Riyals, Rials and Reality

Karen Alexander is the mother of API student, Madi Alexander. Madi spent spring semester abroad with API in Doha, Qatar and is currently abroad with API in Salamanca, Spain.

Students who study abroad come from families across the full range of income levels. Likewise, the cost of studying abroad can vary widely depending on the country selected, the length of the program, transportation to and from the country, and how much discretionary spending the student plans to do. Some parents may be inclined to pick up the entire tab for an experience that meshes academics with travel adventure, but there needs to be a budget, and it needs to be realistic.


Your student must first explore what portion, if any, of the study-abroad program will be covered by his or her college or university’s financial aid and scholarships. These resources can prove to be the primary currency of a study-abroad budget. Then it is crucial to explore outside scholarships such as the US Dept. of State Gilman scholarships, or special scholarships for studying critical languages, contributing to social diversity, or promoting global initiatives. There is a scholarship for just about everything and everyone. So, the first leg of your student’s study-abroad journey will be to his or her school’s offices of academic affairs, international education, and advisers.


Having your heart set on sending your son or daughter to a certain city or country might need to yield to affordability. Think of this constraint as another teachable moment. When my daughter was shopping for a destination with Middle Eastern flavor, we quickly learned that Egypt was significantly more expensive than Qatar. I was also hopeful she would find a program in Turkey, but that was simply not doable. Narrowing down the options to only the affordable programs made the rest of the budgeting process a lot easier.


Review the available API programs of six or eight locations that are relevant to your student’s pursuits, then narrow those down to perhaps three which are comfortably affordable for your family’s budget. Do yourself a financial favor by creating a spreadsheet with all the costs for each location, including airfare, luggage, passport, insurance, pre-travel medical, discretionary spending, and emergency funds. That’s your total costs. Next detail all the sources of money, from scholarships to grandparents’ gifts, and your student’s own contribution. That’s your total funding. Before you finalize any study-abroad plan by signing on the dotted line with API, your costs and funding need to balance.


I’m a big believer in students putting their own sweat equity and financial resources into their life choices. This started early in our household. Dessert was never served until the table was cleared and the kitchen was cleaned up – highly motivating to a four-year old. Your teen hopes to drive a car? Insurance and gas should be the driver’s responsibility, so a job is required. And, the best way to get a job is to begin volunteering consistently, as if it were a job, about age 13. This philosophy carries over to the desire to study abroad. Your student should start planning and saving far in advance. At the very least, all discretionary spending should be your student’s responsibility. Statistics prove teens are better, safer drivers when it’s their money, their insurance rates, their car at stake. So to, they will spend within their means and spend more wisely when it’s their dollars, riyals or yen flowing out of their wallet while abroad. These are good life lessons from which grow responsible adults who set good examples for their peers, and some day for their own kids. Having some skin in the game will naturally sway your student to get the most out of his or her investment in studying abroad. •

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Flashback to our Fall API student's first days in Spain. Madrid orientation with our friends from api_granada, Salamanca guided tour, and lunch tapas (+first days of classes!)

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📷 by @api_salamanca https://t.co/5CpIyGo9RD
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