How much does it really cost to study abroad?

  • Besides tuition fees, you need to budget for accommodation, food and other expenses
  • You should also check if you are allowed to work on a student visa
Jamie Lam |

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Budget for your overseas education by estimation your tuition fees, accommodation costs, and food and other expenses.

Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience. In addition to embarking on an enlightening academic adventure, you will be able to soak up a brand new culture, make lifelong friends, and pursue personal growth as you earn your degree.

Of course, before you consider all the overseas education options, you should take a realistic look at the costs with your parents. No matter what financial situation your family is in, it’s a smart move to plan ahead and have a clear estimate of how much money needs to be set aside for each year of education abroad.

Tuition and books

As an international student, your tuition fees will be much higher than for domestic students (whose fees are subsidised by the government). On average, you will pay from two to four times what a resident of that country would pay. Expect to budget about HK$120,000 to HK$180,000 per year for tuition fees, depending on what country you’re going to and what programme you hope to study.

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Typically, you will pay your fees in three or four instalments over the course of the academic year.

Those fees do not tend to include course materials such as books or lab supplies; expect to budget HK$3,000 for these each year.

Rent, meals and other personal expenses

There are many types of student accommodation, from university-run dormitories to private flats or houses you can rent with a few others. Usually the electricity, water and internet service fee is included in the price. You should budget around HK$7,000 per month for a reasonably comfortable flat.

Groceries will cost roughly HK$2,500 per month if you cook at home every day, with an occasional meal out likely to cost HK$150 each, so budget about HK$3,000 in total for food each month.

Tack on another HK$300 for personal items such as toilet paper and shampoo (we’ll assume you are bringing your clothes from Hong Kong with you and won’t need to buy many more). Mobile phone service will cost roughly HK$150 per month.

Use a spreadsheet to write down all your expected overseas expenses.

Transport

The cost of transport will vary depending on how far away you live from your campus and what country you’re in. You will be able to buy a student bus pass in most university towns and you’ll probably call an Uber or taxi when you want to have some nights out, so set aside around HK$500 for travel expenses per month.

Other expenses

Many students fly back to Hong Kong for the holidays, so be sure to include these trips into your overall budget if you plan to come home several times a year.

School fees usually also cover basic insurance and medical expenses, but you may want to purchase additional coverage. The prices for different plans vary, and typically start at around HK$300 per month.

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Can you find a job while you’re studying?

Many countries do not allow students to work while they are on a student visa, but some universities have a plan where you are allowed to work a small number of hours on campus. Check with your individual institution for its rules; might be able to pick up some extra cash as a part-time librarian or barista.

Total spending per month

Using the above estimates for monthly expenses, you are looking at a total cost of around HK$12,000 per month. This does not include the airfare to your destination and back. Assuming you study for 10 months, this works out to HK$120,000 per year, on top of the tuition fees.

It’s a good idea to use an Excel file to work out the exact costs for your education before committing to any offers.