Student Travel Programs: The Key to Making Travel Abroad Affordable

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INSIDER SECRET: If you’re planning on traveling abroad, give your budget a little more breathing room by charging your expenses to a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.

Traveling the world can be a very enriching and fulfilling experience. It’s an opportunity for you to immerse yourself in an entirely different culture, make new friends and expand your personal and professional network. And traveling as a student is one of the best times to do it, when you only have to worry about your own costs.

If you’re interested in traveling abroad as a student, there are a few funding opportunities that can help with your travel expenses. They can be applied to study abroad programs, internships, student research travel and volunteer travel.

Each program has its own characteristics, and we’ll go over some of the details to help you determine which one is right for you, what funding opportunities are available (such as scholarships or grants), and where you can find and apply for available these scholarships.

Program TypeLength of ProgramCourse CreditFunding Opportunities
Study Abroad1-2 semestersYes, but double check with your institution.Scholarships, Grants
Internships3-12 months, depending on positionIt depends. If you go through your school, it can count. But check with your institution.Grants, Stipends
Student Research Travel1 week-1 semesterYes, but double check with your institution.Scholarships, Grants
Volunteer Travel1 week-2 yearsIt depends. If the volunteer program has an academic component, credit is usually given. Check with your institution.Scholarships, Grants, Stipends

Types of Student Travel Programs

Don’t let the cost of travel stop you from seeing the world. Student travel programs can go a long way in helping you afford to travel abroad as a student. (Photo by Myroslava Malovana/Shutterstock)

Study Abroad

Study Abroad programs allow you to travel to another country and take classes there. They typically last for 1-2 semesters and are great if you’re looking to understand the social aspects of a new culture. You’ll have the opportunity to make new friends and connections and will be learning both inside and outside the classroom.

Scholarships and grants are available at many colleges and universities. You can also find funding opportunities through online resources and organizations like:

It’s best to apply for as many scholarships and grants as you can. This can take some time because each program has a different set of criteria along with varying application requirements, but the payoff can absolutely be worth it.

The monetary awards will vary and may not necessarily cover the entire cost of your study abroad program. In many cases though, funds can be used to cover a variety of expenses such as flights, room and board, food and even other discretionary items.


Internship abroad programs are good if you’re looking to get a feel for what it would be like to work in a different country. Some of these programs also offer the opportunity to earn college credit.

There are paid and unpaid internships. If budget is a concern, you’ll want to focus your efforts on finding a paid internship with some sort of stipend.

And although there are fewer grants for internship programs than study abroad programs, here are places you can apply for aid:

Travel tip: If you anticipate a lot of expenses, you can stretch your budget just a little bit further with one of the best student credit cards that have no foreign transaction fee.

Student Research Travel

Many colleges and universities offer student research travel programs to support students who wish to present at research conferences abroad or conduct research abroad. If you’re in a research-heavy field of study, this could serve as an additional opportunity to expand your horizons as you strengthen a dissertation, thesis or another final research project.

Your own college is the best place to look for scholarships and grants, and you should utilize all the resources at your disposal as a current student. For example, you could contact your college’s academic advisor for help with the application process, or even reach out to current professors as they might be privy to scholarships outside of the university setting. 

Volunteer Travel

If you have a place in your heart for helping others, volunteer travel abroad programs are worth a look. You’ll be able to dedicate your time towards improving the lives of people in other countries while also learning about a new culture, meeting new people and gaining some new skills.

Many government-run programs offer pretty amazing benefits. It’s not unheard of for these programs to cover all major travel expenses while also providing a small stipend. Your own college may also offer scholarships and grants, especially if the volunteer activities involve an academic component.

If this interests you, here are a few programs you can look into:

You can also look at programs such as Diversity Abroad. In return for writing articles about your experiences abroad, they’ll pay you a small stipend that you can use for any expense.

Interested in helping the less fortunate? Volunteer abroad programs are a great way to give back to the community. (Photo by Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

Personal Funding

If you’re not able to find enough scholarship or grants to fund your travel plans, you can always supplement your income with the following:

  • Miles and points from credit cards: If you choose the right student credit card, points earned could be redeemed for flights to and from your destination. Just make sure to always pay your bill in full.
  • Carry a credit card that charges no foreign transaction fees: Transaction fees may only be a few percent depending on the credit card you use, but this expense adds up over time. Choose a credit card with no foreign transaction fees and you’ll be able to stretch your budget just a little bit more.
  • Pick up a part-time job and save up: Even if you’re just paid minimum wage, you can build up a pretty big savings account in just several months. So, plan ahead, stay organized and start saving before you leave the country.
  • Fundraising: You can use a variety of fundraising platforms for additional funding. Each platform varies slightly, but if you do a good job of explaining your program and why you need the money, you’ll improve your chances of success.

Bottom Line

It’s great to travel as a student before you take on any additional personal and financial commitments to others. Study abroad, internships, volunteer travel, and student research travel programs all offer opportunities for funding some or all of your expenses in the form of a stipend, scholarship, or grant.

You can also search for and apply for scholarships and grants through third-party sites. Make sure you set aside some time to do this because each scholarship/grant will have different eligibility criteria and application requirements.

Let us know in the comments if you’ve taken part in travel abroad programs, and how you were able to fund your experience!

To learn more about travel credit cards, check out some of our guides: For the latest tips and tricks on making travel more affordable, please subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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