The Real Cost of Studying Abroad

Students who are willing to take a walk on the wild side and aren’t content to spend all four (or more) years of their higher education in one spot often contemplate studying abroad. However, considering something isn’t the same as biting the bullet and actually doing it, is it? More often than not, students find themselves staring at the potential cost of studying abroad and thinking it’s an unattainable dream. But is that really the case?

Studying abroad isn’t the luxury it used to be. Not that long ago, only trust fund babies were able to afford this adventure. Thankfully, things are different today. Although one can’t click their heels and magically appear in a university anywhere in the world, the cost of studying abroad is no longer staggeringly high. Today, people often take a semester or two elsewhere. But does that mean it’s suddenly become cheap? No, of course not. 

The Average Cost of Studying Abroad

Realistically, the average cost of studying abroad varies greatly. It depends not only on the destination the student has in mind, but also the university or college they are currently attending. Some colleges offer their students an opportunity to study anywhere in the world. Others, however, limit them and leave only the pricey countries at students’ disposal.

When a student embarks on the adventure of going abroad, they need to realize that the cushy life they’ve led so far is gone. Unless they have a lot of money they are willing to blow on this experience, they’ll need to quickly figure out what studying abroad really means. 

Aside from the tuition, which is a significant expense, there are plenty of other things students need to take into consideration. Unfortunately, those who are a bit too big for their britches think that, if they cover the tuition or get a grant, the cost of studying abroad will be nonexistent, and they’ll be able to see the world for free. Students often forget about expenses like housing, transport, additional costs of studying, groceries, etc. Tuition is the least of their worries!


Depending on the country they chose to be their home for the next few months, students can expect these costs to vary. A semester in England, for example, especially in London, Manchester, and other big, expensive cities, can cost anywhere between $6,200 and $7,000. That, thankfully, includes both the travel expenses and tuition. 

On average, a student in England needs around $370 per week to cover all their expenses. That might sound low to U.S. students who are used to paying exorbitant amounts for higher education. However, it’s still a significant amount of money. It includes rent, groceries, tax, and all other expenses an average student could have. It even includes pocket money for a pint here and there or some new fashionable clothes the students will inevitably end up buying while in England. 


China is enormous, so the cost of studying abroad in China also varies. But, on average, students will need between $2,200 and $3,200 for one semester in China. Many will notice that this number is significantly lower than for a semester in England. That’s because an average (foreign) student needs between $750 and $850 per month

If a student is interested in strolling through the streets of a big metropolis such as Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou, they’ll have more substantial expenses than those who pick the smaller cities. Of course, the term “small city” is a relative one in China. 


Germany is a country with many top-rated universities. Therefore, it’s no wonder that many students pick this European gem as their destination, no matter the cost of studying abroad. 

But it’s not just the uni reputation that drives students to Germany. This magnificent country declared higher education free. That means that state-run universities don’t charge tuition, and their students can attend classes for free. But it gets better! Germany also graciously allows the same benefits for international students. So after getting accepted to a state university in Germany, all an international student has to do is cover all other expenses. 

For those wondering, the average monthly cost of student life in Germany is around $1,000. Both huge cities, like Berlin and Munich, and smaller towns are quite costly when it comes to everyday expenses. Therefore, a semester in Germany can cost anywhere between $3,800 and $4,500. Luckily the tuition is free, right?


Some students have the “go big or go home” attitude. They think that, if they’re going to study abroad, they might as well go all out. So they go to Australia. The Land Down Under is an incredible country with plenty to explore — it’s a true adventure.

However, it’s also a costly one. On average, a student will spend anywhere between $6,000 and $7,500. What’s more, the visa alone is quite costly as well. Before the student even steps foot in Australia, they need to pay $430 for visa fees. 

The good news is that Australia has student cities, where life (and subsequent costs) are student-friendly. Unfortunately, that still won’t save someone who’s expecting lower prices than in other English-speaking countries. Those students are in for a rude awakening in the Land Down Under.


Ireland is quite an expensive country. Students, especially those in the medical field, can spend anywhere between $6,000 and $7,500 per semester. Considering that the monthly cellphone bill is around $43, it’s no wonder that not many students can afford to study on the Emerald Isle. 


Italy is one of the countries that has the broadest range of average cost of studies. Frugal students who choose destinations in Italy that aren’t tourist hot spots or as well-known as some famous destinations will spend around $4,000 per semester. Alternatively, those who want to experience coastal Italy or study in Rome will have to cough up approximately $7,000.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is heaven for those who want to study abroad on a budget. For only $3,000, a student can spend a semester in this glorious country and enjoy education, friendly locals, and magnificent landscapes. 


Although some students think that the proximity to China should make studying as cheap in Japan, the truth is a bit different. Higher education is critical in Japan, and it costs a pretty penny. A semester in Japan is priced between $4,000 and $6,000 because daily living expenses are quite steep. 


Spain has a lot of international students. Madrid and Barcelona are especially popular among young people since they have excellent universities and an active nightlife. Spain sort of falls on the higher end of the spectrum when it comes to the cost of studying abroad. A semester in Spain is between $4,700 and $6,000


The famous semester in Paris will cost a lot. However, studying in France doesn’t necessarily have to be pricey. It can also be affordable, but only as long as the student accepts to go somewhere other than Paris. On average, students spend around $4,000 per semester

How to Save Money and Lower the Cost of Studying Abroad

Everyone has realized by now that studying abroad is costly. But how costly? That depends on the organization and budgeting techniques of any particular student. 

There are many tips on how to lower the exorbitant cost of studying abroad. In essence, budgeting, avoiding international phone calls and using calling apps instead, applying for grants and stipends, etc., are just common sense. But here are some other tips on lowering the cost of studying abroad that can turn things around for all students (no matter where they are headed).

Don’t Follow the Herd

Most students have gathered that already, but choosing “unpopular” destinations can lower all costs significantly. So going to Poland or the Czech Republic instead of Rome will save the students several thousands of dollars per semester. The same goes for Argentina, which is one of the most affordable countries to study in (if the student chooses a state-run university and doesn’t pay tuition).

So everyone who wants to study in Europe but doesn’t have the means to do so should discover the beauties and benefits of Eastern Europe. Not many students know this, but there’s more to Europe than the west. The world doesn’t end in a black hole after Austria. There are a lot of countries between Western Europe and Russia. 

Eastern Europe has some beautiful countries with old, high-ranking, and respected universities that will give any student a stellar semester abroad for a fraction of the price that Western Europe does. 

Aside from Europe, students who want to study abroad but also need to pinch pennies while doing so should consider Africa and South America. These two continents have a lot of countries that aren’t “third world” but are very affordable to international students.

Live Like a Local

The entire point of studying abroad is to experience new things and meet new people. That’s why students should never shy away from immersing themselves completely. That means embracing the local customs, cuisine, and befriending locals that will, hopefully, share some inside tips and tricks with them. 

One of the ways to cut the cost of studying abroad is to truly live like a local. That means avoiding the touristy places, expensive markets, and overpriced restaurants. Instead, students should buy local products and cook their meals by following local recipes. What’s more, they should follow the cues of people who already live there. Everyone knows that saying that a restaurant is excellent if there are a lot of locals in it, right? Well, students should follow the same rule of thumb.

Chase Those Discounts

Every country has establishments that offer student discounts. Students should ask around or look for those themselves. They’ll find most around the campus or near universities. This situation is one of those where the students should follow the herd, as local students will know precisely where to find the best affordable food and the cheapest quality beer. 

Aside from that, everyone who plans on becoming an international student should apply for an ISIC card a month or two before they leave for their semester abroad. Endorsed by UNESCO, this card is definite proof that a person has a student status and allows access to student discounts in over 130 countries.

Get a Part-Time Job

Supplementing their income is an excellent idea for all students, no matter where they are studying. Sure, working and studying at the same time can be difficult. However, there are a lot of student jobs out there that allow people to adjust their working schedules according to their lesson plans. 

But students also need to be careful and find out if their student visa allows them to do this. Some visas, like the Australian one (that costs an arm and a leg), enable students to pick up odd jobs. However, other countries have strict rules that ban students from picking up (legal) jobs. 

Public Transport Is the Only Way to Go

Students who are just hitting the streets of a foreign city for the first time might be tempted to take taxis for the first few days. This temptation has clear causes — students don’t know the city, have no idea how to get anywhere (let alone where they are going), and are afraid of getting lost.

Well, getting lost isn’t always a bad thing. Also, students who are studying in countries where English isn’t the first language might run into cabbies that are willing to charge a king’s ransom for the fare because they think they are tourists. Which, essentially, they are. 

So before hopping in a taxi, students should try to take advantage of the public transport system. As their experience and confidence grow, they’ll soon master the entire system and know the city bus grid like the back of their hand.

Alternatively, students can rent or buy a bike and use that for transport. That is an ideal way to pinch a penny or two because it saves the student not only the taxi or bus fare but also a gym membership.

Second-Hand Stuff for a First-Hand Experience

Students are masters of hand-me-downs. Why buy new, expensive textbooks when they can find an older student and offer them some cash for their old ones?

This trick is an excellent tactic that students should apply beyond just textbooks. Those looking to cut the cost of studying abroad need to embrace second-hand stuff as a way of life. There are a lot of student organizations and groups that connect students who want to exchange items or buy used things from their fellow colleagues. 

Fly Affordable

Students who think they’ll just hop on a plane and go home when they get homesick have another thing coming. Booking airline tickets on a whim might cost more than the entire semester (depending on where the student is going and where they live). So all students should try to organize their trips in advance. That way, they can book cheaper flights and actually save money.

Frugal students will always book tickets well in advance. What’s more, they’ll also follow the price drops so that they can find the most affordable flights. Sure, hopping on a plane for an impromptu spring break getaway is terrific. However, international students have already uprooted their lives and are paying an arm and a leg to study abroad. Do they really need more spontaneity? 

Making New (Foreign) Friends

If a student really must travel somewhere during their semester abroad, they need to do so smartly. There are probably a lot of both foreign and domestic students in their classes. Those studying abroad should look among both groups for a travel buddy. Why not befriend a student from France and tag along with them when they visit home? Talk about a vacation on a budget! 

Local friends will also come in handy when planning a vacation. They know all the best spots and can probably book cheap accommodations and transportation tickets. 

Credit Cards and Bank Accounts

To avoid expensive fees and the temptation of going into debt so they could afford to live in luxury during their studies abroad, students should not only leave their credit cards at home, but also open local bank accounts. Using domestic bank accounts will save students a lot of trouble and money, especially if they have many small costs.

A Priceless Experience

Although not as unattainable as it once was, studying abroad still costs quite a bit. However, a well-organized student with a firm budget and a bit of ingenuity when it comes to cutting costs can have a worry-free, affordable semester abroad. 

The average cost of studying abroad may vary, but the outcome will always be the same — not many people regret choosing to set half a year or a year aside for an adventure like this one. The experience is worth the money.

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