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How to Obtain Grants for Independent Study Abroad

With preparation, any serious student can receive a grant for independent study abroad. Here are some helpful hints:

What to Study

The most important part of this process is finding a project you can be passionate about. Don’t limit yourself to subjects that “fall into” your major area of study. If you have already studied abroad, think about the things that really interested you: the politics of your host country, gender inequalities, even food. The only way you will ever convince somebody to give you money is if you are passionate about the subject.

Where to Go

After you have brainstormed some ideas, start doing research. Talk to professors, administrators, counselors—anyone at your college who may be able to steer you in the right direction. Human contact is better than net surfing because people will be able to refer you somewhere else when they don’t have the answers. Think about how your proposed project fits into several different disciplines and then approach faculty within those departments. Leave yourself open to the greatest number of opportunities possible.

Make Contacts

The success of an independent project often requires the assistance of many other people in your host country. Every contact you can make ahead of time gives your project credibility. Talk to study abroad advisors, administrators, professors. On-site contacts will not only make your project more attractive; they also make your studies a lot easier when you finally get to where you are going.

Write a Proposal

To write an effective proposal find out everything you can about the grant for which you are applying. Which past projects have received funding? Which haven’t? Why? What is the criteria the selection committee uses to judge a proposal? The best thing to do—and surprisingly few students think to do this—is to talk to the members of the committee themselves. Ask them for help with ideas, logistics, resources, even editing your proposal. A website with many useful links for grantwriting is

Be Critical

It is vital to find the flaws in your own project. Ask critical questions of yourself and make sure you can answer them, especially if the application process involves an interview.

Be Serious, but Have Fun

There is competition for any grant or scholarship. To come out on top you must get to know your proposal like your best friend. In interviews, always let others know how excited you are about your idea. Lastly, be persistent. If your first grant proposal doesn’t work out, keep on trying.


William Nolting worked for many years at the University of Michigan Overseas Opportunities Office and was the International Educational and former Work Abroad editor for Transitions Abroad Magazine. offers sources and tips for financial aid:

Michigan State Univ. offers many links for international travel and study abroad grants.

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