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For first-generation students, as well as students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, study abroad might not have always been an expected part of the college plan. If no one in the family has studied abroad before, there’s a chance that family members might not understand the student’s motivations at first, and could even initially perceive study abroad as an expensive, long-term vacation. However, first-generation students are often in a uniquely strong position to succeed at studying abroad, because of their own experience with creating their own path in college and acclimating to unfamiliar experiences and environments. (Text adapted from Diversity Abroad)

The decision to study abroad can be daunting, but you’re not in it alone! Studying abroad can make every student a stronger candidate for post-graduation opportunities, and there are many resources available to help students prepare for and make the most of travels abroad.For any student, it’s key to find folks who will support your decision to study abroad and help you ease more smoothly into the study abroad experience. Reach out to your advisors across the university, including CGIS program advisors and academic advising within your school or college, to get a specific idea of how study abroad will fit in to your academic schedule.

Plan for your expenses abroad by browsing the program’s budget sheet on M-Compass, and then fill out the Office of Financial Aid's Study Abroad Budget Worksheet and email it to After you know what financial aid will cover, you can make a budget for yourself based on the remaining out-of-pocket expenses from the budget sheet. Compare this to what you would spend if you stayed on campus, but remember that your program fee, which is eligible for financial aid, may cover expenses like your housing and may cover food as well (see the budget sheet to find out what exactly is included).

There may be scholarships available to help offset the cost of study abroad. The Office of Financial Aid can help identify opportunities for you. Research the cost of living in your destination country, and bring your student ID to get any applicable discounts abroad.

Also make sure to talk to returnee students who have already studied abroad. Talking to other students and reading other students’ experiences can provide a great idea of how to make it all work academically, financially, and socially. If you don’t know anyone who’s studied abroad, reach out to the CGIS peer advisors or ask your CGIS program advisor to put you in touch with someone to talk about the region you’re interested in.

Additional Resources

University of Chicago First Gen Student Abroad Resources

Northwestern Study Abroad - First Generation College Students Abroad Resources

Diversity Abroad - First Generation Students