Overcoming the Top 3 Barriers that Keep Students from Studying Abroad

Authored by:
Julia D.

Julia D.

Study abroad is a unique opportunity that gives students the chance to interact with locals, explore authentic cuisines, and learn new language(s) while delving into a new culture.

There are many barriers that can make students feel that dreaming of studying abroad is unrealistic. I’m Julia Dean and I’m here to share how to overcome the main barriers that keep many students from studying abroad. These tips helped me study abroad at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, and they may help you as well.


Cost is a large barrier to study abroad, but the good news is, there are plenty of ways to make study abroad affordable.

  • Choose Affordable Locations
    One way to reduce costs that’s often overlooked lies in your choice of study abroad location.  A large portion of study abroad costs are linked to the cost of living in your location – food, housing, entertainment, and more. These costs vary drastically from location to location. For example, a meal in Paris is easily over 10 EUR, whereas a typical lunch for me in Seoul, South Korea ran me under 5 USD.

    When abroad, costs can quickly add up eating out, exploring the city, shopping, and enjoying local nightlife. If your budget is tight, consider your location of choice. Western European countries like Switzerland or France are generally more expensive than Latin American or Asian countries. If you’re determined to go abroad and are flexible with your destination, choose a country with lower costs of living. When I studied in Seoul, I spent significantly less than my peers in Hong Kong and London.
  • Apply for Scholarships
    Another way to save precious dollars is by applying for scholarships. There are endless scholarships available to help students finance study abroad. CIEE offers over $8 million in scholarships to over 2,000 students each year. They also guarantee a $2,000 scholarship to students from Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) for semester programs, and free airfare to all Pell-eligible students.

    Don’t forget your school! As a student with a full-tuition merit-based scholarship, I had my entire Yonsei University tuition covered by my scholarship and was awarded an additional $2,000 for flights and other expenses. Check with your financial aid and study abroad office to see if you qualify.
  • Crowdfund Your Trip Abroad
    Studying abroad is an exceptional opportunity and one which a surprising amount of people are willing to help you fund. What does this translate to? A crowdfunding or fundraising campaign! Crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe are easy to use, don’t require tech savviness, and put your cause in front of thousands of eyes.

    Now, you may be thinking: “crowdfunding my study abroad? Isn’t crowdfunding meant to raise money for celebrations or illnesses?” I hear you and raise you this: all crowdfunding campaigns, no matter the cause, have one thing in common: they help fund a “once-in-a-lifetime” need or opportunity. What does that include? Why, study abroad, of course!

    Consider leveraging online tools like a crowdfunding platform (stick with ones like GoFundMe that don’t require you to give a gift to backers), or tapping into your local community to hold fundraisers, raffle events, or even an auction. Remember to be as transparent as possible with your reason for fundraising. This means preparing a budget with costs you expect to incur and being open about why you need the amount of money you’re asking for.


Some students see their academic schedule as a barrier to study abroad. They worry about an abroad program fitting into their schedule.

  • Select A Program That Fits Your Schedule
    If a semester away in a new country seems impossible, consider CIEE’s unique Open Campus, which allows students to study for 6, 12 or 18 weeks in up to 3 cities around the world. This program is convenient for those with busy schedules and perfect for quarter system students.

Other students may worry if a program abroad is of the same academic rigor as their home institution.

  • Choose A Program Affiliated with A Top-Tier University
    Maybe you’ve heard from students who returned from their semester lauding about how they skipped half their classes and still earned an A. If this sounds as off-putting to you as it did to me, no worries. I chose CIEE because they partner with many top tier universities to provide an abroad experience that’s immersive, fun, and academically-challenging.

    I wanted to develop Asian language skills for a future career in Asia so it was clear to me that I needed rigorous academics. Studying abroad with CIEE allowed me to directly enroll to Yonsei University, one of South Korea’s most prestigious universities. I took courses in my business major with other Korean students, completed concentration requirements, took an intensive Korean language course, and immersed myself in Seoul with outings, excursions, and volunteering.


Culture is the third top barrier to study abroad. If you’ve never known anyone that went abroad, or your school doesn’t openly promote it, leaving the comfort of campus can be daunting. In addition, some students fear standing out as a minority in a foreign country.

  • Push Yourself Beyond Your Comfort Zone
    CIEE is proud to encourage all students—regardless of age, ethnicity, or religion—to study abroad. Study abroad is a truly customizable experience that can help you reach your personal, professional, and academic goals. One of the main reasons I chose South Korea was to fulfill a personal goal of seeing a post-war success story. I was born in Romania and grew up in America. For a long time, I’ve wanted to see how other countries similar to my motherland were able to bounce back after the unfortunate events that occurred in the 20th century. South Korea is one of those countries.

By employing these strategies and tools, you should find yourself well on your way to eating soup dumplings in Shanghai, cruising along the Amsterdam canals, or whatever adventure you’ll enjoy during your study abroad experience.


About Julia Dean

Julia Dean is a business student at Babson College studying Strategic Management and Economics. As a project management intern, Julia has been working with other interns to improve CIEE social media branding and market development. Her future plans include studying abroad again (in Vienna) and consulting post-graduation.

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