What you may not know is how exactly to get the funding you need to study in another country. It’s a tricky situation, as it’s not always possible to get a loan in the U.S. for a university outside the country. There are, however, a few options to look into that can help make studying overseas possible. Some are easier than others, but all of them might be useful as you plan your studies.
Work Through Your University
The first thing to do is to decide what your plan is for studying overseas. If you’re looking for a shorter time abroad — typically a year or less — check with your university to see what study abroad programs are available. This way you can continue using whatever funding you have available, such as loans or scholarships.
Study abroad programs are typically geared for short stays in the country while providing lots of support to students. However, it might be not as immersive as you’d like. If you’re thinking of studying for a longer time, you’ll probably have to apply to a university outside of your current school.
Before doing that, though, it’s still worth checking in with your current school’s finance department. They might not be able to help, but they could know of some ways to obtain the funding you need.
Apply to Certain Schools
If your current university isn’t any help or if you haven’t even been enrolled anywhere yet, then you’ll need to apply directly to the schools abroad. Fortunately, hundreds of universities throughout the world participate in U.S. federal government loan programs. The eligible universities are mostly European, but other continents are still represented. Check the regularly updated list on the Federal Student Aid website.
If your preferred university isn’t on the list, try reaching out to them and see if they’re in the process of becoming eligible for federal loans. It’s not a simple process, but it’s something the university might be considering. If they have no plans to do so, it could be worth asking them about starting the process. It’s a long shot, but there might be enough foreign students coming in to make it worth their while.
Whether you’re studying in the U.S. or abroad, applying for scholarships is always a good idea. There are many scholarship options out there specifically created for those studying overseas.
Take a look at the Institute of International Education to see if there’s any that you qualify for. Also, check with local organizations — like Chinese-American associations or German heritage clubs — to see if there’s anything available for studying in the related countries. Your university of choice might also have scholarships for foreign students.
Look for Private Loans
Finding a private loan to study overseas can be difficult, and odds are the rates won’t be nearly as generous as a federal loan. It is possible to go this route, however, and if you’re a responsible borrower, you won’t have any problems. It might also help if you have reliable co-signers, such as parents or older family members. You could even take a more creative route, though, and use sites like LendKey or Project Travel. Remember that you can negotiate for lower interest rates when getting funding from a private lender. Just as you would negotiate with a car dealer looking to increase your monthly payments, be sure to address whether or not you will be permitted to make more than the minimum payment when it’s time to pay back your loans. Some lenders apply a pre-payment penalty that doesn’t allow you to pay off your loan early. Small details such as these will make the biggest difference once you’re education is complete so do your research thoroughly.
Above all, be persistent and thorough in your search for funding options. Ask as many questions as you feel are needed, either to the abroad university of your choice or your current university you’re studying abroad through. Keep in mind that there are a lot of countries that allow you to legally work part-time or even full-time during your stay. And there are unique options to minimize your living expense. There are some students who live on trains, in senior homes or even on boats to save money. While these measures may seem extreme, it’s important for you to really think about what you want to prioritize during your study abroad experience and ruthlessly cut the items that you deem unnecessary for the experiential value. It’s better to be 100 percent certain of everything so there are no funding surprises that arise.
Anum Yoon is an international student currently working in the U.S. on her OPT. She spends all her free time running a personal finance blog for fellow millennials and international students over at Current on Currency.