Students learn to finance study abroad

Haley Otman

Almost 30 students hoping to study in Paris, Australia, Ghana, Brussels or Spain, among other countries, recently filled a room in the Padnos International Center at Grand Valley State University for information about how to get there.

“All degree-taking students are eligible for financial aid,” said Rebecca Hambleton, Padnos director of study abroad and international partnerships.

Although some students do not get or use financial aid, every single student qualifies. Financial aid disbursed at GVSU can be used for studying abroad, even though the student may be across the world and not taking GVSU courses.

“Most of our study-abroad students access financial aid, so it is important that we get information out to students so they know what to expect,” Hambleton said.

Beginning the process

Students must first become familiar with OASIS, the online program for GVSU students studying abroad, no matter the company. It can be found on the GVSU Study Abroad website,, and is how students first apply to study abroad, and later download all necessary forms.

Students must be accepted to study abroad through OASIS whether they go through a GVSU partner program or a separate company.

Learning the options

Most students will qualify for loans, Hambleton said, which can be federal loans in the student’s name or a parent loan. Some also get scholarships or grants to use toward school fees.

However, most students cannot expect to receive more money in school scholarships or loan availability just because of study abroad.

“What you get at GVSU is what you can expect,” Hambleton said.

The Padnos International Center automatically gives study abroad grants to some students who meet their GPA, financial need and application deadline criteria.

If the combination of loans, scholarships and grants does not add up to a student’s program fee, alternative loans can be taken out.

Alternative loans are through companies who will give money to the student if he or she meets credit worthiness requirements, or a cosigner may be needed if not. The negative part of an alternative loan, Hambleton said, is that it is not guaranteed by the federal government.

Using the awarded aid

After the student has determined how to finance the travel, he or she must keep in contact with the PIC and his study abroad provider to make sure all deadlines are met and forms filled out.

For those studying with a non-GVSU program, they are responsible for paying all fees directly to their chosen company.

“We are not involved in third-party billing,” Hambleton said.

However, since the company a student chooses to use for study abroad will normally have an early payment deadline, Hambleton said the student can submit a program fee deferment request through OASIS, and then she will write a letter to assure the company the aid will arrive.


Hambleton said one thing students need to remember is to continue filling out necessary paperwork upon arrival in Europe, Asia or their other chosen destination.

For example, students planning to study abroad during a winter semester must still fill out the FAFSA, tax forms and fall registration so they can continue attending GVSU upon their return.

Hambleton suggests filing a power of attorney form so the designated person can receive information from GVSU about the student, if necessary.

“Make sure that you’ve got someone to help you (while abroad),” she said.

Students Lauren Spangler and Kimberly Walker were among the attendees of the program.

“Most of this, I already knew,” said Walker, who will study in France winter semester. She said she had already gathered the information pertinent to her program from reading the PIC’s website.

Spangler, who plans to study in Spain, said she thought Hambleton’s presentation was very helpful.

“It clarifies the timeline of when everything needs to get done,” she said, and made her realize she must compare the costs of studying at GVSU with studying in Granada, Spain to begin figuring out how to finance the additional cost.

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