I remember volunteering at my university’s Scholarship Office booth during the annual Study Abroad Fair, and adamantly trying to convince people to apply for international grants scholarships.
The keyword here being convince.
The dominating thought in my mind was, why would anyone not want free money? And second of all, why would anyone not want free money to travel the world with?
My most visited article of all time was where I explain how I won $40,000 in study abroad scholarships to live and study in Dubai, UAE for free.
But despite thinking its common sense to pursue these funding opportunities, I was shocked by just how many students that day wandered around the fair interested in all of these programs that required them to pay, yet passing right by the scholarship booth that would pay THEM to study internationally.
But then I thought—maybe international travel grants aren’t in their mental vocabulary? Maybe they have misconceptions about them that make them think they aren’t worth applying to?
So for my fellow high school, undergraduate, graduate, Ph.D., and non-students, here are what I believe to be some common misconceptions about travel grants, study abroad scholarships, and international funding, and my debunkation (it’s a word, don’t argue with me) of them.
1. I won’t win/there’s too much competition…
This isn’t just wrong, it’s actually the furthest thing from the truth. Well, not that you might not win them—that’s a possibility for anything you apply to.
But one thing I can tell you after winning a good amount of scholarships myself and talking to the judges who go through the applications is that the most common comment that I hear is that people win scholarships because not enough people apply to them. Of the scholarships that I have won, 2 of them I’ve been told I want because not enough people applied. Seriously!
With study abroad scholarships, it’s like a bystander effect. You think “oh, so many people have applied, I won’t bother”, when actually no one has applied!
And you know what, even if the competition is stiff, you definitely won’t win if you don’t even submit an application… Just sayin’.
2. You have to be a college student to receive travel grants…
So wrong! As I mentioned, the Fulbright is a scholarship for practically anyone who has graduated from their bachelor’s degree—recent graduates, graduate students, Ph.D. students, post-doc students, etc. Even faculty and teachers can study abroad! And you can bet that there are study abroad scholarships for each of those demographics.
I share funded travel opportunities almost daily that range from ages 16 to 35-years-old, and do not require student status. Some actually stipulate that you cannot be a student! This is a huge misconception that I really want to break in our minds—there are funded travel opportunities for everyone.
In another of my articles, I share both domestic and international travel grants for kids in grades K-12. Your kids could begin winning travel grants as young as 12-years-old!
Example: In June I shared this travel grant for a completely funded, one-week trip to Azerbaijan. All you had to do is be between 18 – 29 yrs old and write an essay on the topic “What Do I Know About Azerbaijan”. That’s it.
In August, one of my followers Frances Tish—a recent college graduate who was working full-time—told me she’d applied and won! She spent one week learning about Azerbaijani culture, customs, and interacting with the other scholarship winners from around the world.
3. You have to demonstrate financial need to qualify…
The only example of this that I know of is the Gilman International Scholarship, in which to apply you must have received the Federal Pell Grant.
Most organizations know that if you’re applying for the funded travel opportunity for a reason, and
There are people out there whose parents make enough money to disqualify them from financial aid, but they are still paying for their college and themselves for whatever reason and cannot “prove” financial aid, even if they do need it. However, you lot still have an equal chance of getting scholarships to study abroad!
Example: I just added this STōK-BBATICAL Travel Grant in my Youth Travel Opportunities list. No financial aided need for this $30,000 grant. You’re awarded a STōK-bbatical travel dream of choice for 2-4 weeks, and paid travel expenses — flights, lodging and your STōK-bbatical experience (up to $20,000) along with a $10,000 stipend.
4. What if applying is a waste of my time…
Your chance of winning a particular scholarship is similar to your chances of getting into college—it increases proportionally with the quality of your application.
If you half-ass your applications and the effort that you put in, you likely won’t win the scholarship and it will have been a waste of time.
But, if you do your research beforehand, apply to specialized opportunities that fit you, and invest time into your application, you greatly sway the odds in your favor and there is a higher chance you’ll win and get that return on your time investment!
In my article I mentioned in the introduction, I talk about the techniques I specifically use to optimize my applications.
5. There MUST be strings attached…
False. (Mostly.) One study abroad scholarship that I won in college, the Boren Language Scholarship, does happen to have a mandatory 1-year of government service following your college graduation. But most don’t.
I’ve found that most travel grants s are funded by the federal government or by private organizations that simply want American students to be competitive in a global job market, to develop a global perspective, and to collect cultural experiences. No strings attached.
But, to be sure, make sure you understand the conditions of your award and read that fine print!
6. I just don’t have the time to apply…
This, I can understand. You want to study abroad and already have to apply to so many things, why add scholarships that you might not win on top of it all?
All I can tell you is that having someone else pay for things for you always makes them better than having to pay for yourself. If there is accessible, free money floating around out there why would you not want to take a chance?Debunking 8 common study abroad scholarships—YOU can win them, I promise! Click To Tweet
7. My field doesn’t have any options for funded international travel…
Having studied very niche fields (biomedical engineering and then statistics), let me tell you that is absolutely false.
Some majors (business majors and international relations majors, particularly) naturally have more international travel opportunities than others—meaning there are more schools that offer business and international relations programs, more business and I.R. majors nationally do study abroad, and a better chance those business and I.R. credits will transfer back to your home university. But every field of study has scholarship options, guaranteed.
But specifically my fellow STEM majors, you have TONS of options for funding internships, research, and education abroad that you may not know about.
I also know Nursing majors, Biology majors, Psychology majors, Craft majors, and even Chemical Engineering majors who have studied in places like Greece, Italy, the UAE, Guatemala, Jamaica, and even more! And again, you don’t even have to use your student status, there are funded travel opportunities completely outside of your major you can apply for.
The Fulbright Grant is a fantastic travel grant for literally any field, and students and non-students may apply.
8. You can only study abroad and get funding for classes in your field…
I’m a Mathematics major that studied abroad in the UAE for 9 months and earned a Certificate in Middle Eastern studies… So that’s not true!
You can receive study abroad and receive travel funding for:
- Travel conferences
- Education unrelated to your major
- Language education abroad
- International internships
- Private research opportunities
- International volunteering
- International fellowships
- International leadership summits
Don’t believe me? I keep an active registry of all of the amazing travel opportunities I find right here.
What should you take away from this?
I hope the lesson in this article is that you can’t limit yourself, because when you do that you stop searching for opportunities.
“I can’t do this because…” “There’s no point in me trying…” “I can’t find the time…”
They’re all excuses, and in short, they’re cop-outs for you to not put in the effort. Find the passion to study abroad. Put in the time and work to plan it. Research funding options, and apply to them to the best of your ability. Repeat.
In the great words of Beyoncé:
“I see it, I want it. I stunt, yeah, yellow bone it. I dream it, I work hard, I grind ’til I own it.“
If Beyoncé tells you to grind ’til you own it, you grind ’til you own it. Period.
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I want to help those seeking education abroad opportunities however I can, so I’m building on an online course to guide you through the research, scholarship application, and follow-up process.
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Be sure to PIN this post if you loved it, and leave a comment with any study abroad scholarship advice I may have missed, or your own scholarship or study abroad story!