These are all the hidden costs you’ll encounter when going on a year abroad
The cost of a year abroad is making it more and more inaccessible
As a first year you are constantly being told to make the most of your university experience and try new things, spending a year in another country seems like the perfect opportunity to do just that. I can’t lie, when choosing to study French at university the obligatory year abroad was a strong deciding factor in my choice. Even if you don’t study languages there are still plenty opportunities to go abroad. Who wouldn’t want to spend a year immersing yourself in a completely new and exciting culture?
Going on a year abroad can be amazing, but they can also be very expensive projects. You’re told from day one to be careful with money, to make sure you budget and plan for this year due to the costly expense of it, but do unis truly prepare you for the real cost of it?
I am currently about to embark on a year studying in the south of France and while it is such an exciting prospect, it has not been without its trials and I have encountered many hidden costs that I wasn’t prepared for. If you’ve ever thought about going on a year abroad yourself, these are all the hidden costs that you might not have thought about:
British students now need to obtain a visa
Since Brexit ended our right to free movement within the European Union, to study in popular destinations such as France and Spain, British students may now require a visa.
Obtaining a visa can be an expensive process which I neither expected or felt prepared for. I ended up paying close to £100 in total. This cost was spent on not only on the visa itself but also the appointment to get a visa and the postage to have my passport sent back to me once it had been approved.
This doesn’t even encompass any of the travel costs to get to the appointment or the costs to get the paperwork I needed in order to obtain the visa in the first place.
I was told that these costs would depend on what type of visa I needed but there was no mention of all the added costs. Of course, all students’ years abroad are unique and therefore the university cannot cover every possible scenario but these were basic costs which a lot of students would have incurred.
Even obtaining basic paperwork can be costly
Some countries are notorious for the amount of paperwork required when applying for a visa. Sophie Law, who is planning on studying European law for a year at the IE Law School in Madrid, said she was shocked at how expensive the process was. Many of her documents had to be certified by a solicitor giving them the legal right to be used in another country.
She said: “In order to obtain my visa I needed to translate key documents and have them apostled, which has cost upwards of £300.
“I also had to spend lots of money on tracked and insured postage when sending and receiving key documents to the apostle services.”
I had a similar experience to Sophie – when gathering my paperwork to go to France I had to register with Etudes en France, and was required to pay a fee of £90 simply to formally register onto the system. This was a total surprise as there was no mention of this cost and I only realised I had to pay this fee after completing the online application.
You’ll need lots of spare cash for train tickets and hotels
There are the obvious travel costs such as airfare in order to travel to your chosen destination, but on top of that you are required to attend in-person meetings in the consulates for the chosen country to gain a visa.
If you happen to find yourself in the unlucky position of not living in one of the three cities within the country where there is one, you’ll need to fork out for train tickets and even possibly a hotel.
I myself had to stay overnight in Manchester when applying for my visa to France as the trains would not ensure I arrived for the already limited appointment slot available.
It can be hard and sometimes not possible for students trying to survive the summer on limited funds to afford these costs, especially if they have no other financial support.
You may also need to pay for a language efficiency test
When studying in a university abroad many institutions require proof that your language abilities meet the required criteria, especially when those courses will be conducted in a language other than English.
Eddie Hartley a second year student studying Law with French and French Law at the University of Nottingham, had to undertake the “test de connaissance Français”. This was due to the fact that the only partner university which accommodated his course needed to ensure that his language skills were at a B1 level.
On top of the added pressure of having to pass an exam to gain entry into an overseas uni, they can be costly to take due to them not being widely available across the UK.
He said: “I was told about it with virtually no time before the deadline to register was going to pass and I had to scramble together £139 with no financial help despite it being a compulsory exam.”
Always do your own research before you embark on year abroad as specific requirements vary.