Alternatives to Federal and Private Loans for Studying Abroad

Last updated on July 19th, 2023 at 08:42 pm

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Studying abroad

Studying abroad can enrich your life and benefit you academically, personally, and professionally, but reaping all those benefits can come with a high price tag. The good news is that financial aid for international students is available, so the cost doesn’t have to be a barrier to studying abroad.

To help students explore their funding possibilities, our team here at Remitly put together this guide to student loan alternatives for studying abroad. If you’re a prospective international student or the parent or guardian of one, read on to discover ways to pay for studying in other countries that don’t involve taking on debt.

The downsides of student loans

Federal and private student loan programs started as a way to make college more accessible for people who can’t afford to pay tuition out of pocket. While they can make good on this promise, loans have significant drawbacks.

Any money that you borrow through student loans must be repaid in the future. As of 2022, American students owed more than $1.757 trillion in student debt. The average federal student loan balance in the U.S. is $37,338, while the average private loan is $40,114.

Payments typically begin six months after graduation, which may be before some students find their first jobs post-college. Even those who quickly land jobs may struggle to make payments while working entry-level positions.

Alternatives to student loans to pay for study abroad programs can help you avoid incurring extra debt you’ll need to repay later.

Crowdfunding for studying abroad

One way to raise money for tuition, fees, travel, and living expenses related to studying abroad is through crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is when you seek to raise a large sum of money by soliciting small donations from many people.

Multiple platforms are out there for launching a study abroad crowdfunding campaign, including GoFundMe and Facebook Fundraising. When setting up a crowdfunding campaign for studying abroad, follow these tips.

Choose a platform carefully

Before signing up for a platform, find out what the costs are. The platform may require you to pay a one-time fee to sign up or a monthly subscription fee to use the site. Some let you sign up and launch campaigns for free but take a portion of the proceeds to cover costs.

Check out what payment methods the platform accepts, too, and read reviews about how easy it is to use. The simpler you can make things for potential donors, the more likely people are to contribute.

Research first

Take a look at other study abroad crowdfunding posts before you post yours. Which ones were successful and which ones fell short? Look for strengths that you can emulate and weaknesses that you can avoid.

Studying abroad

Start early and be specific

Crowdfunding takes time, so the sooner you launch your campaign, the better.

Although layouts vary, all crowdfunding platforms have an area where you explain what you’re raising money for. When writing your description, be as detailed as possible. Include:

  • Where you’re going and what college or university you’ll be attending
  • How long you’ll be studying abroad
  • What you’ll be studying while you’re away
  • What benefits you hope to gain, such as building your language skills and learning about a new culture
  • What your costs are, including tuition, living expenses, and travel
  • What your future goals are and how your study abroad experience will help you achieve them

Using bullet points and breaking your content into sections with headings can make it easier for people to read quickly. Choose simple language and avoid being long-winded.

Share your campaign

While you may get some traffic simply from being live on the crowdfunding platform, sharing your campaign will help to spread the word.

Post a link on all your social media accounts and send an email blast to friends and family. Ask people who are close to you to share the link as well.

Fundraising for studying abroad

Fundraising is similar to crowdfunding, though it usually involves asking for donations from people you and those around you know rather than the general public. One way to raise funds is simply to ask people to contribute. However, you can also get creative and offer something in return for donations, such as:

  • Apparel: Have some graphic design ability? Sites like Bonfire allow you to develop custom t-shirts and sell them to raise funds.
  • Streaming: Produce content to stream online and have a tip jar available for people to donate. Teach people how to do something you’re good at, play a video game on Twitch, or give a free concert to show off your musical talents.
  • Food: Do you have a family recipe that everyone loves? Whip up food in bulk and sell it to raise funds.
  • Events: Schedule an event and sell tickets to attend. Choose something that reflects your interests, such as karaoke night, trivia night, or bowling.
  • Services: Perform a service for other people for a fee. You could wash cars, mow lawns, walk dogs, shovel snow, and perform other tasks.
  • Stunts: Attract attention to your cause by saying you’ll do something incredible or amusing if you raise enough funds. For example, you might dance for 12 hours straight and live stream the event or shave your head once you hit your goal.

Person-to-person loans for studying abroad

Person-to-person loans involve borrowing money from an individual for a specific purpose. Sites like Kiva can connect you with people from all over the world looking to help students and interest rates may be lower than what you’d expect to pay for a federal or private student loan.

As with crowdfunding, a successful person-to-person loan campaign involves a well-written explanation of what you need money for.

Describe your study abroad plans in detail, but emphasize how your time going to school in your destination country will help your future career prospects.

Focusing on the professional benefits of studying abroad can show prospective lenders that you’ll be able to repay all the money in the future.

For example, you might explain how people fluent in more than one language are in high demand in your industry and that your experience in and out of the classroom will help you become more proficient in the official language of your host country.

Or, you might say how previous experience studying and living abroad will make you more globally minded and culturally sensitive, putting you in a better position to serve as a corporate leader.

Sponsorships for studying abroad

studying abroad

Reach out to local companies looking for sponsors. Some for-profit organizations may be willing to give you much-needed money to attend school in another country in exchange for favorable publicity. Some large companies may even have programs for contributing to international students.

Nonprofits may also be of help. For example, many Rotary Club chapters offer support for students studying abroad. If you belong to a minority community or have financial needs, you may also be able to get assistance paying for the cost of attending school abroad.

Starting a side hustle before your study abroad program

Part-time jobs can provide extra cash that you can save for studying abroad. You may also want to work full-time during your vacation periods.

Look for job opportunities in your area that offer flexible scheduling to accommodate your school. Do an Internet search for “student jobs YOUR CITY NAME” to uncover options.

Part-time work doesn’t have to refer to employment. You can also take up a side hustle and work part-time as your own boss. Side hustle ideas include:

  • Ride-share driving through Lyft or Uber
  • Delivering food and groceries through platforms like Instacart, Doordash, Uber Eats, and GrubHub
  • Reselling items you flip from thrift stores on sites like Poshmark, Mercari, and eBay
  • Producing handmade items in your spare time to sell on Etsy
  • Freelance work through sites like Upwork and Fiverr
  • Tutoring other college students or kids in subjects that you’re strong in
  • Participating in a focus group for a marketing firm
  • Renting out part of your home through platforms like Airbnb
  • Babysitting
  • House cleaning and odd jobs through sites like Handy and TaskRabbit
  • Dog walking and pet sitting through platforms like Rover and Wag

Keep in mind that in most cases, you’ll need to pay income tax on the money you earn through your side hustle. Put some of your income aside to cover taxes owed to avoid an unpleasant surprise when you file.

Work-study and internships at your home university

Work-study programs are on-campus opportunities for students to work part-time in exchange for reduced tuition. Positions range from clerical work to assisting professors to aid in research.

If you get a work-study placement, you can put the amount you save on the cost of the school toward studying abroad.

Participating in a paid internship through your home college or university can allow you to earn college credit and wages by working part-time during the academic year.

The benefits of working to raise funds for studying in another country go beyond cash. Whether you get an internship or one of the jobs available on campus, the tasks you do will also give you work experience that could make you more appealing to employers in the future.

Teaching English while studying abroad

English teachers are in demand in many parts of the world. As a native speaker, you may be able to teach English in another country while attending classes.

Some providers of English teaching work abroad, like International TEFL Academy and Premier TEFL, have job opportunities in many of the most popular countries for studying abroad.

Others specialize in a particular area. For instance, Maximo Nivel places teachers in Peru, Guatemala, and Costa Rica.

Working while studying abroad

Working while studying abroad

If you’re wondering whether you can work while studying abroad to cover your living costs, the short answer is maybe.

Some countries may allow you to work part-time while attending a university on a student visa. Others will only allow you to have a job while studying abroad if you obtain a work permit through a separate application process.

In some cases, you may not be able to legally work a job abroad at all while in a country on a student visa due to restrictions on what kinds of jobs you can do.

Rules may also differ depending on the type of visa you receive.

For example, the U.S. allows F1 and J1 visa holders to work 20 hours per week during school terms and full-time during vacations. However, M1 visa recipients can work for up to 6 months in jobs specifically related to their fields of study and only after they have completed their educational course.

Since what countries require varies greatly, the best thing to do is to contact an embassy or consulate office for your destination country for information.

Applying for scholarships

Scholarships are financial awards that you don’t need to repay in the future. Many nonprofits and other organizations offer scholarships specifically for studying abroad, and general scholarship programs provide funds you can put toward your study abroad program.

Check out our article on study abroad scholarships to learn more about what types of scholarships you may qualify for and how to find and apply for them.


As you can see, there are many ways to make studying abroad more affordable, from working abroad to crowdfunding. Which options will be best for you depend on the amount of money you need to raise, where you’ll be studying, and how long you have to gather funds before the deadlines imposed by your study abroad program.

Establish a funding goal for yourself and start exploring alternative options now to get ready for your study abroad experience.

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