Funding Study Abroad is Possible!
I’m not rich but I studied abroad. So can you, if you really want to!
My family raised me with an interest in different cultures. My grandmother sent me to a French Language camp every summer and I was brought up with the attitude that if you want something enough you can put in the time and effort to make it happen. For most people, the question is no longer whether or not you can study abroad but where to find the funding? How badly do you want to study abroad? If you’re willing to make the commitment to yourself to see this thing through, there are many resources available for you. I’d like to make a case for fundraising, scholarships, and financial aid.
Old School Fundraising
Fundraising has been around for ages for good reason. It is an effective, efficient and beneficial way to raise funds and create a mutual benefit for all parties. The person raising funds is seeking financial support but also giving something of themselves in return. There are so many ways to make this interesting beyond the traditional bake sale or leaf-raking service. That said, my classmates and I got to France by raking leaves!
The key is, find something you love, make a project out of it and then tell your friends and family what you are doing. In my case, raking leaves wasn’t my greatest passion, but having the chance to study French in Paris was! Once alumni and neighbors learned why we were raking leaves, they became more interested in helping us achieve our fundraising goal. They wanted to invest in our international education and then they wanted others to support us too– so they helped spread the word!
Fundraising the new way is about crowd-sourcing. (Crowd: a big group of people or larger community. Source: where something comes from.) Crowd-sourcing is about getting a network of people on board to support your project. Crowdsourcing funds can be about fundraising donations (crowdfunding), reaching out to mentors for scholarship letters and recommendations, or simply social media support via Likes and Follows. The aim is to gain all of these from your ‘crowd’.
Social media and online activity bring a new efficiency to the effort. The greatest enhancement of social media is the ability to communicate your ambitions quickly and to a large audience. Success depends largely on three things:
- How you compose your request
- What content you share
- Frequency of your posts
Online platforms make your fundraising as effective as it can be. Crowdfunding websites give you a space to profile your study abroad story & goals, and incorporate social sharing tools to communicate your project. Social media users are more comfortable donating to personal causes today than ever before.
Large sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have broad audiences, but before you commit to the biggest, remember donations from unknown contributors is unlikely to help you reach your Project goal. Your campaign will be competing with natural disaster relief, feeding the hungry and other high-need causes. In contrast, more focused sites like Project Travel and my organization, FundMyTravel, are designed specifically for travel programs like study and volunteer abroad. These sites speak your language and can walk you through the process.
Shake off any apprehensions about applying for scholarships “because it’s too competitive”, “too intimidating” or “because it’s just like extra homework.” Best case scenario, you earn the scholarship, supplement a life-changing experience and forever earn the accolades of an awardee, which is great for the resume!
Worst case scenario you don’t get the award but even then, it is worth the experience. That may sound like crazy talk, but let me explain. Through the application process, you may find amazing mentors to guide you and help you long after the scholarship application. You will learn so much about yourself through the essay writing and it is not uncommon to have an epiphany about your life’s purpose or the deeper reason you’re so determined to go abroad!
Finding Scholarships Right for You
You can find scholarships based on: destination, subject area, language, or degree type. There are several funds specifically for study abroad including:
- The Fund for Education Abroad
- Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship
- Boren Awards
- Fulbright for US Students
- Diversity Abroad Scholarships
…and many others! Visit GoAbroad.com to view a scholarship directory updated in real time.
Financial Aid is your friend. Speak with your financial aid and study abroad advisors to review your options. You may be pleasantly surprised! Federal Financial Aid is often transferrable for study abroad experiences and State Aid can be applied in some cases as well. The best approach is to do some investigative work along with your advisors so you understand how everything works and what you are eligible for.
In Conclusion: Studying Abroad is Possible!
There are so many resources, organizations, and individuals who are in support of students getting abroad that it just takes a little initiative and motivation to find what you need. Two things to remember:
- Study abroad is more accessible now than it ever used to be, so you can do it if you WANT to.
- The experience, personal growth and lifelong benefits of studying abroad, will far outweigh the financial costs. (That holds especially true, if you work to earn the funds that make it possible.)