How To Study Abroad On A Budget

It’s officially winter and the appeal of studying abroad next semester is beginning to settle in. The idea itself conjures up imagery of authentic, bold espresso fumes permeating our senses and scenic strolls through the Colosseum led by our beautiful tour guide and narrated in his thick (mostly incomprehensible but nevertheless enticing) Mediterranean accent.

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Except you work on campus… making minimum wage. You can’t afford guac at Chipotle and you have yet to ever see a comma in your checking account. Studying abroad is always going to be more expensive then just staying at your school, but if you plan smart and budget correctly, you too can live like Lizzie Mcguire for half the price.


1. Pick a destination that is not as popular.

If you’re looking into traveling to a more popular destination like Paris or London then you need to be ready to pay Paris and London prices the entire time you’re there. Choosing any given country in Europe will be more expensive simply because the Euro is worth more than the dollar. Alternatively, you can choose a country that is not as popular of a study abroad destination among students. Same goes for cities within the countries themselves. If you’re absolutely set on going to the UK, choose a city that is not as popular and touristy as London is, for example. Smaller cities are more affordable for the most part.


2. Pay for your ticket with a payment plan.

If you have yet to see a comma in your checking account, don’t worry. Not necessary.

But how, Sway? Well, Expedia now has the option for you to book your flight now and pay for it later in monthly installments. You can sign up for installments as low as $100 over the course of several months.


3. Choose to stay with a host family.

I’m not sure why the idea of staying with a host family makes some of us nervous, but it does. Maybe you’re gluten-free and worried your host family will serve you bread at dinner or maybe you remember your roommate’s math partner’s boyfriend’s cousin’s host family horror story that left him permanently scarred and unable to travel to another foreign country ever again.

I know it’s tempting to look for a university dorm to stay in where you can meet other students your age, but that is usually way more expensive than just staying with a host family. You have to worry about buying your groceries, cooking your food and if you’re as unfortunate as I was, then you also have to worry about investing in cookware to use. When you decide to stay with a host family, all of these expenses are covered, you just have to factor in costs for the occasional times you choose to eat. Also, staying with a host family will help you learn the local language a lot quicker and they will also help introduce you to other locals that you can befriend.


4. Overpack.

There is nothing more annoying than arriving at your destination and realizing you need to buy more formal outfits because your sweats and T-shirts just aren’t cutting it or having to buy hair products because you weren’t prepared for the humidity. Do your research about the customs, climate and practices of the country BEFORE arriving so you can make sure that you pack everything you need.


5. Befriend locals.

If you’re the type of person whose first instinct when arriving in a foreign country is to befriend any and all Americans you come into contact with, speak only English 24/7, look for places where other Americans hang so you can come into contact with even MORE Americans and just soak in your American-ness, then congrats! You’ve defeated the purpose of studying abroad.

Yeah, it’s tempting to stay in your comfort zone and immediately cling to all things American when you arrive, but remember why you chose to study abroad in the first place. To eat at the Mcdonald’s on Champs-Elysee? No! Befriend the locals, take time to learn the language and you’ll be surprised at how much you can pick up in just four months. Plus, the locals know best which spots to hit up.

So, now you know how to effectively plan your trip abroad and not break your wallet while doing so. ┬áBut it is also equally important to do your research and learn the customs of the country and basic phrases if you’re not already conversational in the language. Let’s not be annoying tourists, okay?

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