Finding Funding: Studying Abroad in South Korea

Apparently this is my hundred-and-one-diest post! Should have done a giveaway or something…but I have no money to give away, so here’s my gift to you: how to get money (from people other than me).

No one knows better than I the challenge of finding, applying for, and receiving scholarships and awards to enable a study abroad trip. There are a hundred requirements to qualify, and even if you do, you have to write countless essays and wait in increasing panic and desperation for an email that says “OK, here’s your $$$.”

The stages of desperation…

Image result for help me i'm poor gif
The desperation gets real when you’re looking at fees and tuition totaling thousands and thousands of dollars. And they’re due in a week. And you have to provide a bank statement proving you have those funds to apply for a visa. And you own only two potatoes. 
But then the money comes and you could not be more incredibly grateful and want to write letters of gratitude to the providers and suddenly you dream of becoming rich so that you can donate massive amounts of money to help all the other people who want to study abroad be able to do it, too.
……but finding the funding in the first place can be the hardest part, which is why I’m going to share tips and some specific funding resources that enabled my study abroad at Yonsei University in Seoul last semester.

I’m going to break it down into two parts: funding that was non-specific to my university, and funding that was specific to my university. The university-specific funding may still help you even if you don’t attend the University of Michigan; you can get a sense of what sorts of funding might be available from your own university.

Non-specific Funding

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship (US Government)

Gilman is a program that enables those who might be unable to study abroad due to financial restraints to afford it; the main stipulation for eligibility is that you must be receiving a Pell Grant at the time that you apply – or you must provide proof that you will be receiving a Pell Grant during your study abroad program. Awards of up to $5000 are given to a few thousand recipients every year, and the amount varies based on need and the length of the study abroad program. If you receive it, you are required to fulfill a service project, one that you outline in your application. It is up to you what to do with that project – some people blog, others give a presentation at their university, others can do an external volunteer program affiliated with Gilman (i.e. Reach the World – there is a separate application process to be accepted as a correspondent for RTW but once accepted, you can use it to fulfill your service project in place of the one that you proposed in your application. This is what I did. I was emailed about the RTW opportunity after I was accepted by Gilman).

You are also eligible for additional scholarships if you are studying a critical need language as listed on their main page. This can enable a total award of up to $8000 – more than enough for roundtrip airfare, domestic transportation, housing, and food. Depending on your tuition and savviness in finding cheap airfare, it might stretch to cover tuition, too.

Considering the amount of scholarships given and the other benefits (volunteering, especially through RTW, is a fun and rewarding experience and looks good on your CV; completing your program with Gilman’s assistance allows you to join and network with study abroad alumni groups affiliated with US government on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.), the application process and service project seem a small price to pay.

GKS Scholarship (Korean Government)

The GKS Scholarship is provided by the Korean government in order “to provide international students with an opportunity to conduct advanced studies at higher educational institutions in Korea, To develop global leaders and strengthen Korea-friendly networks worldwide.” While you cannot directly apply for this without being invited first (I believe this is still the case), the following is an excerpt from the email I received inviting me to apply.

We would like to inform that you have been entitled to apply for GKS Scholarship by National Institute for International Education during 2014 Fall Semester, and the final result will be announced no later than early August.

[Details of Scholarship]

* Settlement Support: 200,000 KRW

* Stipend: Sep 800,000 KRW, Oct 800,000 KRW, Nov 800,000 KRW, Dec 516,120 KRW (As 12/20 is the last day of the semester.)

* Flight Fare: Round-trip ticket (It may have a maximum rate to be reimbursed and let you know the amount later.)

To apply for the scholarship, I want you to turn in the documents attached :

Letter of Motivation: Describing the reason you come to Korea as your exchange & current academic activity/courses (2 pages)

Self-Introduction: Describing your extra-curricular activities & plan after finishing exchange in Korea and graduation (2 pages)

Language Proficiency Proof: If you have any certificate except for your mother-tongue (ex. TOPIK, Second Language)

Based on my knowledge of similarities with other recipients, I believe that this scholarship is geared towards students with some proficiency in Korean and who are studying Korean Studies (and International Studies as well), so this may make you more likely to be invited to apply. A few international students are selected per semester to receive it. You can find out more at this website.

The stipend was a tremendous award to receive because I decided to use it solely for experiencing Korean culture, new and old. It bought me concert tickets to Epik High, Roy Kim, and Block B, took me to special nighttime tours of palaces, gave me an overnight stay at a Buddhist temple atop a mountain in Seoul, and sent me to Busan during Chuseok.

My airfare was not entirely covered. My ticket cost about $1,800 and they reimbursed about $1,400 of it.

People You Know (Who Like You)

Quite a few of my friends have started GoFundMe’s and other fundraising websites to help pay for their study abroad programs. I did not personally do this, but I know that every dollar or won or yen counts, so ask people to donate instead of a birthday gift this year, or instead of posting a brief comment on your wall when Facebook demands that they acknowledge your birthday, ask for a dollar or two!

People want to see where their money’s going, so promise to blog, post photos, videos, or something to make them understand how grateful you are. And don’t forget to mail them a thank-you note when you get back because that’s what nice, grateful people do 😉

University of Michigan-specific Funding

Continuing Student Scholarship (LSA)

While this is not specific to studying abroad, a direct study abroad program often means that you are paying your home university’s tuition, i.e. U of M’s. Which means any scholarships you receive count towards that, and that means that the less you pay for home tuition, the more money you have to pay the fees specifically for studying abroad.

If you’ve studied at U of M in the college of LSA for at least 2 semesters already, and have need, you may be eligible for a Continuing Student Scholarship Award of $500-$10,000. You have to be enrolled full-time and you must also be staying within LSA for your degree.

You must reapply for this scholarship every year; just because you receive it this year does not mean you will receive it next year (even if you reapply).

***If you are not a U of M student, you should contact your school’s financial aid office. Yes they will be busy. That does not mean you do not matter or that your needs are not important. Ask them if they provide scholarships to continuing students, and if so, ask if you need to apply for them separately.

MGAP Scholarship

You’ve probably heard about this if you’ve already attended a pre-req session for CGIS, but you apply for the LSA Global Experience Scholarship at the same time that you apply for your study abroad program. You should still check out what its requirements are and ask CGIS if there are any other scholarships available.

Also, rumor has it that if it’s the end of the year, sometimes there is superfluous money waiting to be used by needy students who will be studying abroad, and sometimes if you go into the office and just ask, they can work something out. I have not done this nor do I have proof that it works…so don’t depend on this, of course.

***If you are not a U of M student, you should contact your school’s financial aid office. They are there to help you. Ask them if they provide scholarships for students studying abroad, and if so, ask if you need to apply for them separately. Also ask if they have scholarships available both specific and non-specific to your study abroad program (i.e. a pool of money dedicated to studying in East Asia vs. a pool of money for swimming in vs. a pool of money for sophomores majoring in International Studies who are studying abroad).

Nam Center Funding

The Nam Center offers multiple funding and program opportunities just waiting for you to apply i.e. the Summer in Korea Scholarship, which is enabling me to go to Korea for the second time in less than a year. I highly recommend checking out their website and, if you are feeling very strongly about getting to Korea, going directly to their office and chatting with their faculty and staff. They are all incredibly helpful and friendly.

***If you are not a U of M student, find out if your university has a program or center specific to Korea/East Asia/your area of study abroad. They can give you help with everything from application to funding to finding that right study abroad program in the first place.

If you have questions about the funding resources and tips in this post, please leave a comment below! Best of luck finding funding for your study abroad.

And don’t be this Bilbo about study abroad:

Be this Bilbo:

Find your inner Bilbo.

화이팅~!^^ 그리고 읽어 주셔서 고마워요.

아이 러브 마이 팔로워즈.

지금 재생 : JINUSEAN 한번 말해줘 (ft. AKMU SUHYUN)


3 thoughts on “Finding Funding: Studying Abroad in South Korea

  1. Bookmarked this in my “study abroad in Asia” folder for future reference! Once I’ve slowly paid off my existing loan (ugh), I would really like to get back into studying.. and I’m definitely not staying in NZ the whole time :p Thanks for the info 😀


  2. Pingback: There & Back Again: Korea 2016 | my {seoul} dream

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