Whether it’s in high school or university, travelling abroad to obtain an education has become a growing trend among young Canadians. But while the excitement of living abroad appeals to many students, parents are likely bearing the financial burden that comes with providing these opportunities for their kids. 

“We are seeing kids travel abroad for school in an increased amount,” said Alan Desnoyers, senior vice-president for the Greater Toronto Area at BMO Private Banking, in a phone interview.

“Exposing kids to different cultures and customs just enriches them as a person.”

For many, an international education is often considered a luxury with the additional fees that come along with living and travelling abroad. But some personal finance experts say these experiences are attainable, they just require planning.

“Planning ahead is absolutely the most critical part of this – looking at all the variables, looking at the family income. Is there additional financing? How many kids do [you] have?,” said Desnoyers.

Personal finance expert Kelley Keehn, who is a consumer advocate at FP Canada, says involving your child when creating a financial plan is the most important factor when pursuing these opportunities.

“Start a financial plan to say, ‘Do we have the money to do this?’ And ‘What are the blind spots?’” Keehn said. “Find people who have done this and interview them to find out what are the approximate, the appropriate costs then work backwards – because these are often under estimated.”

Keehn also stresses the importance of having your children help fund their own trips and plans to study abroad.

“I think just as long as the kid has some skin in the game, it gives the most value – especially when going for post-secondary. When you pay or even help just a bit you appreciate it a lot more.”

Gap years are another growing alternative to taking courses, with companies such as Verge Magazine providing resources for students to volunteer or work abroad. 

“One of the biggest things that I have seen over the past five years is the emergence of more gap-year programs,” said Arden Jobling-Hey, director of admissions at Class Afloat, an organization that offers classes while sailing internationally on a tall ship, in a phone interview.

“[High school teachers] are so interested in pushing a gap year, and especially with kids in private schools who don’t know what they want to do for university.”

Jobling-Hey says that the most important thing is knowing where to look, since there are alternatives to having a traditional education abroad, but it takes time to research programs.

“There are so many of them now that they have become competitive with each other and there are national opportunities, international opportunities and I find especially with the ones in Canada, there are also opportunities with organizations subsidized by the government,”  said Jobling-Hey.

Still, while these resources are readily available, Desnoyers says it’s important not to plan at the last minute – and to recognize your children’s interests in learning about different cultures in far-flung places as early as possible.

“The theme of planning is important here, everyone knows they should do it, and it’s never too soon to start planning that process years ahead.”