Parent's won't pay for you to travel? Have to pay it all by yourself but you have no money? Sounds like a daunting task to pull off but it's possible, and it can be affordable. All it takes is some time, determination, and these 3 steps.
1. Plan ahead
You will be spending a lot of time planning throughout the whole process. In the beginning, you need to choose what other continents in the world you want to study abroad in. Then, look at the types of study abroad programs that your college offers and where they are located. The prices may vary depending on where the program is located, the duration of the program, and whether it's a broad curriculum or focused on a specific topic.
My college, Florida State, has nearly 30 programs in 16 countries. You can learn about entrepreneurship in Bali, dance in Paris, even study law at Oxford University in England. Now, if your college doesn't offer the program you want, you should definitely look into exchange programs or study abroad programs at other universities through ISA.
Another helpful tip would be to plan what courses you will be taking abroad. Different programs have different curriculums. It would be beneficial if the classes you would be taking would be aligned with your Gen-Ed courses/ your major and keep you on track for graduation.
As far as planning to travel, a good rule of thumb is to book trips about two months or two weeks in advance, unless you're planning on going to a massive festival like Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. For that one, you should book as soon as possible, like eight to ten months in advance if you want a good place in the city for a comfortable price.
My travelling advice: use Skyscanner.com for flights and Airbnb (with entire place filter on) for accommodations. If you're in Europe, then use GoEuro.com for trains and buses. Also, note that an Airbnb that can be expensive for one person can be very cheap for multiple people.
2. Cut costs and save!
Here's where you need to really buckle down. Of course, it depends on how much financing you need to put in upfront. Some universities like FSU have a deferment option where you can defer up to 100% of the program cost up until the start of the program. This is meant for people who want to use their financial aid to pay off most, if not all of the cost.
That being said, apply for financial aid as early as possible. Preferably, you should apply as soon as the FAFSA goes live (midnight EST on October 1st). If you have already been in college for at least a year, you can make a good guesstimate of how much aid you'll receive based off of last year's aid package.
Let's say you get enough aid to cover the entire cost or can have your family members pay it off, you still need money on you for food, travel, etc. You will need around $4k - 7k to live and travel comfortably around Europe. You can make and save around this much with enough time, effort, and patience. If you are planning a year or two in advance, you are at a major advantage.
If you're apartment hunting, look for subleasing at a nice place for a cheap deal. To find these deals, join any and all university subleasing/reletting-related Facebook groups. There are more than a handful of students looking to get out of their leases.
You should also be taking up a job or two (or even three) during school and over the summer. Also, try to make your course schedule as lenient as possible to balance work-school. If you still need to finish any required electives for graduation, now would be the time to take them. Tip: local private country clubs (golf courses) tend to pay well.
In order to save money, you also need to cut all unnecessary costs. Try eliminating eating out entirely from your expenses. It sounds extreme but it takes one step at a time. Instead of shelling out $5 at Dunkin or Starbucks every morning or re-upping on Keurig cups, drink lots of water. You don't need caffeine, but you do need to hydrate your body. Instead of eating out or paying for groceries, pay for a limited meal plan on campus and buy a reusable to-go container.
By doing all of the above, I made and saved $10,000 for my fall semester abroad in Spain. But as I said earlier, you don't need to save that much for a semester. While I was abroad, I had one trip that cost me $2k for one weekend, traveled almost everywhere including London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, and Paris, and still saved $2k after the semester was over.
Traveling throughout Europe is a lot less expensive than you might think. Before you travel to a place, Google "tourist traps in xx city." It will list all the most overrated and overpriced activities and foods in the city (e.g. HONEST GUIDE for Prague).
3. Apply for the Gilman Scholarship
What I really mean is apply to any and all scholarships that you are eligible for. For me, the Benjamin A. Gilman was the most relevant and rewarding scholarship that I applied for. It was also the only scholarship I received. It is a need-based scholarship funded by the U.S. Department of State for students that are U.S. citizens and are eligible to receive the Pell Grant (make sure you are eligible before applying). The Gilman offers scholarships up to $5k. Application deadlines vary per semester.
The application itself has two main essays. The first essay is for you to explain why you need/deserve the scholarship. The second essay is for you to explain a future Follow-On Service Project that you will undertake after your study abroad program. This Follow-On Service Project is meant for you to promote and increase awareness for study abroad and the Gilman scholarship to your peers and your community.
It took a lot of effort, time, and patience for me to pay for my semester abroad. But it was more than worth it. I am sharing all this to encourage those who want to travel but don't think they can pull it off. Traveling the world as a college student is not only possible, but it can be affordable too.