When someone starts talking about study abroad, I believe most people already start to imagine themselves in other countries exploring new cultures and meeting new people. They think about how amazing of an experience study abroad would be. Then almost immediately reality slaps them upside the head and they worry about the cost. I think funding for study abroad is what turns most people down from an amazing trip. I believe this because that is what happened to me and my trip. Financial planning is extremely important to study abroad because most people do not have thousands of dollars just sitting around waiting to be spent on a trip. Most students are more focused on just paying their school bills. And while students may not be able to get the entire thing paid for it, is completely realistic to get a large portion paid for through many different sources. In this blog, I will be going over how I funded my study abroad trip through multiple different sources.
When I first signed up for my study abroad trip, I started getting emails from International Business Seminar about the different scholarships they provide. That is the best option when starting to look for scholarships, going through the organization that an individual is traveling with. With international business seminars, they have a digital ambassador scholarship and a founder scholarship. Each has its oven criteria, payments, and requirements if chosen. In my case, I was able to secure money through the founder scholarship. This was the first funding I received and was a good building block to build off. For anyone study abroad I would recommend starting with the organization you are going with and after that move to university or school.
Different universities do things differently, but at Northern Illinois University they have a study abroad department. So, once school started in the fall before my trip, I went to the study abroad office to seek assistance there. They told me about the options they have and even have presentations held throughout the semester about funding study abroad trips. After attending a presentation and going to the study abroad office I went to the website and applied for a couple of their scholarships. Some have criteria like being upperclassmen or specific majors so, I only had a couple of options available at the time. Even though there was a limited number I still was able to secure a large scholarship from NIU. This was my second source of funding and I was already starting to pay for a decent chunk of my trip fees. The time between applying and finding these two scholarships was a little less than a month. These first two options were the easiest because they required the least amount of research and the least amount of competition. The other options are a little bit more unreliable and harder to get.
My next action was the same as if anyone had a question and a computer, google. I just googled study abroad scholarships. There are countless websites with hundreds of different scholarships for all different types of criteria. There are so many on these websites that it is almost impossible not to find one that fits an individual’s criteria. The problem with these is that they are usually more competitive since everyone has an opportunity to get them. I was able to find three different scholarships to apply to. Even though I never got any of these scholarships I feel like it was important to mention as an option and one people should consider. The next one is extremely situational.
Another larger source of funding was my family. Between the time I signed up for my study abroad trip and the time I left I had a birthday and Christmas. I also am lucky with a very large extended family. So, when it came to both my birthday and Christmas I just asked for money for my trip. After both days I almost match the scholarship that I received from Northern Illinois University. At this point I was sitting on a decent amount of funding but, I still was not at the point where I was able to fully cover the cost of my trip. For the rest of my funding, I had to get a little bit creative.
To cover the rest of my trip I had to take out a loan, which might sound like a huge mistake. I had a clever way to take out the loan but still have it paid by Northern. I took out the loan to cover the trip, but the next semester I know I will have a large amount of financial aid left over. Because I have leftover financial aid, I am able to pay off my loan in full. It was using my financial aid to pay for the trip, but I just used the loan to pay the bill when it was due. If there is something someone wants to really do, then they can find a way to do it. It seems like a very unconventional way to get funding, but it works, and it allowed me to completely fund my trip. It might take some work to find funding, but study abroad is an experience that is completely worth any of the work associated with making it happen.