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We Paid Cash: Studying Abroad in London for 8 Weeks

We paid cash!

A testimony from Julie of The Family CEO

Two years ago I shared on how we were paying cash for our daughter’s college education. As I write this update we have paid cash for her first three years, have enough set aside for our senior year, and just paid cash for her to study and intern abroad this summer.

The study abroad trip is the subject of this post.

The Costs of Studying Abroad

Study abroad experiences vary a lot in what they cost. Some things that will affect the cost:

  • The city/country you visit.
  • The length of the trip.
  • The number of credit hours taken.
  • Whether you’ll be interning while abroad.
  • Any side trips while there.

Our daughter, Lindsey, went to London for 8 weeks through a formal program that her school (the University of Kansas) offers. She took a class for credit and interned for 20 hours a week while there. She also took several short side trips to Paris, Barcelona, Prague, and Auschwitz in Poland.

The fixed costs for the trip, which included tuition, fees, housing, airfare, passport, and a work Visa, totaled $9,200. The more variable costs for food, side trips, etc. totaled several thousand more.

How We Paid For It

Just as with our regular college expenses, we used an “all of the above” strategy for paying for this experience. Here are the things that helped:

1. Choosing an Affordable School

A big reason this trip was possible was because Lindsey chose an affordable, in-state college to begin with and then earned scholarships to make it that much more affordable. When you keep the cost of education low, it leaves more money for experiences like this one.

2. Applying for Scholarships

Lindsey learned that there were scholarships available specifically for study abroad. She sought out and applied for several, and earned two totaling $1500, one from her Honors Program and one from the Office of Study Abroad.

3. Working Part-time 

Lindsey works part-time during the school year and she began aggressively saving her money during the second semester so she could pay for as much of her living expenses while there as possible.

4. Spreading out Expenses

Not all study abroad expenses come due at once. We paid for some of the individual expenses like the work Visa ($489) and airfare ($1150) as they came do before her departure.

The rest we took from our college savings or from our regular monthly income. We also made cuts in other areas, like foregoing a family vacation, to make up for some of the difference.

The cost of study abroad is significant and so is the opportunity cost of having Lindsey not work for the summer, but I am so glad she was able to do it. She saw amazing places, had incredible experiences, and learned a lot about the world and about herself by traveling abroad.

In 2006, Julie hired herself to save her family money, make some extra money, and pay down debt, all while living a fulfilling life. She blogs about her experiences at The Family CEO.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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  • My husband did this when he was in school. He then backpacked through Europe (mostly Eastern Europe, which was less expensive). Instead of hotel rooms, he would go to the train station and pick a destination that would be far enough away that he could sleep overnight on the train. He would then shower at train stations (many have them; there is one in Geneva, Switzerland that I saw for travelers).

    He tells some amazing stories from this time (it was the year after the Berlin wall came down).

    We would love our children to be able to do some of these same things. Though we’re not at that age yet, it is great to know that there are specific scholarships available for studying abroad! Thanks for the heads up!

  • Rebecca says:

    That is awesome – my study abroad experience was one of te absolute best experiences of my life! She will treasure the memories and the experiences that it has given her more and more over the years to come!

  • I agree with posters that say that studying abroad is a once in a lifetime experience that I hope one day to give my children! I studied abroad in Mexico and Argentina, and the memories I have from both places, as well as the perspective gained and respect for the individual cultures is priceless. Thank you for sharing this story!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Could you please repost the link on “paying cash for our daughter’s education?” When I click on it, it says the link no longer exists.


  • Jenny says:

    Good story!

  • Guest says:

    I studied abroad in Italy and used the time to travel to other countries in Europe. It was an amazing experience and has continued to serve me well as I’ve worked abroad several times for my job. It’s also nice to have that connection when you meet people from other countries. If you are a parent weighing the benefits, it is also a great addition to a resume if your child wants to work for a company with a global presence.

  • Sweet!!! That sounds like such an amazing experience for her, and I love how you made it a whole-family endeavor! Way to be awesome, to all of you!!

  • Kristin says:

    I love this story so much. I was a foreign exchange student in high school and absolutely loved the experience. I know my parents made sacrifices for it to happen (not the least of which was allowing their 17 year old daughter to live with an unknown family in Spain). My life was definitely impacted for the better because of my experiences there. Saving for similar opportunities for my children is already a priority!

  • Amanda says:

    I went to a small, private liberal arts school with a large endowment, which means pleanty of scholarships for those with good grades and committment to serving the community, etc. My parents had NO money to help, but my school paid 100% for me to study abroad to Latin America for 10 weeks plus $1k spending money. I got college credit and an experience of a lifetime. When you are thinking of colleges, think of a school like the aforementioned. The pricetag is enormous, but so are the scholarships to high achieving students.

  • Dee says:

    Congrats to you and your daughter. Four of my 5 of my children studied abroad while in college. I loved getting to visit them! Three went during the regular academic year, so home university costs applied. We didn’t have to pay for an extra semester. The oldest got a partial refund because his program was less than his regular tuition. One went for a summer program that cost extra.

    We paid cash for all 5 kids, too. Our youngest just graduated this spring. Yay! We’re done! Two years, we had 4 kids in school at the same time. Painful.

    I could write a book about choosing colleges, getting scholarship money and paying for study abroad. And things may have changed since I sent my first one off 8 years ago. But I offer two snippets:
    1. SATs counted for A LOT regarding scholarship money. Our kids started taking them in middle school. By the time it counted, they weren’t surprised or nervous. We also hired an SAT coach for 2 of them because one section of scores didn’t match their abilities. Best money I ever spent. One ended up with full tuition scholarship because of the small tweak she needed (110 Math SAT improvement = >$80,000 over 4 yrs). The other got into her dream university with one coaching session (she never learned the rules of grammar)… the best school in Canada. Which brings me to #2…
    2. Consider Canada – I can only speak for McGill from our experience, but I understand other schools in Canada are even less expensive. When our daughter started university at McGill 4 years ago, the international student costs were similar to her going to our local state university. Costs went up over her 4 years, but never got to where it was for the kids who went to out-of-state public universities, let alone the one who went to a private school. McGill is ranked internationally comparable to American Ivy League/Johns Hopkins/CMU, so an amazing value. And, she got her dream job when she graduated.

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