International students have a lot to consider financially when leaving home to study abroad. While tuition fees and rent generally comprise the largest portion of student expenses, there are plenty of other hidden costs you’re likely to incur.
Here are some unexpected costs that you may have to face as an international student:
You may find that your first student fee bill is larger than you thought. This is because most universities charge students for a variety of fees aside from the tuition, with some adding ‘international student fees’ as well to cover administration charges.
These may include fees for athletics, academic transcripts, graduation, orientation, student affairs, access for computer labs, libraries, gyms and health insurance (mandatory for international students in some countries like the US).
While these fees are usually not exorbitant, they can add up, so make sure you factor these in when planning your finances for an overseas education.
Your university should also be able to give you a breakdown of your semester fees, so ask them in advance.
Tips, taxes and bank fees
In countries like the US, tipping is a common practice, and it’s the norm to tip those in the service industry such as waiters, barbers, taxi drivers and bartenders. If you’re from a country that doesn’t practise tipping, this may not need to be part of your daily expenses.
Also, whether you work on- or off-campus, you may still have to pay taxes. While you can get a tax refund in due time, make sure you remember that your salary will be deducted.
In certain countries and states in the US, you will also have to pay tax for clothes, food, groceries and so on, so make sure you do your research and find out about your host country’s tax rates.
Plus, don’t forget about bank fees, as you will need to pay a fee to open up a bank account, receive money from back home, get a new debit card and more.
Computer and school supplies
You’ll need a good computer to complete your work, so find out whether it will be cheaper to bring one from back home or purchase one on arrival.
School supplies such as books, notebooks, pens and so on may cost more than you expect, so prepare for that, too.
Plus, depending on your major, you might need to purchase additional computer software for your coursework such as Adobe Photoshop and AutoCAD, which can be costly.
Costs incurred on semester breaks
We don’t mean your expenses on holiday breaks such as flight tickets, lodging and food. There are additional costs you might have to bear when you leave for an extended time, like going back home for summer break.
If you live off-campus and can’t find someone to take over your lease or sublet your room, you’ll still need to pay rent and utilities even though you’re not living there at the time, so keep this in mind.
Travelling and transportation
You may have already done your research on flight tickets to your host country, but what about other travelling costs?
You might need to pay for a taxi from the airport to the university, or pay for the bus fare to reach your part-time job. Plus, you might also want to do some travelling during your holidays, so allocate for that, too.
Depending on the city you live in, transportation costs to get around might be high. Find out the cost of living before you go, and how far you’ll need to travel to campus, the supermarket or downtown, so you know what to expect.
It’s a good idea to immerse yourself in student affairs and activities while studying abroad, as this is a great way to network and make new friends.
But remember that there might be costs related to this, such as fraternity dues, student association fees and tickets for association events.
Being mindful of all the expenses you’ll need to pay prevents you from nasty surprises later on. If you aren’t sure what to expect, try reaching out to other international students at your host university through Facebook groups or student associations.