Shurraya’s Tips to Afford to Study Abroad

Shurraya Polunci 8Wondering how you can afford studying abroad?

With wanderlust on the rise, everyone wants to know the secret behind how one can afford traveling. In reality, most travelers aren’t just milking an endless trust fund; hard work and effort goes on the behind the scenes!

I realized the importance of delving into this secrets during a Snapchat conversation with my cousin-in-law, Sam. After I commented about traveling to Iceland, Paris, Barcelona and London before studying abroad destination in Leeds, his reply caught me off guard… He questioned how I could afford such travels.

It dawned on me that although I express my excitement for traveling, I never really indulge in the “how” behind the “what”. So Sam, this one is for you!

Here are 8 things that factored into why I can study abroad:

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1. Scholarships

Scholarships not only paid for my tuition the last two years, but also covered my living expenses entirely!

How in the world did I get enough scholarship money to achieve that? I applied for niche scholarships.

For example, after my sophomore year, I applied to a research center on campus for their scholars program, which includes both undergraduate research and scholarship money. My heavy involvement in social studies through the honors program I am in sealed the deal. The director of the center figured if I enjoy social studies enough to add it as a minor, then I would do well as a research assistant. This scholarship also got me work for the last two summers!

Want another example? Start of junior year, after working as a research assistant for a summer, I applied for a scholarship that is selectively for students who conduct research and qualify for financial aid. Conveniently, I happened to fit in that niche perfectly.

Need more proof? The honors program I am in offers an enrichment scholarship to students who are fulfilling their practicum requirement to get students to explore their world (hence the shirt in the photo above!). Guess what happened to be an option for practicum? Studying abroad! So I proposed the idea to the program, they agreed it fit the requirements and would be an amazing opportunity. That took care of the cost of housing and flights!

CAUTION: Applying for scholarships can often be disappointing.

For every scholarship I applied to, I only received maybe 1 out of every 20. And for each scholarship, I probably spent 2 to 4 hours working on the applications. But the results are worth the time spent applying!

2. Work

I worked two jobs during the semester, averaging 15 to 20 hours per week, and full time over the last two summers, averaging between 30 to 50 hours per week.

How do I survive engineering school and two jobs? I make sure that the jobs I take work around my schedule, such as on campus positions.

My job as a physics TA allows me to work a few hours spread out through the week. Plus, if no students come during office hours, I can work on my own homework! My other job as an undergraduate research assistant involves just me and my internet connecting computer. I can work on the weekends, at midnight, or even sometimes during class!

Additionally, both Aaron and I are grading for the online portions of the physics course back at Mines. As long as we can connect to Wi-Fi, as I am in the kitchen of our Airbnb drinking hot cocoa, then we can work. Even though it ends up only being a couple of hours a week, it really adds up!

Sometimes it can be hard to find the right job, but never forget the powering of asking! Our online grading job came about only because I asked for it.

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3. Housing

Airbnb is crazy amazing and enabling! For cheaper than most hotels, we lived in flats with access to kitchens and beds for both Aaron and I along with our travel companion and good friend, Anna. From staying in children’s bedroom, as illustrated above, to a one room apartment in the Latin Quarter, the personality of the places are crazy cool too!

On top of using Airbnb for our four weeks of traveling, we also used it for housing during school. Did you know you can book long term housing through Airbnb? For three months during school, Aaron and I will pay less rent in Leeds, England, than we did when we lived in Golden, Colorado!

And how did it compare to living on campus you may ask? Airbnb wins as the cheaper option for my husband and me. On top of that, the school couldn’t guarantee that Aaron and I would be placed in a double room, even though we are married. So definitely Airbnb won there!

Check out hostels, Airbnb, VRBO, and all of those type options before just taking whatever the school offers.

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4. Food

Sharing is caring.

If Aaron and I really want to go out to eat, we share an entree even if we will later need to stop at the supermarket to pick up a baguette after to satisfy his unending hunger. Thankfully, I eat about a fourth of what he does, so in comparison, I eat like a bean and I’m done! (Star Trek anyone? Haha)

Keep an eye out for deals too! Aaron and I shared a huge dish of Paella and liter of Sangria (shown in the picture above) for only $30. We left full and happy.

We also primarily cook our meals, and eat cheaper foods like pasta and potatoes. And when out sightseeing, we bring sandwiches instead of getting meals out. Not easy to do with delicious street food and cafes, but it definitely saves a lot of money!

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5. Student Discounts

As a student, I am apparently entitled to discounts for everything from tickets to museums in Paris to railway tickets in the UK! I just ask if a student discount exists before giving them my credit card. Every little discount adds up!

And, since we are staying for 3 months in the UK, we signed up to get the 16-25 Railcards. We are eligible for the cards since we are between the ages of 16 and 25, and students, then we get 30% off train and bus tickets.

Just don’t forget to bring a student ID card, like I did… $10 extra bucks later to get into the Tower of London (creepy crows were worth it, as shown in the picture above!).

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6. Budget Airlines

When we mentioned we booked a flight with Ryanair to a friend whose mother is a travel agent, our friend ragged on how horrible the budget airlines are.

Although we heard all the nightmare stories, the budget airlines proved fantastic for us!

The key: read the fine print. If they said one carry on, then we made sure to bring only one carry on and that it actually fit the required dimensions!

Keep in mind that booking a budget airline flight may be cheaper than a train in Europe. But, as we found out, it is important to check the cost of getting to and from the airport. I wished we considered the total cost of transportation to and from the airport, as taking a plane may not have been the cheaper option.

We’ve flown with Ryanair and Vueling, and we will fly with Jet2 and Transavia at the end of our travels. I will definitely give an update if the latter two don’t go smoothly, but zero complaints so far!

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7. No Checked Bags

From the states to Leeds, we took four different flights during our travels. To avoid the cost of checked bags, Aaron and I just didn’t bring any!

We each brought over only one backpack under 55x40x20cm. Although we cycled through the same 5 shirts, we saved big time!

Plus, the charity stores in Leeds are stocked full of quality clothing for only a couple of pounds. I bought a heavy winter jacket for $6 at a charity store, which saved me having to haul it around and pay for checked bags.

Additionally, the limited space detours us from spending money on too many souvenirs. It doesn’t stop me from picking up a few postcards here and there though!

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8. Flexible Time Schedule (off peak vs. on peak times)

We saved a couple hundred dollars by changing departure dates back or forward by just a few days!

The change in ticket price doesn’t just apply to airlines; it also applies to train tickets! When we looked at getting a train ticket from London to Leeds, a ticket at 8:00 am was three times the prices as a ticket for 11:00 am. Three times!!!


These 8 things really made the entire trip possible! Of course, one thing you never count for but always comes as a pleasant surprise is the support of loved ones.

With flexibility, hard work, and a lot of determination, studying abroad transforms from a fantasy for a broke college student to a reality!

by Shurraya Polunci – Colorado School of Mines – USA

To see more of Shurraya’s blog posts, see


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