What Will My Total Bill Look Like?

Being an international student can be an expensive experience. The cost of tuition, room and board, and traveling to see the sights can add up to much more than the amount of money you would have paid if you had studied at your university in your home country. That’s not to say that there aren’t ways to avoid or cushion some of these expenses but you should know that generally it won’t be cheaper to study overseas than it would be to study at home. Here’s what you can expect – at minimum – to come directly out of your pocket.


While it is well worth it in the long run, education doesn’t come cheap these days. Tuition at an elite private university in the US can cost $40,000 a year (adding up to an estimated $60,000 when all of your student expenses are included). That said, there is lots of diversity in our wide, wide world and the majority of options for higher education are much cheaper. Tuition can be offset partially or entirely by scholarships, which are well worth looking into, but these opportunities are quite limited for international students. Many students finance their education through special bank loans or government programs. Check out our StudentRoads forum to get started on your search.

A Place to Stay

This will probably be an expense on top of your tuition. Generally, the options are housing provided by your host university, staying in a rented flat you find yourself, or staying with a host family. All of these options cost money, unfortunately. Universities generally have housing information and suggestions on their websites, so be sure to check there. You can also directly email someone at their international office. University contact information and websites are listed on their StudentRoads profile so be sure to use our “University Search” feature. You can also simply Google search average rent prices in whatever city you’re headed.

Getting There and Coming Home

Be sure to factor this into your budget, because it’s often not very cheap to fly internationally, and, well – this is one expense that’s completely unavoidable. As academic years in various universities tend to be very similar, the beginning and end of each academic year is a peak travel period. However, the good news is that special student discounts are often available on airfare and book early so that you get a seat on the day that you want to travel.


Food and drink can sometimes be included in your university fee for meals on campus, but this isn’t guaranteed. Remember – you’re going to have to provide for yourself for an extended amount of time, so be sure to factor this into your budget. If you have kitchen skills, then you will find it a lot cheaper to prepare food for yourself than to eat out.


Once you get to where you’re going to be studying, odds are that there will be a number of must-see attractions outside of the city in which you’re staying. You’ll want to take the opportunity to see part of the world you have never seen before. Check out local transit options and their prices, as well as the average prices of hostels and hotels and remember that you will feel compelled to go on weekend trips with your friends once you get over there – and that it will cost you.

Spending Money

Going out and enjoying yourself is a big part of many university students’ experiences, and not all of it is free. You can count on at least some portion of your money being dedicated to going out and other social activities that involve events, music, and food. You can keep expenses down by participating in events on campus run by student organizations.

Miscellaneous Expenses

Many soon-to-be-international students often overlook miscellaneous expenses that they’re bound to incur abroad, such as room deposits, program fees, and medical expenses. As such, it would be wise to set aside some amount of emergency money in the case that you find yourself faced with a necessary, imminent expense.

While this list is in no way comprehensive, it does describe the things you’ll almost surely be paying for when you study overseas. If you want to get an even better idea of what you’ll be spending abroad, just hang out on StudentRoads and take the time to plan. Research the average cost of living in the city you’re going to, the cost of trains and other methods of travel in the region, and what other students have found to be the most cost effective methods.

Be Realistic

The best thing you can do is overbudget, rather than, you know, having to listen to your friends talk endlessly about the awesome weekend trip you couldn’t go on because you were totally broke. All that said, being an international student is an amazing and potentially life-changing experience so get creative and find a way to make it happen!

[Top image credit: Hemera/Thinkstock; Second image credit: Thinkstock Images/ComstockThinkstock]

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