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Can I afford an overseas exchange?

There are lots of ways to finance an adventure studying abroad
Anyone at the University of Sydney can undertake a global experience. From scholarships to side-hustles, it can be easier than you think to finance an overseas program.


The first step is to decide whether you’re going to do an exchange or non-exchange program. Exchange means you’ll continue to pay your normal tuition fees to the University of Sydney, you won’t pay tuition to your host university. If you’re a Commonwealth-supported student, it’ll be deferred to HECS – you’ll just need to budget for your flights, accommodation, meals, entertainment and any additional travel plans.

Non-exchange programs require you to pay your tuition fees upfront, which is often combined with accommodation, food and other campus services. The advantage is that you’ll know exactly how much you need to pay, and can budget accordingly.


What’s better than free money? There is a vast pool of millions of dollars in travel funding schemes, waiting for you to claim your stake – and they are not hard to secure. For example, all you need is a WAM over 70 and you’re already eligible to pick up a Vice-Chancellor’s Global Mobility Scholarship, worth $1,500 – and you don’t even need to apply for it. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when you consider all the other programs with funds that individual faculties, governments and partner universities are willing to throw at you.


If you’re a Commonwealth-supported student planning to study overseas, you may be eligible for an interest-free OS-HELP Loan of up to $8,000 for a six-month period, depending on destination. It’s also available for short-term programs and you can take out two loans in your lifetime. The best part about OS-HELP is that unlike a loan from a bank, the amount is added to your student HECS debt, meaning you won’t have to pay it back until you’re earning over the threshold.


You should always double-check if you’re eligible for government support payments, especially if you’ve recently turned 22. Youth allowance is for full-time students between 18 and 24 who meet certain eligibility conditions. If you currently qualify for Centrelink payments, or will qualify due to a change of circumstance while on exchange, you’ll receive the higher away from home rate as long as your overseas studies contribute towards your Australian-approved course. The only caveat is that if you continue to travel after your exchange finishes, your payments will be stopped until you return to Australia.


Did you know you might be able to work while you study overseas? If you’ve left it too late to start saving, or if you want to gain experience and top up your account with extra euros, check the visa allowances of your destination country. If you’re relying on this to fund your exchange, make sure you get expert advice to make sure you’re legally able to work, and don’t exceed the limit of how many hours you can work per week.


If you’re really motivated to bulk up on some spending money before you go – roll up the sleeves and get to work. Do you have textbooks from last semester laying around that you can sell? Are you a maths whizz who can tutor local HSC students? Babysit your neighbours’ kids one night each week? Help coach a local soccer team or teach a dance class? Sell some designs online? Kickstart for funds from friends and family? The small amounts add up quickly over time and will help you afford that day trip to Versailles or a show in New York City.

25 May 2018


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