How Much Does An Exchange Study Abroad Semester Cost?

Exactly what does a semester abroad on exchange cost?

Study abroad; you've seen a few friends do it, and you're currently looking dreamily at their photos on Facebook of every other weekend spent in Paris, Amsterdam and on some beach in Greece. You're wondering, they're just like you, they work a summer job, but aren't coming from families where all expenses are paid for. How the hell are they affording it?!

Which then likely led you to search out how much studying abroad costs, and this post.

Luckily for you, I keep close track of where I spend what, so I can tell you exactly what I spent on any random day a few years ago.

On my post about study abroad, I covered large expenses in fairly general terms. I'll go through that again here, and then get into exact numbers of how much was on groceries, weekend trips, sport club fees, going out, travel, etc.

Now realize your trip will be different than mine, and the things you choose to spend on will also be different. Eg. If you're not a sporty person, you wouldn't have all the fees I paid to be on the club field hockey team.

I hope this gives you a general idea however of what one study abroad experience cost, so you have a fair idea of what is to come.

How Much Does An Exchange Study Abroad Semester Cost?

From: Toronto, Ontario, Canada. To: Stoke-On-Trent, England, United Kindgom.


How much does going on exchange really cost?


Knowing I was going to go abroad for the semester, I organized a few things which cut my costs before I left. First, I had massive motivation over the summer before to save my summer earnings because I knew that a weekend in the Scottish highlands was worth more to me than a drink at Starbucks daily, or those new lulu tights... and I knew shopping in Europe is 5 times better than in Canada.

  • Rent Savings $2,000.00 CAD

In Canada, generally you sign a lease with friends in a student house for a full year, even though you only live there for 8 months, and not the summer. Because I was spending a semester abroad, I would have spent only 4 months at my student house, so I opted to sublet a room from someone when I came home for second semester and live with randoms instead of friends. I saved $2,000 by not paying summer rent, and not signing a full year lease in Canada.

  • Scholarships $1,200.00 CAD

My school provided an automatic $500 to anyone who studied abroad, and I also received a $700 competitive scholarship which I had to apply for.

So I was actually up $3,200.00 by choosing to study abroad for the semester!

Budget breakdown of study abroad for a semester


I've split this up into general study abroad costs, and then travel while abroad specifically in the next section.

General Semester Costs:

  • Flight $0.00

I am fortunate to have a family member who works for an airline and on rare occasions for large trips, they help me out with flights through their work. This cost will also vary greatly by where your home country is, and where you're studying abroad, so once you've gotten a general idea of the cost of study abroad from this post, be sure to add in flight cost based on where you're coming from and planning to head.

  • Visa $0.00

Because I was studying in the U.K. for less than 6 months, I didn't need a visa. Had I spent a full year there, I would have needed one, and the cost is £322.00.

  • Tuition $3,124.52 CAD

My school (and a large number of others) have a program in place by which when you study abroad, you pay your tuition to your home institution, instead of the school you're studying abroad at. So, I paid my tuition to my home university as I normally would, and a student at my abroad institution paid their tuition to it as they normally would, and we quite literally switched.

The other student and I didn't need to do any organizing of that however, the schools keep track of how many students exchange between their institutions each year.

Keep in mind, this is an expense I would have had, regardless of studying abroad, and most importantly, studying abroad didn't up the price of my tuition as a lot of people seem to think!

  • Residence Rent £1,950.00 (or £130 a week)

After a nightmare roommates experience in the past I opted for a single room in residence. A different type of room would have been cheaper, but I've learned you can't put a price on not living with someone who is a little insane.

  • Groceries £900.00 (or £60.00 a week)

Again, would have spent this anyways in Canada, had I not been studying abroad.

  • Transportation £180.70 (or £12.04 a week)

This was mostly buses, cabs, and trains as I didn't have a car in England for general non-weekend travel related transportation.

  • Entertainment £60.00 (or £4.00 a week)

This was tickets to go see S Club 3 (yes, they're still at it, just with less members), shows, and fairs.

  • Phone £18.80 (or £1.25 a week)

Granted, my phone was one of those teeny tiny Nokia things that I basically could only make calls on and send a few texts. But, it was for a semester, so there was no need to buy a pricey thing.

  • Banking £24.50 (or £1.63 a week)

This was basically all ATM fees for taking from a foreign account. I would take out large sums of money at once and use it until it was gone, then go again and get out a large sum, so I wasn't constantly being charged this fee.

  • Textbooks £6.00 ( .40 pence a week)

Ready for this, there are basically NO textbook fees in the U.K. (Did you just hear a savings of a few hundred a semester from a Canadian school? Yes, yes you did!) This was just one little reader that had compiled a few articles for the semester for a class.

  • Laundry £70.30 (or £4.68 a week)

Yep, the joy of paying for your laundry.

  • Medical £27.50 (or £1.83 a week)

I got sick once while abroad, and this was some medication. I could have claimed it under my parents health insurance, but the hassle of out of country claim forms made paying for it easier.

  • Shopping & Souvenirs £650.24 (or £43.34 a week)

I'm going to be honest here, this number makes me cringe. Knowing Europe's shopping is so much better than in Canada, I clearly went a little intense on the British shopping centers once I got there. I did come home with an almost entirely new wardrobe however! There also were some souvenirs in here, and a thank you present to my family member for the flight help.

  • Dining Out & Coffee £216.58 (or £14.43 a week)

I like coffee, clearly.

  • Field Hockey Team £184.62 (or £12.30 a week)

This included club fees, match fees, equipment, and athletic banquet/ball fees.

  • Going Out For The Night £242.40 (or £16.16 a week)

An important part of the cultural, study abroad experience, dontcha know.

Budget breakdown of study abroad for a semester

Travel Costs While Abroad:

For reference, I traveled to

  • London (3 times)
  • Manchester
  • Scotland (Edinburgh, Dundee, and the Scottish highlands)
  • Cardiff in Wales
  • Dublin in Ireland
  • Amsterdam in Holland
  • Val Thorens in France

All these trips were organized by myself and friends.

I did take a sort of pre-packaged type trip through the university's Ski & Snowboard team to Val Thorens, France. In the price of that trip is included my transportation to France, hotel, and ski fees. All the eating expenses while in France were included in the rest of my travel eating spending as they were not included in the price of the trip.

To cut costs on my trips I stayed with friends wherever I could. I ended up with friends in Scotland, Cardiff, and Dublin! Otherwise I found inexpensive hotels and hostels.

  • Travel Accommodation £86.00

This covered a couple nights in London, one night in Edinburgh, and a few nights in Amsterdam.

  • Travel Transportation £294.52

Included was my student rail card, trains to and from Manchester, London, Scotland, and Wales. There were also a few taxis and buses in here too.

  • Travel Food £282.98

One of the pains of travel is you often don't have a kitchen facility to cook in, so this is a hard expense to cut down on. Towards the end of my travels when a friend and I were really looking to cut costs we had Subway for Christmas dinner. Festive, right?

  • Travel Entertainment £310.25

This included entrance to museums, tours, and castles.

  • Val Thorens Ski Trip £607.77

This included my ski ticket for the week to the Three Valleys ski resort, accommodation for a week and transportation to and from the French Alps.

What is the total cost of studying abroad?

Alrighttt, the grand totals come to:

Savings for choosing to study abroad: $3,200.00 CAD

General Semester Expenses (which I would have had to pay roughly studying at home anyways):

  • $3,124.52 CAD tuition
  • £4,531.64 GBPin rent, groceries, transportation, entertainment, phone, banking, textbooks, laundry, medical, shopping and souvenirs, dining out and coffee, team expenses, and going out for the night.

Travel While Abroad: £1,581.52 GBP

Basically all of my general semester expenses I would have spent anyways while at home for a semester (except maybe the bank fees, and souvenirs). The travel of course was an additional cost.

And for the few of you who are curious, no my parents didn't throw money at me to go enjoy a semester abroad. I've at times worked away at 3 jobs consecutively to fund my travels, and I'm happy to do so. I don't know many people who are handed fistfuls of money by their parents who keep track of their expenses so closely... Just to quash those comments before they start.

In closing I'll say, it was the trip of a lifetime, and I loved every minute!

I always look back on my time abroad with the fondest memories, and I always aim to encourage others to go as well because I know you'll also have a fabulous experience! 

If you're considering study abroad I would suggest checking out these posts, from girls who have all gone abroad, as well as this one if you're currently in a relationship, and are debating study abroad, and this one on choosing between hotels and hostels while planning your travels!