This online-exclusive series is focused on the study abroad process to provide clarity and further information for UNC Charlotte students who are seeking to partake in an international education experience during their college years. The goal of this series is to encourage students to come out of their comfort zones and immerse themselves in global experiences that are worthwhile and life-changing.

All students have encountered times when they feel really…really…#broke. For example choosing to only fill up half of your car’s gas tank or

Photo By Sarah Ro
Photo By Sarah Ro

purchasing endless packs of instant ramen – sound familiar? In this position, the thought of all the expenses associated with studying abroad seems daunting, burdensome and impossible. Hence one of the greatest myths of studying abroad is the idea: “There’s no way I can afford it.” Is study abroad expensive? Yes. But is it possible? Definitely. As college students, we have the benefit of an endless amount of resources and opportunities open to us – if only we would seek and take advantage of them.

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship

Move over free food; scholarships are the new college student’s best friend. Among the various scholarships offered for prospective study abroad students, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship sponsored by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is one of the most recognized for generously providing financial support to undergraduate students. Every year, over 2,800 scholarships are awarded in amounts ranging of up to $5,000 to US students. In addition, the maximum award amount increases of up to $8,000 for students seeking to study a language deemed a “critical need language” including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Turkish and much more.

The program describes itself to “offer grants for US citizen undergraduate students of limited financial means to pursue academic studies or credit-bearing, career-oriented internships abroad. Such international exchange is intended to better prepare US students to assume significant roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world.” Both the UNC Charlotte Office of Education Abroad advisors and alumni of the Gilman program (such as me!) recommend and emphasize the scholarship to all students seeking to study abroad. It greatly assists students by providing an opportunity to lessen the financial burden – because finances should never be the reason preventing you from studying abroad.  

When applying for the Gilman scholarship, make sure to stay on top of deadlines. There is a component for the student to complete as well as one for the financial and study abroad advisor – with different deadlines. The student component of the application consists of a standard fill-in-the-form-with-your-information page, personal statement and explanation of the follow-up service project to be completed when you return. Make sure to start early, write the deadlines in your planner and be creative when writing your essays in order to stand out from the crowd! If you are interested in applying for the scholarship, feel free to speak to the UNC Charlotte Office of Education Abroad or email me at for any questions.

Office of Education Abroad Scholarship

UNC Charlotte’s Office of Education Abroad also offers various scholarships for students seeking financial assistance while studying abroad. It is important to note that OEA scholarships are only awarded once a year; the next upcoming deadline is February 15, 2017. The basic requirements include full-time student status, minimum GPA of 3.0, good disciplinary standing and attendance at a webinar explaining the expectations. If you would like more information, visit the OEA office located in Room 256 of the College of Health & Human Services Building.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

One common misconception is that FAFSA cannot be applied when paying for studying abroad. While each case varies, this is generally not true. Students should continue to fill out the FAFSA form for the year they intend on being abroad. For exchange students, the grants and loans awarded can be used to help pay off the tuition or room and board amounts for studying abroad. However, it is required that you communicate this to the faculty at OEA, so they know to properly distribute your FAFSA awards to your separate study abroad account.

Calculating all the necessary expenses for study abroad can result into a total that leaves you wide-eyed, eyebrows furrowed and continuously sighing. Don’t feel like you are alone; there are hundreds of other students who can 100% relate. But do not let the thought of study abroad being a financial burden overwhelm you into running in the other direction. Scholarship opportunities such as the Gilman and OEA scholarships are out there; FAFSA can be applied and as most students do – find a part-time job or paid internship and start saving! Translate your desire to study abroad into hard work that will allow you the opportunity to do so.

Sarah is a senior business student double-majoring in Marketing and HR Management. She loves to read, write, explore new cities and watch TedTalks. Her favorite college experience was studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea. In the future, she hopes to continue writing- both professionally and personally.