How to Study Abroad for Free

Written by Azeemen

Study costs in many countries continue to rise, and it might seem unachievable to study without spending tens of thousands, let alone for free. Believe us when we say it is possible. You just need to do your research and know where to look.

Select the Right Country

Choosing the right country is the easiest way to unlock the opportunity to study for free. There are a surprising number of countries which make it a priority to keep their education systems open to people irrespective of social and economic background.

It also doesn’t mean that you automatically have to compromise on the quality of education. There are many impressive, world-renowned universities which are available for you to apply to which won’t charge you tuition fees.

Europe is where you will find a large number of opportunities. Some top countries we recommend which don’t charge tuition fees are- Germany, Norway, Luxembourg, and France. Often this applies to only to the public, not private institutions.

Exactly how free might also vary a little. However, even when some kind of administration or services fee is charged it is incredibly low by US standards.

You may find that if you are looking to complete a full degree program as an international student, you have to do so in the local language. But, there is an increasing number of degrees taught in English. At the masters and PhD level, programs are more common than for undergraduate studies.

In Finland, non-EU/EEA students can study for free when they undertake programs in either Swedish or Finnish. Similarly for Czech speakers who want to study at a public university in the Czech Republic. If you don’t speak Czech, paying for a language course will open up the possibility. In Nordic countries, PhD programs are generally free, and they will often even come with a wage.

Or, look to Argentina in South America, where study at public institutions is without tuition fees for international students. Brazil also offers free education to Portuguese speakers, in its public institutions.

Not quite free, but still very inexpensive countries include- Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Austria. In all these countries you can find institutions which charge fees of between $2000 and $5000 per year. Still a bargain.

Apply Directly to the University

You will find there are many comprehensive programs offered by third-party providers that will organize your study abroad for you. Your own home university may also have programs on offer.

These programs provide assistance with the application process, helping you find accommodation, or even include accommodation, plus help with integration and administration in the new country. However, you are going to pay a large premium for these services. Avoid these additional fees and apply directly at the institution you wish to study at.

To access the free programs in the countries listed here, you will need to apply directly to all the institutions you are interested in. Tackling the paperwork and the process yourself will also give you the first taste of the language and culture of the country and how the university operates.

Explore Scholarship Opportunities

This might be the first option most people think of to study for free.

If you are lucky enough to be academically gifted, definitely explore the many scholarship opportunities which are available. But, don’t give up hope just because you aren’t successful in obtaining a scholarship.

You can explore options through your home institution, as well as what is available at your preferred destination institutions. You could be surprised to find a scholarship in exactly your speciality which has few applicants. Search online or ask at your home institution for information on recommended scholarship databases to search.

Living Expenses

In the absence of a scholarship, the next biggest challenge is living expenses. This is unavoidable, but not insurmountable. Yes, you can study in Norway and really pay no tuition fees, but it is expensive to live there due to the high standard of living. However, if you select a smaller city in Germany, or opt to study in Spain or Argentina, the costs decrease dramatically.

In some countries, you will be permitted to work alongside your study. This varies and is often capped at around 20 hours per week. In some cases, you can work more or only during semester breaks. Germany, Norway, and Spain are three countries where students may be allowed to work.

Also, take a look at these tips for reducing your costs.

Tips to Keep Your Expenses Down During Your Study Abroad

Plan ahead, book early

This applies to many things, but travel is the big one. You can find some great deals if you start looking for flights well in advance and check regularly for discounts. Also, choose to fly mid-week, or take the flights at ‘less convenient’ hours. Aim to book around 50 – 100 days before your departure, for the cheapest flights and options.

Make full use of your student discount

Once you are enrolled and have your student ID, be sure to take the time and research all the ways it can save you money. From cheap transportation to museum entry, and even food and drink offers, get to know what discounts you are entitled to. Small savings here and there do add up.

Live like a local

The best way to keep your costs down is to live the way the locals do. Don’t spend every night getting take-out or eating at restaurants  – go to the local grocery store and cook at home. It is another great way to further immerse yourself in the local culture as well.

This rule also applies to find accommodation. If possible avoid using an agency and hunt for a shared student dwelling where you can live with locals or other international students, rather than on campus. This might take more work, but if you are planning to stay for a year, or do your whole degree abroad, it is definitely worth the extra effort.

Once you have landed in your destination, you can more easily access locals for assistance. Most student cities have plenty of other English speaking students and expats willing to help newcomers out.

You can see that with a little extra effort, some patience and persistence it is possible to study abroad without needing a huge amount of cash. If you are willing to be flexible with the location, and especially if you are willing to learn a new language, there are many options for free or very low-cost study abroad.

Best Scholarships for International Students

  • Cate Haste award in History for International Students at the University of Sussex, UK
  • Full-Time International Student Scholarships at Thammasat University, Thailand
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship for International Students at Umea University, Sweden
  • UC International First Year funding for International Students in New Zealand, 2019
  • Strathclyde Business School Deans Excellence Scholarships for International Students


About the author


Leave a Comment