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International Student Financial Prep List

August 6, 2022

Figuring out and organizing your finances as a student is hard; when you’re an international student, that can get even more complicated. In addition, international programs are far more expensive than studying in Canada, but their experience can be worth it. If you are considering studying abroad, you’ll have some work to do as you prepare, including figuring out what to prepare financially. So, what needs to be on your international student financial prep list? Let’s get started!

School Costs When Studying Abroad

As a Canadian student planning to study abroad, the largest of your expenses, and probably the first ones on your mind, are the school costs themselves, but, remember, the cost of schooling doesn’t just include your international tuition; it also includes:

  • Your accommodations: Either through on-campus or off-campus. Each has pros and cons (such as meal plans, cost, and convenience). Make sure you know if your program requires on-campus housing or not. If you’re living off-campus, depending on how far you are, the cost of some sort of public transportation may also be a factor to consider if a bus pass isn’t already included in your tuition.
  • Textbook and supply costs vary from program to program and course to course, so look into your program to see how much you need to set aside for this. Often, the recommendation is around $500 - $1000 in the foreign currency of your school program. Avoid using credit cards for these small payments as you don’t get the best exchange rates with your country of origin bank for these transactions.
  • Application fees: It’ll cost you money to apply for the program in the first place. Once you get accepted, you may also have to pay a deposit to hold your spot. Don’t worry, though. That deposit cost will usually be taken off of your tuition cost.

These costs are unavoidable, and you must be fully prepared to pay for them yourself, via your parents, through loans or scholarships. With the average cost of studying abroad being up to USD 80,000, smart money management can help you save up to 2%- 3% with strategic currency exchange planning.

In our recent article, Saving Big While Paying for International Tuition and Student Expenses, we shared how you can manage these expenses for less by selecting a trusted currency exchange partner such as VBCE. We also shared the top schools our clients attend abroad and the top programs.

Other Costs For International Students

In addition to the cost of school, you’ll also have some additional costs to consider, don’t forget to have money aside for these things:

  • Your passport: If you don’t have a passport or need to renew yours, that can cost you upwards of $160. It gets even more expensive if you haven’t gotten your passport months in advance and need to pay extra to rush the process.
    • Keep an eye on the backlog of passport applications we’re currently seeing and apply well in advance. Canada's government estimates a 13-week processing time by mail for passport services as of summer 2022; some applicants report experiencing a longer delay.
  • A student visa: In Canada, the application for a student visa is around $150, so check how much it is where you’re from and make sure to set that money aside. You also want to ensure you apply for your student visa in advance, as these can take many months to process.
  • Travel fare: Your plane ticket will add to your expenses, but you also want to set aside some money for unexpected travel needs like taxis, subways, etc., to get around to locations at your destination.
  • Health insurance: This is a big one! Most programs will require you to buy school-sanctioned international health insurance to participate in the program. If they don’t, make sure you have a personal insurance policy that covers you internationally.

You must factor in all of these costs when preparing to study internationally. It’s easy to forget that tuition and housing aren’t your only costs to worry about. All the little things you’ll need add up quickly, so it’s important to know what you’re in for.

Decide what expenses are going to be one-time costs or recurring expenses. Depending on where you decide to study abroad, you’ll have different possibilities to manage your money. If you attend school abroad in the US, you can set up a USD bank account at your Canadian bank, bridge the exchange between your two bank accounts with a currency partner such as VBCE and get a stronger exchange rate than your bank offers.

For recurring payments, you can use an online platform such as VBCE Online to schedule and transfer payments or international wire transfers 24/7 from the convenience of your home. In our article Five Reasons to Switch To Online Money Transfers in 2022, we share the top reasons that managing your currency exchange online just makes sense.

Government support for studying abroad

The Government of Canada website has some resources for international scholarships for Canadians studying internationally and non-Canadians studying internationally in Canada. You can find that information here.

Working while studying abroad

If you’re studying internationally for a while but need some form of income, keep in mind that most student visas allow you to work up to 20 hours a week. If you’re planning on working, consider that when creating your budget and preparing financially as an international student.

It’s important to not completely rely financially on working right away as an international student as, depending on the place you’re moving to, the job market can be difficult to find a job. Give yourself some leeway in your financial planning to give yourself time to find a job just in case it takes a while.

Deciding to study abroad

Being an international student can be difficult when figuring out your finances. Still, it’s an experience that can be worth it and open up the world of possibilities to you as you build your career. As you review the steps to study abroad successfully, remember that with financial services, there is value in building a relationship with a trusted currency exchange partner. We share How to Get More From Your Currency Exchange Rate, highlighting the value of partnering with a trusted firm when deciding to study abroad.

Get in touch

Interested in learning more about smart money management when studying abroad? Contact VBCE to learn more about the options available, you can stop by a branch, email or call us to review the options that best suit your needs.

Personal account services ideal for students:

  1. VBCE services for international students
  2. How the VBCE Online Platform works