Studying abroad can be one of the most memorable periods in any student’s college career. The list of different countries to choose from is extensive and the opportunity to learn and become familiar with a foreign culture can turn out to be rewarding in the long run. The process of studying abroad, however, is not always as smooth as the trip itself.
Overall, traveling is expensive, especially when flying out of the country. Traveling for study abroad can deepen the financial stresses of already struggling students.
The Study Abroad program at SF State offers the ability to participate in the study abroad program or the exchange program. The program provides workshops and events to help students successfully plan their trip. Although financial tips and resources are available, many students still struggle.
29-year-old SF State student Graham Muckenfuss arrived back to campus after studying abroad last semester in Australia through the BECA program. Although it was a fun and memorable experience for him, he ran into many financial obstacles.
Students like Muckenfuss were forced to make extreme decisions.
“I did [studying abroad] in a kind of unorthodox way. I flew to Australia a week and a half before the semester started without a place to live,” said Muckenfuss. “I booked a hotel room for three nights and decided if I hadn’t found a place after that, I would move to a hostel.”
The trip ended up costing Muckenfuss a little over $20,000, but he believes cheaper alternatives could have been possible.
“I could have gotten a job but I wanted to spend as much time as I could travelling and enjoying the country, so I didn’t work at all,” said Muckenfuss. “The only obstacle I really encountered was trying not to run up too much credit card debt by the end.”
For SF State student Lauren Gee, 21, also a BECA major, the process of studying abroad was a little more simple. Gee encountered more issues with struggling to attend all the proper meetings and turning in all the right forms. She also struggled with finding the time to be proactive and meet other students that studied in the same country.
Gee had minor financial issues with studying abroad. When studying abroad, students pay the same tuition that they would in a normal semester at SF State. Gee, however, still had to put money aside to make it a successful trip.
“I saved up by working the summer before going to Denmark and I rented out a room in San Francisco which helped me pay for housing in Denmark,” said Gee. “I even had some extra pocket money for side trips and lots of food.”
Muckenfuss and Gee both went through SF State’s study abroad program in order to begin their journey, but this isn’t the case for all students. SF State student and international relations major Abbie Tuning went through one of SF State’s exchange programs to get her started on the process to travel abroad. Through the exchange agreements, students are able to obtain their routine financial aid while paying their normal tuition. But Tuning was still affected financially.
“I’ll be honest, studying abroad is expensive. I’m paying for it on my own, and I’m essentially taking out an extra semester’s worth of student loans. While that’s a burden I decided to take on, for a lot of people that just isn’t feasible,” said Tuning.
Tuning was faced with various challenges such as successfully partaking in all procedures that the exchange program requires. Students interested in participating in the exchange program must submit an essay and application, in addition to recommendation letters and attending numerous workshops and orientations. Tuning struggled to find time to do all the necessary duties to be an exchange student.
“Studying abroad requires a lot of big expenses that I think a lot of people don’t know about going in. If you’re like me and no one in your family has ever studied abroad, the requirements can take you by surprise like fees for your visa, registering with a foreign government or housing insurance,” said Tuning.
Tuning believes that while the financial stressors of travelling abroad can take a toll on students, it gives them helpful real-life tools.
“It can take a lot of extra work to figure out the process but I think that’s a valuable experience in terms of expanding your understanding of how to find information and look for resources,” said Tuning.
SF State offers financial help through workshops that occur every Friday to discuss study abroad funding. They also encourage students to apply for scholarships.