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Financing your trip abroad

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Former managing editor

SEPTEMBER 25, 2014

When I first came to UC Berkeley, I hoped there would be a way for me to study abroad at some point during my time here. As the semesters went by, I realized my opportunities to study abroad were quickly dwindling. I knew the financial pressure of working during the academic year in addition to other extracurricular and scholastic commitments would keep me from studying abroad during a typical semester. So last winter break, I sat down and filled out my application for UC Education Abroad Program’s summer 2014 intensive language program in Beijing, China.icons-02

Ensuring that I would be able to afford my trip was of paramount importance to me, because I knew I would not be able to work over the summer while abroad. Luckily, through a combination of UC Berkeley summer financial aid and a Gilman Scholarship, I was able to make my dream of studying abroad a financial reality.

Before you select the program you want to attend, I highly recommend sitting down to look at your personal finances and the types of grants and scholarships out there. Many private foundations, universities and even the U.S. government are committed to making studying abroad a financial reality for undergraduate students.

Studying abroad offers you the chance to expand your worldview — invaluable, in an ever-globalizing society.

Typical cost of attending a UCEAP program: varies anywhere from about $7,500 for a summer term to about $37,500 for a normal academic year.*

*Other programs differ in cost, but are relatively comparable based on the length of the trip. Shorter trips tend to be less expensive.

icons-01Financial aid

Those of you who qualify for financial aid are in luck, because you can receive financial aid when studying abroad. If studying abroad during the academic year, you can expect to receive the normal aid you would if studying on campus. If you choose to take your term abroad during the summer, you may qualify for a UC Summer Fee Grant. You may be eligible for this type of grant if you received a UC Berkeley grant or a UC Berkeley scholarship during the academic year. These types of aid are need based and depend on your Expected Family Contribution as found on your FAFSA Student Aid Report.

Study Abroad specific awards

There are a number of awards that may apply to you if you’re participating in a Berkeley Study Abroad program.

UCEAP: Some UCEAP-specific awards focus on language and culture immersion, such as the Jasmine Jahanshahi Scholarships, while others may target students studying a particular country, such as the Dan Wise Memorial Scholarship for year-long programs in France. Additionally, UCEAP is offering more than $1.2 million in scholarships for 2014-15 as part of its $1 million initiative to facilitate students studying study abroad. The $1 million initiative began in the 2013-14 year, after doubling the previous year’s $500,000 scholarship fund.

Berkeley Abroad Scholarships: Berkeley Abroad Scholarships target those students with an Expected Family Contribution of $50,000 or less. Students who are accepted to one of the Berkeley Abroad programs are automatically considered for this $1,500 scholarship.icons-03

IARU Global Summer Program: For IARU Global Summer Program participants, there are awards such as the Friends of Todai, Inc. International Leadership Awards that help cover travel and living expenses for students and the IARU-Santander GSP Scholarships, which help promote student mobility between IARU universities.

Campus awards: There are also a significant number of awards offered to UC Berkeley students who are studying or researching abroad. Many of these awards are offered by various departments or centers on campus and focus on studies and research in particular locations or topics. For instance, the campus Center for Middle Eastern Studies offers scholarships to UC Berkeley undergraduates working on projects and theses in Arab studies, and the department of history offers grants up to $750 in research-related expenses for undergraduate history majors completing a senior honors thesis.

Study Abroad Loan: This loan is available to UC Berkeley students who have been accepted to a Berkeley Summer Abroad Program, have an Expected Family Contribution of $10,000 to $20,000 and demonstrate financial need for the summer, in addition to meeting other eligibility requirements.

Government scholarships

The U.S. government has a number of initiatives to encourage students students to study abroad, including the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program and Boren Awards for International Study.

icons-04The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program — congressionally funded and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State — offers grants to undergraduate U.S. citizens who are receiving Federal Pell Grants to pursue academic studies or career-focused internships abroad. The program aims to prepare students to participate in the global economy and world. The recipients are typically students with high financial need, community college students, students in underrepresented STEM fields, students from diverse backgrounds and students with disabilities.

Boren Awards for International Study is funded by the National Security Education Program, which focuses on countries, languages and fields of study important to U.S. national security. Applicants to the program explain how their field of study or project abroad will impact their academic and career goals as well as contribute to U.S. national security. These awards provide up to $20,000 to U.S. undergraduate students.

National awards

Beyond government awards, there is a wide array of national scholarships for international travel and study open to U.S. study abroad students, including UC Berkeley students. These vary from the Simpson Scholarship in Egyptology, a $2,500 semester award from the American University in Cairo for students enrolling in Egyptology courses, to the Turkish Coalition of America Scholarships, which supports African American, Hispanic American and Native American students, as well as U.S. students of Armenian descent who have been accepted to a university in Turkey or in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Contact Megan Messerly at  or on Twitter


SEPTEMBER 26, 2014