Cheapest way to Study Abroad

Zach Clenaghan
March 6, 2021

Studying abroad is often described as the most enriching and exciting aspect of the university student experience by those that are fortunate enough to afford it. In a world that is becoming increasingly connected, experience living abroad, learning how to thrive in a culture other than the one you grew up in, and connecting with people from different backgrounds, with different views of the world, is becoming ever more crucial to living an exciting, fulfilling, and meaningful life, however you choose to define that.

Yet, study abroad is for the most part, extremely expensive. Most study abroad semesters cost $12,000 - $17,000 when you account for tuition and costs of living. This price tag has been normalised in the US, but when you break down the components of a study abroad semester, you realise that it could be far cheaper.

We at Edumadic think we've figured out the cheapest way to study abroad. We also think this approach to studying abroad is far better than the traditional route. You'll be guaranteeing that all the classes you take transfer back into your degree at home, and you'll be able to go anywhere in the world, rather than just to the locations where your university has partners. And to top it off, you'll be able to study abroad for as long as you like, be that 1 month, 1 year, or 4!

So before we explain how to do it, we quickly need to think about the components of studying abroad.

There's the study part.

This means you're taking classes while you're abroad. Ideally these classes will count towards your degree back home. If you're paying the equivalent of a semesters worth of classes, you'd hope that the classes you take abroad would also give you that same amount of credits towards your degree. We know this is often not the case, and there can be big issues with transferring all the classes you take so they can be used against your degree requirements.

So to fulfil the study part of studying abroad, we want a full semester of credits that can be used toward our degree back home.

And there's the abroad part.

This means living abroad, simple as that. With traditional study abroad programs that means that you live in the city of one of your university's partner institutions, since you'll have to go to physically attend class at that partner university for the whole semester. Important to note that this means you can't just go wherever you want. You're limited by the number of partnerships your home university has. You're limited even further because of the academics available. Maybe you want to study abroad in Italy and your university has partnerships with many universities there, but none of them have classes that match up to your major. Tough luck! 

So to fulfil that abroad part in the best way possible, we want to live wherever we want in the world, without having to worry about whether our university has a partnership which can facilitate it. 

Okay, so we want a full semester of transferable credits, while living wherever we want. This is how we can do that, all for a fraction of the cost of a traditional study abroad semester:

Step 1. Take a leave of absence for the semester

Yes, even if you're already enrolled in college, you are allowed to take a semester off. You'll want to speak to your academic advisor about this. Before you do so. do some digging to see if there are any requirements that need to be met for them to let you take a leave of absence. Make sure the reason you give fits these requirements. And check whether taking a semester off in this way will affect any financial aid you qualify for.

Why do you want to take a leave of absence for a semester?

Because you're going to take classes from another institution during your DIY semester abroad. These classes are almost definitely going to be far cheaper than the classes at your home university, and you can ensure they will transfer by doing research into the transfer policies of your university, and even checking whether individual classes will transfer with your academic advisor (do this before you talk about a leave of absence).

If you're unable to take a leave of absence, you could follow our study abroad model over the summer break instead, which means you'll be able to get ahead of the curve on your graduation timeline! 

Another alternative is to enrol in a whole semester of online classes at your home university if that's possible. Then you don't have to take a leave of absence or risk losing your financial aid.

Step 2. Sign up for online college credits from an alternative credit provider

There are many online classes available on the internet that will count towards your degree, in fact we've listed a lot of them here. They're a fraction of the cost of normal college classes, and are extremely flexible. You usually pay per class and have as long as you want to complete them. 

The big question with these classes is will they be accepted by your home university. As I suggested already, you'll want to look into this before setting this whole thing in motion. As this is integral to the savings we're hoping to make on traditional study abroad. When deciding which classes to take from these alternative credit providers, there are a couple of core principles to think about in terms of transferability:

  1. Gen Ed credits are much easier to transfer
  2. Classes that are regionally accredited are almost guaranteed to transfer

The college classes in our catalog fit both of these criteria, and cost between $300 and $600 per 3 credit class. There are other providers that are even cheaper ($59 per class!). 

So that's the study aspect of studying abroad sorted! We'll be paying anything between $300-$3,000 for 15 credits to take during the semester.

Step 3: Go and live abroad!

Why do you have to be part of an official study abroad program to live abroad? You don't! Take your online classes from wherever you want to live in the world. You can organize your own accommodation, and live life exactly how you want to, on your own schedule, rather than the one imposed on you by the university you're studying abroad at. There are many extremely desirable places to live in the world that have super low costs of living. For example, you can live for a whole semester (4 months) in Bali and it'll cost you less than $4,000. Even if you wanted to live somewhere more expensive like Barcelona or Paris, it's not going to cost you more than $2,000 a month if you're smart about it.

Even better, you can live in multiple different places in a semester rather than just one since all your classes are online. You could travel through South East Asia, living in a new place every month, and not spend more than $1,000 per month to do so. 

So using this approach, you can spend anywhere between $4,300 and $11,000 on a semester abroad. That's quite a saving! This gets you a full semester of credits that are guaranteed to transfer, and you can live anywhere in the world that your heart desires. 

If you need help figuring out how to make this happen, we'd be glad to help or hear what you think is stopping you from taking this alternative approach to studying abroad. Drop us an email at