Last year, a British study showed that 56% of American college students indicated a desire to study abroad – mostly so they could experience foreign culture and have some fun.
There is, however, another good reason to pursue your college career in a country other than the United States: Tuition is free in many foreign countries, even for American citizens. Still, only about 1% of all U.S. college students study abroad.
While the benefits of living and studying in another country are many, there are also disadvantages – which may account for the low percentage of students who actually study abroad. If the idea of living in another country while paying no tuition costs appeals to you, make sure that you understand the drawbacks of doing so.
Just to get you started, here are a couple of downsides to consider.
Although many respondents to the aforementioned study did not consider language differences to be much cause for concern, being monolingual could cause problems – particularly when attending lectures that will be such a large part of your routine.
Many European countries, luckily, have added thousands of English-based courses and majors in the past several years. Germany has developed over 1,000 such course offerings at many of its universities, which generally offer free tuition to non-citizens.
Other countries that don't charge international students tuition, such as Brazil, Czech Republic, and Panama, however, only offer courses taught in their dominant languages: Portuguese, Czech, and Spanish, in that order.
Expenses can be high
Even with tuition-free study, expenses in your host country can add up. For example, though Norway offers free tuition to most students as well as English-language coursework, living expenses can be as high as $15,000 annually.
The costs of living internationally can add up if you're not careful. Those in the know suggest making a budget early on to manage expenses, and purchasing a cheap, local cell phone, rather than a pricey smartphone, to keep in touch with people back home.
As for credit cards, shop around before you leave to make sure you get one especially suited for students studying abroad. Generally, you will do best with big banks with an international presence. NerdWallet suggests Bank of America's BankAmericard – which has secure chip-and-PIN technology, and no foreign transaction fees.
Don't forget travel costs, either. Air fare can be very pricey for international flights, which may limit the trips home you will be able to afford each year.
Research and planning ahead is crucial
All this is not to say that pursuing your college degree outside of the U.S. isn't a worthwhile endeavor. With the right planning, you may very well save money by studying abroad – not to mention the priceless education you will receive by immersing yourself in another culture for several years. As with any type of investment in your future, however, due diligence is required to make sure that the decision you make is the right one for you.