Studying abroad is the number one thing I recommend to college students. It was an experience that changed my life and everyone who chooses to live for a semester or longer in a foreign country is altered in some way. One of the most prohibitive factors of study abroad is its cost, leading many students to think that they can’t afford it. The fact is, studying abroad may be even cheaper than attending school on a US campus. Depending on which country you choose to live in, your overall expenses could be lower, due to switching universities and different costs of living. For some tips about how to save money while traveling and study abroad on a budget, read on.
Do your research before deciding on a country or study abroad program. Don’t just rely on a counselor to provide you with information, actually go on the internet and search for programs or other people’s experiences. Some countries are famously more expensive than others. If you want to study abroad in the UK, Ireland, Australia, Denmark, or other wealthy countries, your program fees, travel expensive, transportation, and food will cost you more. “Less popular” destinations like areas in Central and South America, Asia, and Eastern European countries will give you a lot more bang for your buck. Some fun and cheap(er) places to study abroad are Prague, Dubrovnik, Warsaw, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, and even some non-capital cities such as Bologna, (Italy), Valencia, (Spain), or Toulouse (France).
Keep in mind that in Germany, public undergraduate universities are free, with limited fees, for both national and international students. Of course, this only applies if you’re not doing the program directly through your home university and transferring the credits easily by paying your home school’s yearly tuition. In my case, I paid almost $30,000 for my semester because this is what Villanova dictates must be done to easily have these credits count for graduation, while if I had gone directly through the Arcadia program it would have been $13,550 and only €500-€1000 through the Italian university.
After choosing your program and moving abroad, you’re probably thinking about all of the convenient traveling you can do while living in Europe or another foreign continent. Be wary of student trip programs and pre-planned groups that will charge you much more money that you need to spend to travel. In Italy, Bus 2 alps is well known for domestic and international trips (to Positano and Munich for example) and definitely overcharges its customers. Destinations are also important to keep in mind. If you decide you NEED to go to Oktoberfest in Munich, that will significantly cut into your budget for other trips because everything is so overpriced during that time period. Traveling domestically around your home country is easy, cheap and will allow you to fully experience your study abroad country. Save the trips to expensive cities for another time or at least choose your must-sees and prioritize around that. I don’t recommend traveling as much as possible in the beginning of the semester, only to realize that you ran out of money and have to eat pasta and drink boxed €1 wine for the rest of your stay.
When you’re a student, it’s very easy to be lazy and avoid cooking your own food. This problem is compounded when you take into account the amazing foreign food that you’ll have at your disposal abroad, especially in Italy. Why make dinner when I can buy pizza, suppli and a personal tiramisu, all for €15?! Late night snacks and coffee runs do add up though. While it’s temping to always eat out, I think the best way to save money while studying abroad and still enjoy your experience is to remove any negative motivations to eat out and instead only do it when you are excited about it. Maybe you want to try a new restaurant or have a weekly pizza date planned on Fridays, but my advice is to limit the frequency of your meals out and increase the quality. That way you never miss out on something that you’ll really love, while staying in your budget at the same time.
If you stick around your study abroad city there are many ways you can find free and cheap events for students. Many major cities have events, concerts, and exhibitions open to the public that I usually find by visiting Facebook pages or looking at blog roundups. If you can plan out some cheap events beforehand, it’s also added motivation to stick around your city and maybe hang out with some locals. You should also look into any discounts for students or younger people in the area. In Rome, every first Sunday of the month is free entrance to museums and exhibitions for EU citizens. If you’re studying abroad with a program, take advantage of the program’s planned events. Many times the coordinators have a better idea of interesting activities and the price might be included with your program fees.
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