First Generation Students Abroad

First generation students (along with students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds) may be in an especially unique position to succeed in study abroad given previous experience with forging new paths for themselves in college and navigating unfamiliar environments and systems. They may also have unique challenges and concerns depending on financial circumstances and their support systems at home and on-campus. You might be especially concerned about how much it will cost to study abroad. If your family has not traveled much out of the country—let alone studied abroad for an extended period of time—you may not have many people from home who understand why you would want to leave the country, be able to help guide you through this experience, or help you to make it more affordable. Luckily, you don’t have to go it alone! In preparing for study abroad, here are a few tips and resources to help you successfully navigate the process and costs involved so that you take full advantage of this opportunity to learn and grow:

  • Define and articulate your reasons and goals for study abroad:  Especially if your family and friends are unfamiliar with travel and the study abroad experience, you may need to think strategically about articulating how this experience will benefit you. Consider how your program will be of use to you academically, professionally, personally, or otherwise.
  • Get informed:  Seek out the many campus resources that can help you plan for study abroad in light of existing program and funding opportunities. At a minimum, talk with your Study Abroad Program Coordinator and your Academic Adviser to be sure your chosen program fits well within your degree plan. You may also want to reach out to faculty or TAs with whom you have a good relationship, advisors for pre-professional programs (medicine, law, etc.), Career Advancement advisers, staff in the Office of Financial Aid, students who have participated in study abroad before, UChicago alumni, CCSS advisers, your Resident Heads…the more perspectives you have about how you can be successful in study abroad, the more prepared you will be for the experience. You will also be in a better position to use your experience abroad to help you reach your academic and professional goals when you return.
  • Learn about your destination:  Your family may have questions about what life is like in the country where you will be living and studying, including whether it will be safe. Take some time to read and research your host city and country, especially if you do not know much about its history, geography, language, or culture. If you have other specific questions, contact your Program Coordinator.
  • Plan for expenses:  Read through our Tuition, Fees & Funding page to understand the program costs and how Financial Aid applies to Study Abroad. Then, visit the Office of College Aid to discuss your particular aid package in light of Study Abroad. After determining what your financial aid award will cover, make a budget for yourself based on the remaining out-of-pocket expenses (estimates are included on each program page). Compare this to what you would be spending for the same kinds of expenses if you were living on campus, but remember that your program fee, which is eligible for financial aid, will already cover some expenses (such as tuition and housing). For other out-of-pocket expenses:
    • If you plan ahead, there may be scholarships available. See the Scholarships and Grants page of the Study Abroad Office website.
    • Make sure you factor in passport and, if necessary, visa fees.
    • You can use student-oriented travel agencies like STA Travel or Student Universe to get good deals on international flights.
    • Some meals may be included in your program fee—check with your Program Coordinator.
    • The cost of food and groceries could be lower or higher than in Chicago, depending on your location. Ask your Program Coordinator about the cost of living in your program destination.
    • Bring your student ID to get discounts when you’re abroad.
    • Some locations might require using public transportation to get to and from class—check with your Program Coordinator about how much you can expect to spend on local transportation.
  • Find support:  Once abroad, it is important to have support networks in place. Seek out friends from your program who can share this experience with you, and, if possible, make local friends who can help you navigate your temporary home. Your on-site program staff are also always there to lend an ear or help you out when you need it.
  • Seek out opportunities on your own budget and schedule:  Think about finding friends who share your preferences for spending your time and money—if you’re not going to go out every weekend or budget a lot of money for independent travel or entertainment, be realistic and up front about this. Then come up with ideas for things you do want to do on your own schedule and budget. Hint: everyone loves the person who always finds the cool local hangouts or the best student deals for local cultural events!