Studying abroad can be eye-opening and humbling, challenging, inspiring — and expensive.
The scholarships below can help you foot the bill. They’re ideal for college students pursuing unique international experiences, especially in places where people speak critical-need languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Russian.
Before you start packing your bags and planning your itinerary, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. These scholarships and others may require the FAFSA to confirm your family’s financial need.
For undergraduate students:
This nonprofit offers $5,000 scholarships per semester for undergraduate study-abroad students. In addition to the general study-abroad scholarships available through this fund, there are specific awards reserved for LGBTQ students; student athletes; students from Texas, Minnesota or Portland, Oregon; and students studying in Vietnam or Southeast Asia. The application requires an essay, faculty recommendation letter and financial aid form.
For students studying in nontraditional destinations:
Through this program, the U.S. State Department awards scholarships up to $8,000 for students studying in countries where the predominant language is a critical need language, and up to $5,000 for students studying in other countries. You have to be a federal Pell Grant recipient to be eligible. The program favors students from diverse ethnic backgrounds; first-generation college students; those studying science, technology, engineering or math; and students traveling to places other than Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
For undergraduate students with a Phi Kappa Phi chapter on their campus:
The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi awards 50 grants of $1,000 each every year to undergraduates who enroll in an accredited study-abroad program. You don’t need to be a member of Phi Kappa Phi, but you must attend an institution with an active chapter. You need at least a 3.75 grade point average to qualify, and the application requires two letters of recommendation.
For students pursuing careers in U.S. national security:
These scholarships help finance unique study-abroad experiences for undergraduate students who plan to work on national security for the federal government. However, this program doesn’t guarantee you a government job after graduation — you have to find one yourself. The program preferences students who study abroad for two or more semesters; study in countries crucial to national security; and study certain African, Asian, Eastern European and Middle Eastern languages. Recipients in summer study programs get $8,000, recipients in semester-long programs get $10,000, and recipients studying abroad for a full academic year get $20,000.
For students who want be be immersed in a unique language:
The Critical Language Scholarship Program is a fully funded intensive summer language immersion program for American undergraduate and graduate students. You’ll receive credit through Bryn Mawr College. You can choose to focus on one of 14 critical languages for your eight- to 10-week immersion, including Arabic, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Punjabi, Russian, Arabic and Urdu. Some languages require that you have studied the language for one or two years previously, but others don’t require any prior experience. The application requires two letters of recommendation, and the program preferences students who plan to continue studying the language after the program and use it in a future career.
For students who want to apply to multiple scholarships with one application:
Known as CIEE, this nonprofit awards study-abroad scholarships to academically strong students, students who have historically been unable to study abroad, and students who want to be “ambassadors” for study-abroad experiences after they return to campus. There are 18 CIEE scholarships programs available, and one application puts you in the running for those you qualify for. Award amounts range by program, but can be up to $10,000.
For undergraduate students studying in Japan:
This organization awards about 100 scholarships each year to undergraduate students studying in Japan. You don’t need to have studied Japanese to be eligible. Recipients get $2,500 for semester programs and $4,000 for yearlong programs; students in summer programs aren’t eligible. The application requires a short essay and one letter of recommendation.
For undergraduate students studying in Asia:
The Institute of International Education awards up to $7,000 to undergraduate students studying in East or Southeast Asia for a full academic year, up to $5,000 to students studying abroad for a semester, and up to $3,000 to students studying overseas for a summer. Eligible countries include Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Macao, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. To qualify, you must have a financial need as determined by the FAFSA and at least a 2.8 grade point average.
This article was updated June 30, 2016. It was originally published Dec. 4, 2012.