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U-FLi students discuss challenges, financial obstructions to studying abroad

Students face uncertainty about cost of living, access to University resources

Edna Agyemang ’24 has wanted to study abroad for years. But when she finally had an opportunity to plan her time abroad, she encountered a variety of financial barriers, including unanticipated fees, varying costs of living between countries and an inability to earn supplemental income while abroad, she wrote in a message to The Herald.

For any student, planning a study abroad experience and living in a foreign country presents a logistical challenge. But for undocumented, first-generation and low-income students, those challenges are compounded by additional financial obstacles. 

‘Far from equitable’: unexpected fees and insufficient financial aid

Agyemang, who is currently studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, wrote that the lack of available financial assistance complicated her study abroad process, despite being on financial aid that covers all costs. She had to rely on personal savings to cover unexpected travel expenses, and being away from campus left her without access to campus resources or the income from her on-campus job.


While Brown advisors “did the best that they could,” Agyemang wishes she could have been advised by someone more knowledgeable about her struggles as a U-FLi student.

“I found that there weren’t many systems in place to support U-FLi students and that made the process far from equitable,” she wrote. “I hope Brown decides to anticipate these needs and provide resources for (U-FLi students) in the future.”

“It is common for students (studying abroad) to pay out-of-pocket expenses such as passport and visa fees,” Senior Associate Dean of the College for Study Abroad Malik Blue wrote in an email to The Herald. He added that to address this, the Office of International Programs launched the Study Abroad Gap Funding program for students with “highly demonstrated financial need.” The program asks students to draft a budget outlining the difference between the amount of financial aid they receive and the amount they will need while abroad, Blue explained.

He added that the OIP hosted a Passport Day this spring, which gave all undergraduate students the opportunity to apply for passport funding, and individually contacted study abroad applicants who did not yet have a valid passport. 

Tykerius Monford ’25, another U-FLi student, is facing similar challenges as he plans his fall 2023 study abroad experience. He explained that he has had to pay unexpected application fees out of pocket. 

Diyarhi Roy ’24, a U-FLli student currently studying abroad in Amsterdam, said she observed that she puts far more effort into budgeting than her peers who aren’t U-FLi. “I cannot just call up my parents and be like, ‘Hey, can y’all Venmo please?’” She added that throughout her study abroad experience, she’s taken responsibility for herself in many ways, ranging from her finances to her learning. 

Roy told The Herald that she receives full financial aid in a typical year — but did not receive full financial aid when her study abroad program costs exceeded the University’s normal cost of attendance. Roy said that the distinction was not clear to her until she had already decided to study abroad, causing stress about whether she would be able to afford the semester.

“Although Brown is committed to providing the same amount of institutional scholarship to a student as if they were attending Brown full time during the term or terms they are abroad, there are differences in the expenses of housing and meals, travel and miscellaneous expenses depending on the program” students enroll in, Interim Dean of Financial Aid Sean Ferns wrote in an email to The Herald. He added that the financial aid website contains more information regarding student financial resources when studying abroad.

Roy said she was ultimately able to supplement her financial aid from the University with funding from an external scholarship. She added that she was not sure whether she would have studied abroad had she not secured this funding. 

Beyond the direct costs incurred by studying abroad and the loss of income from not being able to work, Agyemang and Roy added that being away from campus restricts their access to support networks, organizations and career resources.


“I felt nervous about going into a new country without the support system that the U-FLi community provides for me on campus,” Agyemang wrote, adding that she has found it more difficult to access the University’s resources — like CAPS and the Black Student Union — while abroad.

“Much like conversations related to diversity, equity and inclusion in larger society, there is always more work to be done,” Blue wrote in an email to The Herald. “As someone who faced barriers related to cost and identity when I was in college pursuing study abroad, I am personally invested in addressing issues of access and inclusion.”

He added that the OIP’s website contains resources for students of various identities and that the office hosts workshops every semester prior to study abroad commitment deadlines that cover how financial aid can be applied to studying abroad. 

“Our hope is that students who have questions attend these workshops and ask any lingering questions so they can move forward with study abroad plans with a strong understanding of financial considerations,” he wrote. 

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‘An independent process’: Students grapple with the logistics of studying abroad

Roy said that a lack of clarity meant she needed to be more self-reliant and continuously advocate for herself when interacting with the OIP, financial aid office and her external scholarship agency. She also found herself leaning on her U-FLi friends who were in similar situations for emotional support.

Monford and Agyemang said that it was difficult to know who to contact with questions about how financial aid applies to study abroad throughout the planning process. Monford added that he is currently trying to determine whether his University financial aid will cover studying abroad in the fall. 

He added that he has “not been able to get a straight answer from anyone” when trying to determine whether his University financial aid will sufficiently cover his study abroad. “I’ve been sent back and forth between the study abroad office and financial aid, and then financial aid never responded.” 

“We realize that for some students, having the reassurance that their aid will cover the full cost of the program is critical,” Ferns wrote in an email to The Herald. “Unfortunately, there is generally not a simple or straightforward answer to this question. Given the vast number of programs offered, all with varying costs, combined with each student’s aid situation being unique, each circumstance must be carefully considered.”

Despite the challenges and frustrations of studying abroad as a U-FLi student, Agyemang, and Roy all noted that studying abroad was a valuable experience for personal development. For Agyemang, it’s been beneficial to interact with locals in Cape Town and learn more about African culture and history. 

“I hope I can find more organic ways of positively influencing people here, but I am sure that I am receiving far more than I can possibly give back,” she wrote. 

Ferns wrote that students should determine the cost of studying abroad by using the Study Abroad Budget Worksheet and meeting with financial aid counselors. 

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