Life Abroad
10 min

How International Students Can Cover Living Expenses Without Scholarships

Imagine you’ve been working really hard to get admitted, counting on a scholarship that will allow you to be a financially independent student. However, something goes wrong, and you don’t get one.

And if the semester fee and university tuition can be paid from your savings, the question remains where to get money to cover accommodation, food, and other expenses in the new country.

Please, don't feel bad. You're already doing a great job! After all, you are studying abroad at a top university. Besides, you are not alone in this situation.

Let's figure out how to find a job abroad, handle financial struggles, and get a prestigious international education without funding.

What to Keep in Mind

First of all, you need to remember that there is nothing wrong with you. It’s okay to fail to get a scholarship. Foreign institutions and universities that provide funding for international students set the bar pretty high for their applicants. Hundreds or even thousands of people may compete for ten grants.

What To Do if You Didn’t Get a Scholarship

Check out LinkedIn. It's the most popular foreign website to find jobs, internships, and to network. Useful business contacts can help you get employed in the future. We have a whole article about how to create a strong LinkedIn profile.

Attend university career fairs. For example, Oleg Velichko, a StudyFree mentor, who studied computer science at the University of Manchester, regularly participated in career fairs. There, companies offer students jobs for the summer. This is a great opportunity to meet potential employers, get a part-time job, and, in the future, be offered to switch to full-time with your dream company.

Find out about jobs on campus. Find out whether the university or your department can offer jobs to students and what the requirements are. For example, StudyFree mentor Ekaterina Barabanova found a job at the COVID-19 testing center at Liverpool Hope University.

Register on international and local job search sites. You can combine studying and remote work, especially if your job has long gone digital. Look for jobs for students in specialized TG channels and international platforms, such as Headhunter, Glassdoor, Upwork, LinkedIn, and Indeed.

Don’t forget about other popular websites in your country. These are, for example, Gradcracker, Monster, Hired, and TotalJobs in the UK, Helplavoro and AlmaLaurea in Italy, Infojobs in Spain, Xing in Germany, JobKorea in South Korea, Liepin and Zhaopin in China.

Join the StudyFree community. Our mentors regularly participate in career workshops with both internal and external experts sharing their experience. We help people develop soft skills, prepare CVs and cover letters, go through interviews, understand multicultural companies and the international recruitment process. These workshops are not only your chance to make new friends but also to build some business contacts.

Our help is not limited to enrollment. We stay in touch with students and invite them to join the Alumni Club.

For example, StudyFree partner Grintern offers a weekly selection of jobs in international startups for club members. We post this information in our internal channels so that applicants or students can find a part-time job to combine with studies, full-time jobs, and other interesting job offers for students.

Advantages That Are Not Evident

You already build up your work experience while still being a student. That will make you more competitive than your groupmates when you graduate.

Combining education and work is a tradition in American and European culture. A lot of students there work. You have a chance to become a part of it and adjust to a new country faster.

You can still get a scholarship for next year. Find out if it’s possible at your university.

The experience of a StudyFree mentor: giving up Chevening, side work on campus, and a part-time job as a marketing manager in a British company 

Ekaterina Barabanova, Liverpool Hope University, UK

I am doing my MBA at Liverpool Hope University in the UK. I applied to eight universities in different countries: England, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

I was preparing documents to apply for the Chevening scholarship, but when I looked through the Terms & Conditions I found out that I would have to return to my home country for at least two years after graduation. This was what I absolutely did not want because my intention was to stay for two years after studying and see how life in the country would go for me. So, I had to give up the scholarship and think about how to make money for a living.

Our university website has a section about careers and jobs on campus. You can sign up for notifications, which I did. In 2020-2021, there weren't many job openings, five or six during the whole time, because we studied online for most of the year due to the lockdown.

In November 2020, the university was recruiting assistants to work at their COVID-19 testing center. There were three locations on three campuses. Each one needed 4-6 people. Not everyone could work all the time: the learning process is always the priority.

The work wasn't difficult. We only did tests for students and university staff. It was part-time employment from 4 to 5 hours per day and 10 to 18 hours per week.

We were paid at the minimum UK rate of 8.91 £. I would get between 350 £ and 790 £ a month and make about 3,800 £ in seven months. The salary covered the rent for a room in a house (it was a private house, not a residence hall) which was 368 £ a month.

It is possible to get a full-time job on a student visa. I tried to find one for 20 hours a week but it did not work out. Given that I had over ten years of experience as a marketing expert, no one wanted to hire an overqualified specialist for assistant positions.

I would search through Glassdoor, Indeed, and other platforms. The university career center helped me improve my CV and cover letters. The job offer came up out of the blue. A girl contacted me on LinkedIn. Their company needed a part-time marketing manager. In the following two months, there was email communication and interviews. Eventually, I got this job. My first day at work was 1 July 2021.

The problem was that the company had a limited marketing budget. However, we managed to negotiate this. Now I earn 1,500 £ before taxes. It's enough to cover basic daily needs. Given that the job is part-time it’s pretty good.

Here is what I would recommend to students:

Decide on your goal. For me, it was important to stay in the country after I finished my studies. That is why I had to give up the scholarship. For someone, returning for at least two years to their home country is not such a big deal. In this case, one should apply for funding programs.

Gain a clear understanding of your financial situation. What if you can't find a job? Always consider the worst scenario. You should have enough money to ensure a minimum standard of living. My sister and I sold our apartment, and she lent me her half. I took the risk for my goal. I know that even if I can't gain a foothold in the UK labor market and have to return to Russia, with my quality UK degree, I will be able to find a good job and pay back the debt.

Start and develop a page on LinkedIn. Overseas, LinkedIn is a very powerful job search tool. Recruiters would contact me here four times and offer jobs. Even though it didn’t work out with any of them, the fact that I got those offers shows that this platform is pretty effective in bringing job seekers and employers together.

By Elena Burkovskaya