The theme of this blog is (cue the dramatic music) trying to survive in another country with not a lot of money! YAY! Recently, as the term has been winding down to somewhat of an end, I’ve been noticing the dollar amount in my bank account slowly creeping its way closer and closer to zero. It’s definitely a scary thought, but it’s taught me (sort of) how to be more responsible with my money, which is a skill I’m sure I’ll need once I enter the, gulp, real world. I’m gonna try and share some secret tips and tricks to going abroad on a budget so that anyone who is worried about finances still pursues the idea of studying abroad for a term, because honestly, it has been the best semester of college ever.
The first thing is food. I’m in England, so the food is already pretty subpar, as sad as it is to say. As a Filipino-American, I need some flavor in my life, and a lot of the food here kind of tastes like cardboard. Sorry England! I’ve been eating a lot healthier as a result, so it’s a positive? Anyways, the key here to is to find the local chain markets and grocery stores. For me, the lower end grocery store in my region is called ALDI. You would not believe how cheap some of the food is here. You can get a whole loaf of bread for less than a dollar, it’s kind of amazing. Yes, it’s not going to be the high quality food that you would find at a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, but it is just as good and even better for your wallet. I can spend about 20 pounds in one visit and that food will last me about three weeks to a month. Go for your longer lasting carbs, like rice and pasta. Just a little bit of butter and salt added to some boiled pasta and you’ve got a nice dish with a butter sauce. It did take getting used to, but it really is such a viable option. You won’t have the time to cook fancy meals anyway, so save yourself the stress. Of course, treat yourself to that steak dinner every once in a while to keep your sanity.
One essential part of going abroad is the travel. Most American students that go abroad really put academics second and travel first, me included. Traveling can be very expensive, it’s quite daunting. However, if you know what to look for, you can get around for relatively cheap and still have an amazing experience. Make sure you plan out your travel plans pretty early, because last minute travel will almost always cost way too much more money than it’s worth. When you make a trip plan, try to either take the bus or a plane. Buses are usually the cheapest option. They can get a bit uncomfortable, but if you’re willing to sit through a long ride to save some money, you’ll be golden. Plane rides are actually a lot cheaper in this continent. A flight from England to Poland if bought early enough is only about 100 dollars round trip. DO NOT take the trains unless you have the funds for it. Train rides get ridiculously expensive quickly, and you’ll be thinking “wow, I’m out of money” a month into your term.
There is a lot of stuff to do specifically in Europe that are really cheap. A lot of the museums in England and Europe are free for students, so bring your student ID everywhere! And there are so many castles, churches, and other amazing pieces of architecture that you can just wander around for free. The landscape is a lot more open, so there’s ample opportunity to take hikes and see amazing sites. Definitely save up some money to do a few of those cliché touristy things if that’s what you’re into, just don’t make it a priority. My advice is to plan to take one or two big trips to dream spots, and then look into what can explored in your general area. There’s a lot more stuff to do than you probably thought!
My final advice deals with having a social life on a budget. You’re going to be meeting so many new friends and trying to do as much as you can with them in your daily routine. Going out every night can be a little difficult to do, but you also want to make sure you stay relevant in the circle of friends you’ve made. My advice is to budget enough money to go out twice a week, and don’t go over that budget. Going out can either be really cheap if you’re responsible or really expensive if you’re reckless. Don’t spend all your money in one sitting. If you spend it wisely and spread it our over the course of the term, you will be able to have more fun throughout the whole semester.
And that’s just some basic how to’s from a fellow struggling soul in another country. Being abroad has been one of the best experiences of my life, and I would do it all over again if I had the chance. It’s just a matter of being smart with your money and your time that will help you have the best semester ever.