How Much Does It Cost to Study Abroad?

By Jennifer Calonia · March 11, 2024 · 7 minute read

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How Much Does It Cost to Study Abroad?

College study abroad programs offer students an extraordinary chance to explore a new part of the world while earning credit toward a degree. Each year, more than 300,000 American students study, engage in internships, or volunteer abroad for academic credits, according to the U.S. Department of State.

Despite the culturally rich and memorable experience this offers, the cost of studying abroad can be a barrier to many students. On average, study abroad programs cost between $15,000 and $22,000 per semester.

Read on to learn more about the costs involved in spending a semester or year abroad, how financial aid can help, plus other ways to make studying abroad more affordable.

Average Cost of Study Abroad Programs

The cost of studying abroad depends on two main factors — where you go and whether you enroll directly through your host university or use a third-party provider.

Generally, enrolling in a third-party study abroad program is more expensive. It provides you with more hand-holding and guidance in the pre-planning stages and while you’re living and studying overseas.

Average study abroad costs through a third-party provider can range anywhere from $15,000 to $22,000 per semester depending on location. These programs usually include housing and sometimes meals. Depending on the country, the cost of tuition could be significantly lower if you directly enroll in a foreign university.

If your home school has its own study abroad program, the tuition may be the same as it is stateside, though they may tack on some extra fees.

The cost of studying abroad goes beyond tuition, however. You will need to budget for other expenses like housing (if it’s not included), meals, airfare, transportation, entertainment, and books and supplies.

💡 Quick Tip: You can fund your education with a low-rate, no-fee private student loan that covers all school-certified costs.

What the Cost to Study Abroad Covers

Here’s a breakdown of some of the key costs involved in studying abroad.

Getting There

You’ll need a round-trip plane ticket to get to and from your study abroad program, which can cost anywhere from several hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on what part of the world you travel to. On top of your flight costs, you’ll need a passport. A new U.S. passport costs $165 and can take up to 10 weeks to process.

Many countries also require American students to get a travel visa in advance when visiting the country for studies. Costs vary widely by country. A student visa from Australia costs around $450, while one from South Africa runs about $36. Some countries, like Germany, don’t require U.S. visitors to get a student visa for studying abroad.

Recommended: 11 Ways to Make College More Affordable

Tuition and Living Costs

Typically, the price of a study abroad program will include tuition and fees at your host school, as well as some form of housing. If you directly enroll in a foreign university, you’ll need to pay tuition and housing separately. Either way, food is generally an additional expense.

Here are some examples of how much it can cost to study and live abroad:

In you go to Italy:

•   Average cost of a semester (including housing) through a third-party provider: $17,000-$21,300

•   Average cost of a semester (without housing) through direct enrollment: $1,500-$6,000

•   Average monthly cost of living (including rent): $1,200-$1,700

If you go to Costa Rica:

•   Average cost of a semester (without housing) through direct enrollment: $1,500-$3,000

•   Average cost of a semester (including housing) through a third-party provider: $8,500-$11,500

•   Average monthly cost of living (including rent): $1,100-$1,400

Recommended: How to Budget as a College Student

Local Transportation

Transportation expenses likely aren’t covered in the cost of your program. You might decide to take public transportation and purchase a metro pass, or rely on rideshare services. Either way, you’ll likely encounter some form of transportation cost while you’re abroad.

You may also want to take excursions to other cities or countries during time away. So it’s a good idea to factor in some extra funds for airfare/train tickets, food, and lodging for nearby travel. Keep in mind that financial aid won’t cover voluntary travel expenses beyond the cost of your initial round-trip flight.

Recommended: What to Do When Financial Aid Isn’t Enough


Many U.S. universities require students studying abroad to enroll in a health emergency insurance plan to make sure they have adequate coverage for medical issues and emergencies. At New York University, for example, students studying abroad must be covered under the NYU sponsored Study Away health insurance plan, which costs around $72 per month.

Other Fees

Your home school may charge you a study abroad administrative fee. At Washington State University, for example, this fee runs around $300 for one semester abroad (for in-state students). At the University of Iowa, it runs around $1,140 for one semester abroad (for in-state students). You can check with your school’s education abroad office to see how much you might be charged.

In addition, the study abroad program you choose may come with optional costs, like class field trips, short excursions, or cooking classes with a local chef.

Recommended: How to Work Abroad After College

How to Pay for Study Abroad

If you’re worried about the high cost of studying abroad, there is good news: Much of your existing financial aid can likely be used for study abroad costs. Here’s a look at how to find funding for study abroad.

Grants and Scholarships

To find out what financial aid you qualify for, you’ll want to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In addition to FAFSA-based scholarships and grants, there are many scholarships targeted specifically at students studying abroad, which you can uncover using a scholarship search engine. Third-party companies that facilitate study abroad programs also often have their own scholarships.

Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans (which may be subsidized or unsubsidized) can be used to pay for study abroad expenses, provided the school you’re attending abroad is eligible to participate in the Direct Loan program.

Federal study abroad loans for U.S. students can be used to pay tuition and fees, room and board, and other eligible expenses. Any leftover funds are disbursed to you, which you could use for travel to your destination country or basic living expenses. However, federal loans may not cover all the costs of studying overseas.

💡 Quick Tip: Federal student loans carry an origination or processing fee (1.057% for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans first disbursed from Oct. 1, 2020, through Oct. 1, 2024). The fee is subtracted from your loan amount, which is why the amount disbursed is less than the amount you borrowed. That said, some private student loan lenders don’t charge an origination fee.

Private Student Loans

If you max out the amount you can borrow in federal loans, you can turn to private student loans to finance the remaining costs. Approval for private student loans typically hinges on your credit history. You may need a cosigner for approval if you haven’t established a credit history or your credit score is lower than the minimum score the lender requires.

Private student loans offer more borrowing power than you can get with the U.S. government, but don’t offer the same protections (like income-based repayment plans). Rates are also typically higher.

Affordable Study Abroad Programs to Check Out

Here a sampling of study abroad programs that often offer affordable prices:

•   CIS Abroad (worldwide programs)

•   World Endeavors (worldwide programs)

•   International Studies Abroad (ISA) (worldwide programs)

•   Maximo Nivel (programs in Central and South America)

The Takeaway

Spending a summer, semester, or full year abroad can significantly enhance your college experience. But it can also significantly increase the cost, coming in at upwards of $15,000 per semester. Fortunately, there are funding options available to help students manage the cost of study abroad, including scholarships, grants, and student loans.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


What’s the cheapest country to study abroad in?

Some of the cheapest locales to study abroad in include:

•   Kyrgyzstan

•   Malaysia

•   Central Asia

•   Hungary

•   Poland

•   Kenya

•   Brazil

•   Mexico

•   South Africa

•   Portugal

Does FAFSA cover study abroad?

Yes. If you qualify for student aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), your awarded aid funds can typically be used toward study abroad costs. The school you attend while studying abroad must participate in federal aid programs, however, and your FAFSA aid might not cover the entire cost of studying in another country.

Is a year too long to study abroad?

Not necessarily. How long you should study abroad is a personal preference and based on your budget. The latest 2023 Open Doors U.S. Study Abroad Survey found that 49% of study abroad students go for the summer term, 30% go for one semester, 2.4% go for one year.

Photo credit: iStock/wsfurlan

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