No matter how you slice it, studying abroad is expensive. Tuition, housing fees, airfare, visa fees, living expenses (particularly in Europe) and international health insurance can add up to a scary price tag. What many do not realize, however, is that Georgetown coordinated programs are not the only roads to foreign study.

The Office of International Programs eases the process of finding a study abroad program and sorting out the logistics of getting to the site. But the cost of an OIP program can be a turn-off for even the most enthusiastic student. Georgetown tuition transfers to all study abroad programs coordinated by the university. OIP advertises this fact as a benefit; its rationale is that no student should be discouraged from going abroad by higher foreign tuition fees. But when you consider that tuition at many foreign universities is dramatically cheaper than that at Georgetown, this policy seems slightly less appealing.

Undergraduate tuition at Sciences Po in Paris, for example, is 8,900 euros per year (about $12,400) for non-European Union students. The undergraduate program at the East China Normal University in Shanghai runs between $2,400 and $2,650 per year. Yet students who study through Georgetown at either of those schools will pay the standard $19,884 per semester fee, plus incidental expenses.

Granted, some programs – such as those at the university in Shanghai or the American University in Cairo – provide extensive on-site support for students in the Georgetown program. But many others, such as those at the Sciences Po, offer a low level of on-site support, and encourage more direct integration into the foreign university.

Students looking to jump into a full immersion experience should not be afraid to shop around for non-Georgetown opportunities. More specifically, those who are open to direct matriculation ought to consider studying abroad independently. Doing so, of course, requires taking a leave of absence from Georgetown and independently arranging housing and enrollment abroad. In addition, credit transfer is not guaranteed for non-Georgetown programs.

But studying abroad independently is not as intimidating as it may sound. Many foreign universities, such as

Kings College London, offer admissions procedures tailored to students who apply independently for a semester or a year.

Leaves of absence can be used both for studying internationally and for taking on full-time internships or employment during the school year. It is an under-publicized option that serves to round out a college education with some relevant real-world experience. Studying or working abroad, or even staying within the country, is a different but beneficial path to consider.

any students who earn credit through AP test scores or summer classes can afford to forfeit a semester’s worth of credit and still graduate in four years. A little research and careful planning can earn you the full study abroad experience without the full price. If you can handle a little heavy lifting in terms of logistics, the payoff from taking a break from the Hilltop can be enormous.

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