Budgeting for Student Exchange in Thailand

It was important for Talia Bhaiji to go on the Student Exchange Program on a budget. She selected Thammasat University in Thailand for lower costs, applied to multiple scholarships, worked with Financial Aid, and managed to get her semester fully funded. Read how she was able to pull that off!

This post is really important to me and share in hopes that it will help future students fund Student Exchange. I’ll explain my process of participating on the Student Exchange Program and how I was able to get it completely funded and pay no money out of pocket!

Researching the Program

I began looking into Student Exchange during April of my freshman year, exactly 6 months before I applied during October of my sophomore year, and a year and a half before I left in August of my junior year for study abroad.

I did a bit of my own research by reviewing all the locations and budgets from the FCOB Student Exchange Partner page

After I went through these links, I looked at average cost of housing/food/life in each place using online data from Numbeo and Expatistan, two websites that give you amazing data! I had a couple ideas of where I wanted to go but wasn’t entirely sure, so the numbers helped reinforce just how much I would have to spend there.

When I first met with the Fisher Exchange Coordinator, I expressed my interest in Student Exchange, and I asked her candidly what the cheapest place I could study abroad was. She told me it was Thailand, and gave me a budget sheet that a previous student had made to share. This student had written down EVERYTHING she had done; the food she had eaten every day, how much money she spent on trips, etc., everything was on the document for me to read. After crunching her numbers and creating my own spreadsheets and budgets, I realized that if I got scholarships, I would be able to do a Student Exchange Program. This is how I decided I was going to Thailand and began to do my research about Student Exchange.

My first things to do were to make sure my classes lined up and I would graduate on time, and the second thing to do was make sure my finances were accurate. I did my 4 year plan and had the Exchange Coordinator review it. Once I knew my classes line up, I really did a lot of financial planning for this. I did as much research as I could online and after I had done a budget estimate, I double checked it with the Exchange Coordinator as well. I also met with a previous student who did a semester in Thailand, to ask her about the trip and see if she had any advice for me. She was one of my best resources, and helped me out so much. We reviewed her excel spreadsheet, I was able to ask her average costs of rent, food, transportation, and traveling, and then I asked her general tips about packing, the weather, being away from home, and what her general expectations were going into the program.


Applying to the Program

Once I had decided I was going to Thailand, the hard part began.

In September, I met with the Exchange Coordinator again to talk about the reality of this happening and make sure that I was on track to get everything done in time. I submitted my application for the program which consisted of: an approved 4 year plan by my academic advisor, a letter of recommendation by my international relations professor, and statements about why I wanted to go. Shortly after, I received my acceptance! A large part of me knew I was going to go, so right after I submitted my application in early October, I began applying for scholarships immediately. Fair warning about this process: The programs are first come first serve and usually only take a maximum of 1-4 people each location. The year I applied Thailand took 2 people. APPLY EARLY!


Applying to Scholarships

Here are the scholarships I received and where I looked for them:

I first clicked on the Office of Global Business’ Funding Your Global Experience page. It should be your FIRST place to check when you’re looking for scholarships.

  1. I applied for the Office of Global Business’ Scholarship and the Robert Bartels Scholarship. I then emailed my recommender immediately and got a copy of the recommendation letters for the Bartels Scholarship. I was lucky to receive both of these scholarship.  APPLY FOR THEM IMMEDIATELY. These scholarships have been the biggest asset to me while I was abroad, and I wouldn’t have been able to go abroad without them.

After I had exhausted the Office of Global Business’ opportunities, I went around to other OSU resources to find more scholarships that were available to OSU students. I’m an honors student, so I looked at the Honors and Scholars Enrichment Grant.

2. I applied for the Honors & Scholars Enrichment Grant. I didn’t receive it, but it was good exposure to get me in the zone for applying for scholarships.

Afterwards, I went through the rest of the options that OGB had put on their website. I went to OIA’s website and applied for a couple scholarships there. I applied for the Asian Festival Scholarship, as well as the Firebaugh Scholarship. I didn’t receive either of them.

3. I then went and applied for a USG Scholarship, and was lucky enough to receive 1 of them that covered my flight to Thailand.

Afterwards, I went to Fisher’s website and looked for general scholarships that could help me out with tuition. I also went to the main OSU Undergraduate site and applied for the Special Eligibility scholarship too. I definitely checked the websites multiple times to make sure I had applied for everything that I was eligible for. Your work and efforts really will make all the difference. I actually didn’t apply to any outside scholarships mainly because I wasn’t eligible for the majority of them, but I know a really big one is the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, which gives money to Pell Grant students who are studying abroad.

After that was done, I waited to hear back. I also went to the Office of Financial Aid and had them confirm that my current OSU scholarships would be applicable for my semester abroad in Thailand. They confirmed that since I was in fact still paying OSU tuition while abroad, I would be receiving all my scholarships and loans. This is very important and you should make sure to confirm your scholarships will transfer over before you leave.

After I confirmed my scholarships and loans would work out, I waited to hear back from my scholarships and was lucky enough to receive 3 of them! They have covered so much of what I’m paying here and I am so thankful.

If you have any questions about Thailand, Student Exchange, or Financial Aid/Scholarships, please reach out to me at bhaiji.4@osu.edu. Thank you for reading!

Talia Bhaiji

Talia Bhaiji is a sophomore at Fisher studying Finance and is studying abroad in Thailand in Fall 2017. Talia has a wide range of interests and is a member of many clubs at Ohio State. "I've been wanting to do study abroad since I was born (basically). My family had the travel bug and I was fortunate enough to see a lot of the world in a short amount of time, but I found myself really wanting to be immersed and the Student Exchange program looked perfect for me."