When students are applying to colleges, many of them think about going abroad at some point during their four years. With so many options, it can be hard to narrow down where and when to go. In addition, studying abroad is a dream for most and can be accomplished, but it can come at a hefty price. Here, I'm going to explain how to prepare and save money before going abroad.
Preparing for Study Abroad: Choosing a Destination
Deciding when and where to study abroad is the first step. I decided to go my second semester of sophomore year because that's when the majority of my friends were going. It also helped having friends in other countries because I had a place to stay. Second, it helped with not having too much FOMO from being away from college.
Why I Chose Florence
Then, I decided to study in Florence, Italy, which was the perfect place for me. I knew I wanted to study in Italy because that's where the majority of my family is from. But narrowing the cities down took a lot of time and consideration. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t in a city that was too big, because I felt I would be overwhelmed coming from a small town. So that eliminated Milan and Rome for me. The other factors that went into deciding on Florence was that I knew I would have some familiar faces from my university there, as well as friends from my hometown. And because Florence is a smaller city, I knew I'd be able to learn my way around a lot faster than I would in a big city. Florence also offered an easier time to escape the city-tourist life. Right outside of Florence is open land, wineries and local regions like Lucca and Siena, which was a huge perk for me.
When looking for abroad options, I believe it is best to stay in the price range of what you already pay to go to school if you are looking for semester or a full year. As for summer programs, you want to make sure you get the best bang for your buck. If you're going to do a study abroad option that's through your school, you’ll likely to pay the same amount of your regular tuition to go abroad, plus the added expense of flights and spending money. If you are looking at a third-party option, make sure you review the price of the program compared to your usual tuition. With CEA, the price was roughly the same to my tuition, and I was also able to apply federal aid to help lower the price. In addition, CEA offers scholarships that you can apply for, as well as flight vouchers that can be used for one of your study abroad flights. Make sure you check out all expenses and financial options before deciding on a specific program.
The other part to take note of is your budget. It's important that you look up the conversion rate in the country you want to study in, and plan how much you think you'll spend during the week (i.e., groceries and transportation). The next piece to consider is a weekend budget. Plan how much you want to travel; if you stay in your host country during your entire time abroad, your budget will be a lot smaller for weekend trips, versus going out of the country every other weekend or so. Plan out where you want to go and ensure you can financially support that trip. There are dozens of ways to save money, such as staying in hostels, buying street food, and booking flights on money-saving browsers such as Student Universe and Cheap Tickets.
CEA was overall the right option for me and they turned my study abroad dreams into reality. They helped me every step of the process -- from the application until I landed back in the United States. If you ever have any questions about study abroad options, make sure you talk to your school's study abroad advisers, as they are a terrific resource.
Sophia Spooner is a CEA Alumni Ambassador from University of Dayton who went abroad to Florence in Spring 2018.
Sophia Spooner is the Spring 2018 Alumni Ambassador in Florence, Italy, and is currently studying at University of Dayton.