Yes, I am a college student travel blogger. And no, I haven’t studied abroad.

It is one of the most frequent questions that I am asked. I respond “no” and wait for their reaction and follow-up statement that’s something along the polite version of “How the hell are you a travel blogger then?”

This is not one of the posts to bash everyone who has chosen to study abroad. In fact, I think it is one of the most rewarding things a person can do in their lifetime. If a good opportunity comes about, take it.

I went to college with the mindset that I was going to study abroad. I was excited and researched everything from ‘A Semester at Sea’ to a year in Australia to six weeks galloping around Europe. I dreamt of saying I survived college in another country, that I met many friends from all around the world, that I was fully submerged in a new culture.

It’s a once in a lifetime adventure, and those who venture into the unknown journey only return happy and full of newfound knowledge. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

The truth is, I chose not to study abroad because of the cost that comes along with it.



A Semester at Sea came with a price tag of $25,000. Australia would have been a solid $20,000, and six weeks in Europe $11,000. I will be the first to admit that I have a fear of debt and that I would not enjoy the views, sites, or experiences knowing that I had thousands of dollars (with interest) looming over my head.

Studying abroad is easy, and that is what makes it so pricey. Universities do an A+ job of finding you a place to live, things to do, and excursions to adventure on. They’ll book a convenient flight with a well-known airline so your mind will be set at ease. It’s all so nice, but so unaffordable.

It just wasn’t in my budget.




When looking at the big picture, I was frustrated. Were the loans worth it? My inner wanderlust had been pounding for years. In high school I waited to leave, I got talked into college where I still wanted to leave, and then I was discovering I’d have to wait another three years before I can do anything about it. Finding out Santa wasn’t real was bad, but this felt so much worse.

Frustrated, I needed to make sense of why I should wait - so I did some math.

Already planning to go to Europe once I graduated, I laid out costs. 12 weeks came to a budget around $4,000. This included everything. Flights, accommodation, food, activities, and hidden expenses. This was monumental compared to the $11,000 for 6 weeks through study abroad. In simpler terms it meant this:

On my own, spending twice as long in Europe cost 60% less.




Whew! And I realized waiting those years were worth it. I could continue to work, save up more money, and travel at lesser costs.

I also realized that studying abroad isn’t necessarily the adventure travel I dreamt of.

I like to camp, which is never expensive. I can sleep under the stars. Hiking is mostly free. Jumping off cliffs is mostly free. I like to couchsurf, which is free. I’m happier sleeping outside, therefore paying extra for hotels and apartments doesn’t make much sense.

My trips this far have been short, but powerful. I’ve managed to spend weeks flying, adventuring, resorting, and discovering while still saving money for travel ahead. I’m a travel blogger and traveling is what I do, but the responsibility of school and jobs mean I travel less but appreciate more. I don’t regret it.

I first made the decision against studying abroad three years ago, and now I’m about to graduate college. I gave up a semester of fun, for many months (or years) of travel ahead. The future I dreamt of is now on the brink of reality. I’m going to Europe. I get to do it with Josh - someone I love, and not a bus of strangers. I’ve booked a flight from Toronto to Lisbon for $285. We are still budgeting no more than $4,000.

Maybe the saying is true; good things come to those who wait.




  1. Lindsay on January 27, 2016 at 7:22 PM

    Wow, I really needed this. After years of dreaming about studying abroad, I now find myself a sophomore in college realizing that it’s just not in my family’s budget. If I don’t remain an RA, I can’t stay in school let alone study abroad. It broke my heart but reading this made me feel content with my decision. Thank you so much Shalee.

    • Shalee on February 4, 2016 at 6:53 PM

      Glad to help, Lindsay! Stay strong, I know it’s incredibly difficult at the moment. When time comes, you’ll realize the extra wait was worth it 🙂

  2. Amanda C @ UnrestingSea on January 27, 2016 at 10:10 PM

    You’re so right — study abroad IS expensive!

    I always regretted not having a “proper” study abroad experience during University. I know there are a lot of opportunities for study abroad scholarships, but those are never a guarantee.

    Instead, I did a ‘service learning’ trip through my school, teaching English in China. One of the main reasons I selected this trip was a government stipend was provided for the program. Most of my expenses were covered. I wish there were more opportunities like that for students. College is stupidly expensive enough!

    • Shalee on February 4, 2016 at 6:54 PM

      I’ve always thought teaching English in another country would be so much fun! What better way to get into the culture. Did you like China? I’ve also thought Thailand would be amazing for it.

  3. JC on March 9, 2016 at 7:05 PM

    I actually studied abroad and it was less expensive than staying home, airfare included.

    I had a very supportive professor with some strong international connections who basically facilitated my carving out my own semester-long exchange program (wrote letters to the university, helped deal with my university). There was a lot of work in the lead up – I had to figure out my own study visa, transport, credit approval, etc. The exchange school did have some housing arrangements in place for foreign students but little else – and I wasn’t even sure when I was arriving that those arrangements were confirmed.

    I ended up in a country with a lower-valued currency and a lower cost of living overall, plus I was able to pay the tuition charged there which ended up being half of what I paid at home. This left me able to use the rest to plan trips over school breaks and weekends (I also worked in a layover where I was able to visit Paris on my way home).

    The major downside to this was that there was some serious risk involved – I had to oversee every step of the way, there was really no one available to guide me or if something went wrong, and any mistake could have jeopardized my graduation date (and a post grad job I had accepted). There were many times where I was quietly panicking and considering: if this goes badly, what are my options?

    Worth it. If you’re crazy, and lucky, you can possibly build your own road.

  4. Lauren on April 22, 2016 at 4:18 PM

    I feel this! I’m one of my only friends that didn’t study abroad, yet I’ve done more traveling than all but 1. I did go to undergrad (well… and now grad school) out of state, so that counted as my culture shock 😉

    • Shalee on April 28, 2016 at 1:47 PM

      Exactly! So expensive! Thought I would never survive waiting, but I am so glad I did.

  5. Ash on November 15, 2016 at 4:56 AM

    I agree. I’ve always wanted to study abroad but arranging for finances have been the biggest obstacle. There are other problems too but mostly it’s a very costly affair. I wish there were more scholarships available. You did the right thing.

    • Shalee on November 21, 2016 at 12:46 PM

      Thanks, Ash! It’s so difficult to turn away from opportunities like that, but it’s fiscally the right decision for a lot of people. I ended up saving and going to Europe for three months this summer for cheaper than a two week study abroad trip I turned down.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.