The Hidden Costs of Studying Abroad

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The hidden costs of studying abroad you never expected!

 Article Written by Didi Onwu


didi, zim

Didi Onwu – Master of Arts in Multimedia Journalism candidate

Becoming an international student is as much exciting as it is expensive. As I prepare to study my masters in the UK, I  have learnt that paying my tuition is not my only worry.  There are many things you need to consider! It’s more than deciding what stuffed animal you should take along and what family picture should sit on your desk in your new home. Tuition, visa fees, healthcare, accommodation, living expenses are costs that seem affordable, yet there are plenty of underlying expenses attached. So what do you need to consider when assessing the cost of studying overseas, and what are the hidden expenditures?

Cost #1 Visa:

A visa fee cost is a standard part of studying overseas. However there are many requirements for obtaining a successful visa. These extra requirements make up the hidden costs of the visa process.

You thought you spoke English….

Applying for a student visa is not a one-click online application. There are several layers that make up the entire application process that will do your head in and have “frustration tears” rolling down your face. As South Africans, when applying for a student visa in countries such as United Kingdom, USA and Australia you have to prove your English competency. You’ll have to prove your abilities through the IELTS or TOEFL English examinations. These examinations are recognised internationally and are valid for a period of time.  Some institutions waiver the English competency and grant you “extraordinary exemption” and you forego a payment of approximately R3200 for the test.

Cough! Cough! Did someone say TB?

Students from Africa are considered high-risk individuals for health issues for many overseas countries. Some countries require students to do a whole series of tests in order for you to be deemed as not posing any risks. These tests are not free, so be prepared to dip into your monthly funds.

Should you have a friend that is coughing near you, take several steps away from them right now! A TB screening test is a compulsory requirement for a UK student visa if your course is longer than six months. You’ll need to budget roughly R1650 for the test that is done through the IOM at verified travel clinics in South Africa. Visit:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tuberculosis-test-for-a-uk-visa-clinics-in-south-africa/tuberculosis-testing-in-south-Africa

All this might seem daunting and tiring, but remain steadfast – you’re nearly there…

Healthcare charges

Did I say nearly there? Healthcare! This may seem straightforward but it is not. Some countries operate on free healthcare but this does not necessarily extend to international students without a fee. I had to pay about R7000+ to have access to the National Healthcare Service (NHS) when I am in in the UK. This fee also had to be paid whilst applying for my visa online. This cost cannot be ignored, as some countries require you to pay the amount before your arrival or upon such arrival. Health is not something we can ignore! Remember there will be a change in climate and altitude that may not sit well with your body. So, be aware of what the health care system is like for your chosen destination.

Cost #2 Living costs

Depending on the country of study, living costs may be steeper than at home.

For example, in London the cost of living is at the highest rate. A one-bedroom apartment (studio) costs around £290 – £390 per month in London town. Additionally, UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) require you to have a budget of at least £1,265 per month to study in London.

There are many positives and negatives of staying on or off campus. Should you decide to stay off-campus you may have to pay extra for bills such as water, electricity and council tax. In contrast, staying on campus might prove challenging as some schools insist on students moving out during semester breaks. Finding the best solution that benefits you financially is paramount in having a good experience in a new place. Sorting out your living costs separates you from using one ply or two ply toilet paper! I know, decisions, decisions.

Tip: Look into getting a part time job if your study time permits you to earn some extra money. You should also double-check any restriction on paid work that apply to international students. You do not want to be deported!

Costs #3 Flights

This area is an overlooked hidden cost.

While the stress of tuition and accommodation are in the front of our minds, we tend to forget the cost of the flights needed to get there and back.  Booking your flight is a time where luxury gives way to economical. Sometimes we may have to choose the cheapest and perhaps the longest route to get to our destination if we are on a budget. Finding a flight/airline that gives you the best price is key! If you plan on returning home during Christmas, I would advise looking at a return ticket as that sometimes works out cheaper than a one-way ticket.

Being fully prepared for your time to study overseas will help you understand the financial implications and will make your time in your chosen country less stressful. Consider all your options, look into funding such as scholarships and bursaries to ease the burden of tuition and accommodation, but most of all, keep a positive attitude as you embark on a new journey. Enjoy your time abroad!

Written by: Didi Onwu

Age: 22

Educational Background: Bachelor of Arts in Print Production & Media; BA Honours in Media Theory & Practice, University of Cape Town

Pursuing: Masters in Multimedia Journalism


Zimasa Qolohle

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