by Robert Balan
If you’re thinking about studying a Master’s degree abroad and the first thing that’s on your mind is money, then a free programme looks like a great choice. However, it is very important to remember that the tuition fee is not the only factor which will be important for your financial planning.
We’ll look at the other overlooked expenses and hidden costs you’ll need to keep in mind and how they can add up to the overall expenses. This way you can budget accordingly for your study abroad experience.
Before looking at these costs, here are some countries offering affordable or even free Master’s degrees:
1. Administrative costs
While many universities offer free degree programmes, they usually come with administrative costs. These can cover materials such as books or documents related to your enrolment. Even though administrative costs are not very high, generally varying between 150 – 250 EUR per semester, they add up to the overall expenses of your studies and you should keep that in mind.
After you’re accepted by the university, you’ll have to make the travel arrangements. Unless you’re studying using an Erasmus+ programme or benefiting from a scholarship, you will have to pay for both the outbound and return flights out of your own pocket. The sooner you buy the tickets, the better unless you want to pay extra.
Additionally, if you choose an accommodation that’s farther away from your university, you will have to pay for the daily commute. The amount won’t be that high because college students usually receive coupons or discounts. However, there’s a hidden cost you should consider – time. Commuting can take 1 or 2 hours out of your day. Depending on how you spend most of your time, you might not be too happy about that.
Travelling around the host country or discovering its neighbours will also mean additional costs. While there are cheaper transport alternatives, such as Blablacar, depending on what cities you visit and how much you’ll stay you can end up paying more than you initially intended.
You’ve probably seen this one coming, maybe because it usually is the highest monthly expense. The challenge here will be finding the sweet spot between location, quality, and price. You can find more affordable places on the university campus but expect competition to be high.
Another option would be choosing to rent a flat that is farther away from the city centre. Here you have more flexibility. Normally, renting a place all by yourself is more expensive than sharing one with other students. So, you’ll have to decide what works best for you.
Learn more about tuition fees and living costs in:
4. Health and travel insurance
Studying abroad usually means that you’ll be away from home for anywhere between 1-3 years (sometimes even more). Therefore, it is very important that wherever you go your healthcare will be covered.
If you are from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you only need to get the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) before you go abroad. It is issued free of charge and, as long as you’re insured in your home country, it grants you the same rights as a regular citizen in the country where you will study.
All the other international students will need private insurance to cover their health and travel. It’s important to mention that a scholarship or an Erasmus+ programme (if you’re enrolled in one) can provide financial aid and cover them but remember to check these aspects before your departure.
If this is not one of your options, you will have to contact a private insurance provider, such as Allianz Care, Cigna, or others and pay for one of their insurance plans. The costs of every plan are very different and monthly fees can vary from 30 EUR/month to 400 EUR/month and all the way to over 1,000 EUR/month if you choose a premium plan. So, do your research and choose the one that covers all your needs.
5. Food & groceries
How much you’ll end up spending on your books depends on the country you’ll live in. In Europe, you can generally expect to pay between 175 – 250 EUR on your monthly groceries. Of course, this can go up if you enjoy eating out a lot or you simply don’t find enough time to cook or prepare a quick snack at home.
One way to save money is shopping at local markets. The prices will be much lower, and you can even negotiate a bit. Additionally, some universities offer students meal coupons every month. These will allow you to eat in certain places at almost half the costs, so use them to your advantage.
6. Books and course materials
This is yet another cost you can easily overlook. Depending on the courses you're taking, expect to pay anywhere between 200-900 EUR per year for all the books and other materials you will need. There are, however, a few things you can do to reduce these expenses:
- Some scholarships will cover the costs of your study materials, so check if you can apply for one on Scholarshiportal.
- You can always buy used books in good condition from former students who no longer need them. They usually sell them online, often on social media platforms/groups.
- Sometimes, the electronic version of a course book can be cheaper than the hard copy. Compare all prices and then decide which one would bring you the best value for money.
- Sharing a book with a classmate might sound a bit unusual, but if you think about it, this is a great way to cut the costs in half and you only need to find a like-minded classmate.
7. Cell phone bill
This one might be a bit surprising but hear us out. There have been many cases where people called their family and friends for hours or used mobile data abroad and were unpleasantly surprised when they received the phone bill.
This happens because telecommunication companies apply different international charges. Additionally, they also limit how many calls or data you can use while being abroad. It's very important to check your personal subscription and make sure you understand the details describing how you can use your plan abroad.
The easiest solution is to buy a local SIM card and use it during your study period. You can simply give your friends the new number and they'll be able to reach you. Of course, there's always the option of using free services like Whatsapp or Skype.
What really matters is your study experience
All in all, you should remember why you want to study abroad in the first place. Sure, travelling and networking are fun, and most people enjoy a good all-night-long party. However, make sure you find a balance between these and learning.
It’s true that you might have to make some sacrifices. But this is a great period for your development. This is the time to invest in yourself so that you’ll have a much better life in the future. Cut the unnecessary costs, maybe cook more and eat out less and do your best to gain all the knowledge you’ll need to become an expert in your field. Your future self will thank you later!