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5 Ways Study Abroad Can Be Fulfilling Without Breaking the Bank

Study abroad offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience but that doesn't mean it has to be so expensive. Here are ways to make the opportunity more affordable.

The decision to study abroad can be one of the best choices students make. Studies have shown that 97% of those students who study abroad find gainful employment not long after graduating, as the experience they gained overseas looks more appealing on resumes.

But while there’s a clear return on investment from studying abroad, the experience can be expensive. Fortunately, there are ways that students can earn the benefits of studying abroad without paying too much. Here are five ways the experience can be just as fulfilling without being a detriment to your bank account:

1. Make Full Use of Travel and Hospitality Rewards

For students who start building their credit history early, a travel rewards program can allow a student to gain overseas travel points even before heading abroad. This requires some foresight and advanced planning—and given the low amounts a student spends, it can sometimes mean accruing few rewards—but it’s also a great way to plan for an overseas trip.

Each student studying abroad should make sure to do the following:

  • Check the details of the travel/hospitality rewards card. Understanding how to redeem these points—and which kinds of rewards are valid with the card—is essential before planning any expenses or assuming that the card rewards will handle it.
  • Make plans around the rewards. For example, using a hotel available in the card’s reward network will require some forethought. It’s not difficult to make this happen, but it does require a little of planning on the student’s part.

Using these tips will ensure you don’t break the bank but can still add the unforgettable experiences you wanted on your itinerary.

2. Use a Travel-Friendly Credit Card

Traveling extensively with a credit card that charges foreign transaction fees can result in all sorts of costs you didn’t anticipate.

If you don’t already have a lot of travel and hospitality rewards built up, the next best thing to do is to identify the credit cards that are most friendly for overseas travelers. For example, a card with no foreign transaction fees will be the ideal way to start spending while overseas. It might not seem important now, but considering how long a semester abroad can be and how many credit card transactions can take place, those little fees add up.

3. Invest Your Money Wisely

Put yourself on a budget. Not only is this constraint essential for keeping your overseas spending in check while you’re abroad, but it will force you to consider where the best allocation of your money might be.

While having some travel rewards headed your way will help you with specific purchases, you’ll also want to consider how you spend your money on a regular basis. Studying abroad isn’t a vacation; you’ll have to live and construct a monthly budget just as you would if you were home. That means it would be a good idea to sit down at the beginning of each month to create a specific plan for how you’re going to spend your money.

4. Make Full Use of the Experience You Gain Abroad

Studying abroad can be a major boost to one’s self-confidence and ability to navigate the post-study world, with 97% of another survey’s respondents reporting that the trip abroad increased their maturity and 96% reporting an increase in self-confidence.

But don’t count on the trip to do this work for you. Make sure that you take the time to think about how to wisely spend your money, as you saw in the previous section.

Don’t discount experiences. Some of the investments you make on this trip aren’t about what stocks you buy or what money you put in a savings account; those experiences you can add to a resume will help you build a long-term career that will only provide more returns down the road.

5. Enjoy Yourself

It may be tempting to look at these tips as ways to grow more frugal, but the purpose of this frugality is to give you the freedom to enjoy yourself.

Yes, there’s a difference between being thoughtful about where you spend your money abroad. But that doesn’t mean you should never spend your money! Studying abroad is a chance of a lifetime. It’s a chance to explore the world, have new experiences and be a part of other cultures you’ll never be able to experience at home. Make sure that your financial decisions also come with the goal to use your money wisely, but effectively, in making the most of your studies abroad.

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