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Students discover ways to make study abroad more affordable


Gaylord graduate student Ian Callison poses on Mt. Kinabalu on the Malaysian side of Borneo in Spring 2015.

Before Gaylord graduate student Ian Callison studied abroad, not only was he worried about traveling to a new place — he was worried about covering the costs of the experience.

Some students might not realize there are different types of plans and low-cost programs available to make traveling abroad possible. 

The Office of Study Abroad at Central Michigan University currently has around 30 low-cost programs offered during the academic year and the summer. On the low end, programs can cost roughly $8,000 to $8,500. Programs in more expensive destinations can range from $12,000 to $15,000. 

Callison studied abroad in Singapore during the spring of his sophomore year and in China during the summer before his senior year. His semester in Singapore was part of a low-cost tuition exchange program allowing him to study abroad while paying for his tuition at CMU. 

Though some study abroad programs in locations such Australia and New Zealand can be more expensive because of airfare and the cost of living, there are low-cost programs available, like the exchange program Callison took part in at Nanyang Technological University. 

"Most CMU tuition exchanges are the same price as attending CMU for a semester and the housing is often cheaper, but students have to purchase airfare," said Study Abroad adviser Marko Schubert. "Programs can end up being cheaper than CMU, especially if students live on campus here. Our room and board is comparatively expensive."

Callison said room and board for his program in Singapore was "remarkably inexpensive," bringing the overall cost down. 

The Korea University Sejong campus program, another direct exchange program offered at CMU, allows students to pay CMU tuition and also offers a scholarship that covers room and board and airfare. 

Another one of the programs with the lowest cost offered at CMU is the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) program in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The estimated program fee for Spring 2018 is $5,595, which includes tuition and housing. The estimated total cost is around $9,000 with airfare and other costs. 

"There is quite a bit of variety for students who are looking for a cheaper program, and (the cost) has nothing to do with the academic quality or anything," Schubert said. "It is literally the cost of living and tuition rates abroad that make the difference."  

Students can also decrease the cost by applying for various scholarships from the Office of Study Abroad, and academic colleges and departments.

"There are a number of scholarships that CMU gives out," Schubert said. "Almost every college on campus has a scholarship program that students can look into or even the individual departments that like to give out a little money every year." 

Senior Brianna Hughes spent eight weeks in Santiago, Chile and received scholarships from the Office of Study Abroad and the political science department. 

"Everyone should study abroad or at least consider the option," Hughes said. "There are scholarships out there as long as you are willing to find them."

Students have also been taking it on themselves to raise money to study abroad over the past couple years, Schubert said.

"Lately, a lot of students started GoFundMe pages and that seems to work quite well," Schubert said. "They put it on Facebook, so former teachers or members of their church see, and they like the idea of doing something good for somebody they know really well."   

Despite his initial concerns, Callison would recommend studying abroad to other students.

"Once you're there and around the culture and people, it's just a life-changing experience," Callison said. "I hate to say this because I love being at CMU so much, but studying abroad was the highlight of my time here."

Students interested in learning more about study abroad programs and funding options can schedule a time to meet with a study abroad adviser. Students can contact the Office of Study Abroad at 989-774-4308 or make an appointment online