Studying abroad may be one of the best experiences of your college career, but it also can be one of the most expensive. Let College Lifestyles help you out with our top 11 ways to save money while studying abroad.
Before You Go:
1. Choose your place wisely. If you know in advance that money is going to be tight, choose a study abroad site you know you can afford. Studying Spanish? Skip Spain and head to South America instead.
2. Get a scholarship. There are several scholarships exclusively for study abroad. Make sure you look as far in advance as possible for these, since they can fill up quickly. These scholarships are especially common if you are studying in a less popular area, like China or the Middle East.
3. Get the International Student ID Card (ISIC). There’s a good chance a foreign country won’t recognize the ID card from your American university, especially if it’s not well-known. Having the ISIC ensures you always get the student prices you need. Best of all, the card comes with exclusive deals and works in 120 countries.
4. Enroll directly. The United States has one of the most expensive university systems in the world. If you speak the language (or are going somewhere they speak English), it can be several thousand dollars cheaper to enroll directly in a foreign university. Make sure you confirm this is possible with your university before trying this, as it can change how they accept your credits and your financial aid for that semester. And be prepared to deal with a lot of bureaucracy.
While You’re There:
5. Buy a sturdy coin purse. America’s most expensive coin is worth just $1, and those aren’t as common as the far less valuable quarter. But in other countries, coins can be more valuable – take the euro coin, which at today’s exchange rate is worth $1.30 on the dollar. That doesn’t sound like a lot more, but it adds up. Also, many public transport systems will also only accept coins. The lesson here? Skip the flimsy pocket in your wallet and buy a sturdy coin purse. They’re so cheap, they can double as a souvenir.
6. Cooking your own food, if it’s an option, is generally far cheaper (and healthier!) than buying it everyday. This is great for practicing the language, since it forces you to learn the names of new foods and talk with the shopkeepers. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even learn a new recipe.
7. Try Couchsurfing. Don’t have money to spend on hostels? Couchsurfing is absolutely free. This company pairs up travelers with regular people who are willing to open up their home for a few days. This is much safer than it sounds since Couchsurfing allows people to write reviews of both hosts and guests. You might even love it so much that you’ll host travelers once you return to the States.
8. Keeping an expense journal is a great budget skill wherever you are. But it’s especially important when you’re studying abroad, i.e. spending way more money than normal and dealing with a foreign currency. Buy a tiny notebook you can tuck into any purse and write each purchase in as you go. At the end of the week, add the money up and convert it into US dollars.
9. Make local (and foreign) friends. One of the many benefits of having local friends is that they can save you money, showing you all the cool, cheap hangouts that you would never discover on your own. But foreign friends, specifically ones from nearby countries are great too. Studying in France and make friends with someone who lives in Dublin? Now you have a place to stay for the weekend and your own personal tour guide.
10. Read a weekly publication. Most major cities have a weekly publication that has an event listing in the back, most of which are cheap or free. If you’re lucky, they’ll even have one in English. Use Google, a local friend, or a guidebook to find one. If you’re really stuck, Time Out is also a good place to start.
11. Travel domestically. One of the advantages of studying abroad is that you get to stay in the same country for several months. Get to know the whole place, not just the city you’re in, by traveling domestically – which is generally cheaper than traveling internationally. Don’t feel like you’re missing out: When I was studying in Buenos Aires, I never left Argentina once. I did, however, go to Bariloche, Mendoza, Salta, Jujuy, and Iguazú Falls – and I had an amazing time.
Want more study abroad articles? Check out Top 10 Ways to Stay Fit While Studying Abroad, or CL Top 10: What and What Not to Pack for Study Abroad.
Sasha Graffagna is a current junior studying Journalism and Comparative Literature at NYU. She studied abroad in Buenos Aires last semester, and is currently on exchange at La Universidad de Sagrado Corazón in San Juan, Puerto Rico.