Studying abroad is a great opportunity to see and experience other parts of the world on a deeper level than on just your run-of-the-mill vacation. Bonus: It also looks great on a resume and gives you the chance to make friends across cultural boundaries. While the benefits of studying abroad are endless, it can also be a major financial undertaking, especially if you’re not prepared.
Before you apply for your dream study abroad program, consider these important factors and skills so you can have the best possible experience (and money for study abroad) without breaking the bank. A well-informed traveler is the best kind of traveler!
Focus on Self-Reliance
Everyone asks, “How much does it cost to study abroad?” The answer is: it always depends, but usually quite a bit. In college, it’s easy to fall back on readily-available services like takeout food, sales (any kind), and thrift stores to meet your everyday needs, but these habits can land you in a mess of financial stress while living abroad. Let’s face it, everyone loves a good steal, and we all need a little retail therapy sometimes, but having basic self-reliance skills can help you maintain a study abroad budget now as well as when you’re traveling (side note: everyone needs money to study abroad).
Here are some self-reliance strategies to consider:
Learn to cook. It’s cheaper (and healthier) to eat from fresh ingredients you cook yourself than to shell out for someone else’s labor every meal. This will especially come in handy (when you need money for study abroad) if you have access to something as simple as a hotplate and a pan. Eating out at restaurants in foreign countries can get very expensive, more so in major cities than in smaller communities. Help out your study abroad budget by making an in-home date night and cook dinner at home with friends!
Learn to sew. You shouldn’t have to re-up every time you get an unfashionable tear in your jeans. This can also break you of your thrift store habit, which is essential if there’s no such thing as a second-hand shop where you’re traveling. This is a great little skill to keep in the back pocket of your best travel pants, (not to mention a travel sewing kit could fit there easily, too)!
Learn to navigate. Knowing how to read a map to determine which way is north will save you time (and pricey cab rides) in foreign countries. This goes double for adventurous excursions. We know map reading is regarded as a dying art, but knowing where you’re headed on a random adventure can really save you in a pinch.
Trust us, these are just some of the ways to study abroad for cheap(er). You’ll think of plenty more.
It can’t be avoided: there will always be unexpected costs when you’re traveling and/or studying abroad. That being said, you can certainly educate yourself ahead of time to minimize the number of things that qualify as “unexpected” and to save money for study abroad. Figure out as many costs as possible for your study abroad budget and start planning early! You’ll get better deals on air fare if you jump at low rates when they suddenly appear. The secret for how to save money for study abroad? Be diligent in seeking deals!
You’ll also be able to properly budget for incidental costs like foreign transit, average food prices, and the most efficient itinerary. Working out these nuances beforehand will make your life much easier when it comes to money for study abroad when it’s time to travel.
Before choosing a study abroad program, look into each program provider and program carefully to see if it is affordable or not. Know what is included, and what is not. You’ll be happy to know: budget friendly study abroad programs DO exist. Believe it or not, it is possible to choose more affordable study abroad options too.
Understand the Cost of Your Study Abroad City & Country
It’s important to remember that when you travel abroad, you’re entering an entirely different culture. There are a lot of elements of behavior that differ from home whenever you visit a foreign country, many of which can relate directly to money. A great example is that many countries have a culture of bartering and bargaining at markets. People are not used to this in the United States, but in many places, it’s customary for shopkeepers to start with a high price on the expectation that the shopper will bargain it down to something more reasonable.
If you aren’t aware that you’re in a bartering culture, you may end up paying far above the reasonable price. This is also true for other services like taxis. Rather than having a meter, taxi drivers in some places negotiate a price before the trip, again expecting to have their first offer rejected.
Look out for matters related to how people handle money in other countries:
Is there a culture of gratuity in your destination? In other words, do people tip in this country and if so, where and how much? Americans tip between 15 to 20 percent for food servers, bartenders, spa workers, and taxi drivers; however, in Australia, food servers do not rely on tips for their income and tipping at restaurants is not customary.
What is the exchange rate in your destination? Your dollar may be worth more or less depending on where you go, so remember to save according to what you’ll need in your destination city. This can get complicated. For instance, if you’re studying abroad in Europe, you’ll need a bit more to get by in London, England, where every Pound Sterling is worth $1.66. However, if you study in St. Petersburg, Russia, every dollar gets you over 33 Rubles. Because of the power of exchange rates, you should consider traveling to places that get you more for your dollar — if you’re trying to save, that is!
Be Smart About Saving
The best answer to the question of “how to get money for study abroad” is a good savings strategy (and a study abroad budget). It will make sure you have enough money in your bank account by the time you board the plane to your study abroad adventure. This holds true for any major investment you’ll ever plan. Sit down with someone at your bank to discuss your options for smart, secure savings packages. Don’t get bogged down in credit card debt.
Make a habit of socking away a certain amount of your income every week, preferably into an account you don’t allow yourself to touch. Cut excesses and cut back on some of your more common luxuries (like going out with friends every weekend). If you don’t have the money for studying abroad or traveling right now, you won’t have money later (when you need a study abroad budget) without changing the way you spend today.
How comfortable and valuable your study abroad experience is will depend significantly on how well you plan your adventure ahead of time.
Remember that, no matter how similar you think it may be in your host country, you’re traveling to a foreign nation with its own costs, customs, and cultural expectations. Keep your eye on your daily finances beforehand and learn as much as you can about your study abroad destination so that the only surprises you’ll face while studying abroad will be the exciting, invigorating, pleasant ones (and some money for study abroad!). Happy trails, wherever you land for study abroad!