make your dreams come true in no time!
Claire is an Ecology Project International alumni and attended Louisiana State University, where she was a Peer Advisor for the LSU Academic Programs Abroad Office. She also studied at the University of Montana with a program called National Student Exchange, where she interned with EPI.