A woman who could not afford to travel while in college shares her ideas for making it work.

Traveling Abroad Isn’t Just for Rich Folks

Traveling Abroad Isn’t Just for Rich Folks

Even if they are tight on cash, students can make their dream of traveling a reality if they are willing to put in the hard work. Sharing Michelle’s experience will show them that it is possible!

Studying abroad isn't only for kids with wealthy parents. There are ways to make it work without breaking the bank.One of the best experiences in my 20s was traveling the world. I watched with envy as friends would plan amazing trips to places like Spain, Japan, and England.

I wanted to go, too. So I did — but not until after I got my four-year degree. During college, I struggled to get by and resorted to working in food services on my campus so that I could eat regularly. In fact, to this day, I rarely eat pizza because I made it so frequently in college.

I’ll be honest — traveling to Europe seemed surreal. I had friends who’d done it, but no one in my family had, so I had few resources as I started mapping out my plan. I had to start from “Point Zero.”

Let me be clear: There is huge long-term professional value in being able to travel during your university years and then to apply that experience toward your future work-related goals. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that when I was saving for my first trip. I began working 70-hour weeks in retail, happily standing for eight hours a day — at least half of it on aching feet — so that I could earn money toward funding my goal of traveling to Europe.

I’m proud to say that after almost a year of asking random people if they would like to use cash or credit and wearing my smiley face, I had enough money to buy a ticket to my dream destination. This first in an eventual succession of trips to Europe changed my life.

If you’re currently a university student and would like to travel, there are some things you should consider when planning your first trip. Traveling is not just for rich people: Everybody can do it. But if you’re not rich, there are several key components to planning your trip.


How much time do you really have to take a trip? As a student, you have a number of different options that include microprograms (one to three weeks), semester-abroad opportunities, and full-year programs.


Speak with your academic advisor and your school’s study abroad office to discover what programs will award you credit toward your degree. The length of time will have a direct impact on how much you pay. Remember that you will have to factor in the costs of transportation, food, housing, tuition, passport (if you don’t have one), and an emergency fund — not to mention fun activities and miscellaneous expenses.


If you are in school right now and would like to travel abroad next semester or next year, you have to act quickly. Start looking at scholarship possibilities and grants, and see if family members can help pay for certain components of your trip. You may even be able to get mileage points from a relative to cut down on travel costs. Increase your work hours and speak to your student-aid advisor to determine whether your current or future aid package can be applied toward a study abroad program.

Options Outside of School

For those of you who aren’t in college right now, don’t worry; there are still many ways for you to achieve your dream of discovering the world.

For example, you may want to consider enrolling in a privately run foreign language school. Many of those schools provide the microprograms that I mentioned before. You just need to Google your country of interest and the phrase “language schools” and typically several will pop up as you search. Look for websites that include the breakdown of costs, and the ability to connect with the school and ask questions directly to the school administration.

You may wonder if the 70-hour weeks, missing out on fun, and saving like crazy was worth it?

Yes! As long as there is no mention of pizza.

Check List

  • Have you considered the possibility of studying abroad or traveling?
  • Where do you want to travel to?
  • What side hustles can you do to earn extra money that would help fund the trip?
  • Are you willing to give up going out and spending money on things you want now to save for your trip?
  • What benefits do you see in traveling while you are young?