Colleges and universities do their best to help incoming students anticipate the costs of college by providing financial projections and cost calculators galore but because all students are unique, such estimates should serve only as tentative – not definite – guides to the costs associated with higher education. After all, even single school tuition rates can vary by campus, program, student level, and residency status, so nailing down the costs associated with everything else that a college student needs can be a challenge even in the best of times. This is especially true for international students who have a whole host of unexpected costs to plan for when beginning a semester abroad.

While some things – like living in the residence halls or taking advantage of an on-campus meal plan can help to simplify the budgeting process there are still a lot of variable expenses to plan for when beginning a semester abroad:

  • Textbooks: new or used, they can still cost upwards of a $100 each. Because not all classes assign one – and some actually assign more than one – the cost of textbooks can vary wildly from student to student and semester to semester.
  • Materials: from binders to Bunsen burners, calculators to lab fees, some classes have hidden costs that, like textbooks, are almost impossible to predict.
  • Food: even if you have a meal plan, you are not going to want to head across campus every time you want to grab a bite to eat. Be sure to budget for a few snacks to keep on hand (not to mention the occasional pizza!).
  • Personal items: almost as important as food, toiletries and cosmetics are an essential – but often overlooked – expense that can add up quickly.
  • Activities: while student activity fees might cover the cost of some on-campus activities, don’t forget to plan for a little off-campus entertainment. Mini-golf, anyone?

Despite the uncertainty, there is a silver lining; international student loans are available to help students defray the costs associated with higher education and, unlike some scholarships and grants, can be used to help cover exactly these kinds of expected expenses. Just make sure to keep them in mind when planning your overseas adventure and you will be well on your way to success in more ways than one!

>> Worried that you aren’t going to budget properly? Learn about other financial considerations upon arrival.