Does it make sense to take out a loan to study abroad?
January 17, 2018 11:04 AM   Subscribe

I studied abroad in South Korea a few years ago and loved it. Now I want to go back next fall but it seems like it will be too much for me to save up for in five months. With airfare, tuition, housing and personal expenses it'll be about $10000. I can probably save up $4000 with my current job. I was thinking about getting a second job but it might be too much as I am a full time student. I will try to find some scholarships to apply to.

The cost is so much because I'm paying out of pocket since I'm not going through my college. Last time I went I was able to afford it because my family helped me pay and I also got financial aid through the government. I was thinking about taking out a private loan. I already have 25k in student debt.
posted by starlybri to Work & Money (13 answers total)
 
What is your major, and how directly does studying abroad in South Korea relate to your future career plans? My personal feeling is that substantially adding to your student debt isn't worth it, considering that you already had the experience once. You could pursue other ways to live and work in South Korea if that's your passion, or push your plans back and look for scholarships and other non-loan support, or more time to save money on your own.
posted by handful of rain at 11:09 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


Personally I would wait and look for paid opportunities abroad after you graduate. I have a lot of friends who taught English in Asia or Europe for a year or two after they graduated and loved it. It's not super lucrative, but at least you're not taking out loans and hopefully doing at least a little bit better than breaking even.

You could also look into programs that are sponsored by your university so that more of the cost might be covered by financial aid. This will also ensure that they credits transfer back properly so that you're not taking out loans for classes that possibly may not end up counting toward graduation in the way you need them to.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:10 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


I'm a nursing major, and studying abroad isn't really related to my career. I want to do it more for the experience of living in Korea, since I wss only there for a month and I couldn't get enough of it. I can say going is really important to me though.
posted by starlybri at 11:28 AM on January 17


If it's purely for the experience and the academic component won't really matter for your career, the $4K you can save through your current job will equally well pay for a trip to South Korea. And if you want to stay longer, you can always save up longer versus having to pay on a school calendar's schedule. There's no reason to take out loans for tuition, plus if you stay in a hostel or other inexpensive housing, you can likely save a ton over whatever student housing would cost you.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:33 AM on January 17 [8 favorites]


OK so you have 25K in student debt now, and you're looking at adding another 6K for a total of 31K. I personally:

a) do not think that that is crazy;
b) believe you should do the things that are experience priorities when you are a student that you cannot easily do after school.

However, what you really need to do is balance the value of this experience against your anticipated total debt load by the time you hit the workforce.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:35 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


Either just take your savings and go on a trip in the summer--stay somewhere cheap (but safe) and immerse yourself. Or think about taking a year after graduation to teach English there or something like that!
posted by TwoStride at 11:36 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


What definition of "makes sense" are you thinking of? It does not make sense from an economic or career perspective, no. And most people don't think it's particularly responsible to take out loans to go on vacation (because don't fool yourself, that's what this is) when they don't have a job lined up to pay them back. But you need to think about whether it makes sense based on your own planned life trajectory.
posted by metasarah at 11:42 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I did this and do not regret it at all.

I paid for college almost entirely through loans, and when I realized that I could do an extra ninth semester abroad (in Beijing) with an additional semester's worth of loans, I went for it. It added to my existing debt load, it's true. It was also an incredible experience that was important to my development as a person (I had never even been abroad before), and the projects and volunteer work I was able to do there were also helpful in later job applications.

In umpteen years, I can absolutely guarantee you that I'm not going to look at the remaining few thousand bucks of my student loans and think "I wish I hadn't gone to China in 2010." Not on your life.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:20 PM on January 17 [9 favorites]


Hi there, study abroad advisor here. First, check out the Freeman ASIA scholarships for funding for study in Asia and Gilman Fellowships for study abroad in general. Deadlines are fixed, and you will need to work with your study abroad office and your financial aid office. Most universities have an individual that will help advise you through applying for prestigious scholarships such as these.

Next, take a REAL STRONG look at yourself and decide whether your love for Korea is enough to change your major. Maybe it is, and then you can make the case that studying abroad in Korea is academically essential. What will you do with that major after graduation? Maybe it isn't, and nursing really is the way you want your career to go. Can you combine interests: major in nursing, minor in Korean or Asian studies or political science or peace studies or cross-cultural communication or whatever? In this case, you could also make the argument that a second semester abroad could be academically useful.

Otherwise, I would consider very strongly the suggestion to go back to Korea once you have your diploma in hand and teach English in some capacity. Teaching English is a great way to have an excuse to live in another country with limited responsibility, but yet still have a role in society that is not a tourist. Even if teaching is not necessarily on your career radar, the skills you learn while teaching English--patience, creativity, problem-solving, communication across barriers, interacting with people--will serve you very well as a nurse. There are lots of methods to get yourself a teaching job in Korea. And I'm fairly sure Metafilter has several folks who have done this.
posted by Liesl at 12:30 PM on January 17 [8 favorites]


You might consider looking into the details of this program
Korean Government Scholarship Program
posted by FakePalindrome at 4:24 PM on January 17


Came to say part of what Liesl said, if you can take a year between graduation and entering nursing, try the EPIK program. Spend time in Korea and pay down those loans or save up some funds to get you relocated and started in your nursing career. If you find you do like teaching English, in the long run having a nursing background will really help. Language programs for professionals are big, and you could likely teach in a nursing program.
posted by Gotanda at 4:36 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


If you take a year or two to work in Korea, you could knock back some of your student debt. If you get a scholarship for studying in Korea, you can spend more time there without adding debt. Either way, you totally can do this without more loans.

Also, study abroad can mess with plans to graduate by a certain time because you can't get necessary credits while studying abroad, or you can but they don't transfer because your college is being a jerk. So if possible, I would finish your current degree first. Get that in the bag. Korea will still be there.

Signed, a person who spent a half year studying abroad in Japan, but it wasn't enough, so came back to Japan several years after graduating college. Hi from Japan 7 years later.
posted by sacchan at 7:58 PM on January 17


I found an alternative to taking out a loan. The school I want to go has a language program that is way cheaper than the one I was considering. I didn't think to research it until people in this thread started talking about alternatives. So thanks everyone!
posted by starlybri at 9:28 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


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