Although going abroad is definitely worth the cost, there is no hiding the fact that doing an education abroad program can get pretty expensive. A lot of the price comes from upfront expenses that you have to spend before you even leave the country, like program fees, passports, visas, plane tickets, travel insurance, etc. But there are also a lot of expenses when you arrive in the country that you may not know much about before you leave. A lot of aspects of living abroad requires figuring things out as you go and figuring out what works best for you, but I would definitely recommend doing some research before you leave. Here are a few tips that might help you get started when you’re thinking budgeting while you are living abroad.
- Know the money conversions for the country you are going to. No matter what country you are going to, chances are you are going to have to convert your money from US dollars to the local currency. Before you leave, make sure to look up exactly how much the conversion is for the country you are going to. There are several apps you can download on your phone to help you convert currency amounts on the spot, so you always know how much you are spending before you buy something. I would also recommend looking into how your own bank handles foreign currency exchanges. Some banks don’t charge you anything extra to convert money at an ATM, some banks charge a percentage, and some banks charge a set fee every time you take out any amount of money. It’s good to have a plan before you leave about how you are going to convert your money while you are abroad.
- Look for cheap public transportation. This includes things like plane tickets, train tickets, bus passes, and ride share services. More than likely, you are going to need to use some kind of public transportation service while you are abroad, so I would recommend doing your research about the public transportation costs in the city and country you are traveling to. In many countries like France, you can get a youth discount on train and bus tickets if you are under a certain age, which can save you a lot of money in the long run if you are aware of them. If you are planning to travel while you are abroad, it might also be a good idea to look into discount companies for cheaper tickets. For countries in Europe, there are plane companies like Ryanair and EasyJet, and in France, there are train and bus companies like Ouigo, and several car share services like BlaBlaCar that can get you to several different cities for a cheap price. When considering places to stay while traveling, there are also cheaper options, such as hostels or Airbnb. Make sure you know all of your options before you spend more than you have to.
- Plan for start-up costs. Regardless of how cheaply you live on a day-to-day basis while you are abroad, you are probably going to have to spend a lot of money in your first few days. For shorter programs this may not be as accurate, but if you are going abroad for a semester or longer, you’re going to have to buy quite a few things to get started, especially if you’re not staying in a homestay. You will probably have to buy things like food, toiletries, sheets, silverware and dishes, and in some cases, even more insurance. It might be a good idea to go ahead and plan for these expenses.
- Plan how much you are going to eat out or go out in general. One of the quickest ways to spend all of your money when you go abroad is by going out to eat every day and going out with friends every night. Going out is a great way to hang out with friends and meet new people and experience the local culture, but it is expensive. I would recommend planning ahead and thinking about how much money you can spend on going out and how often.
Caitlin Smith is a senior at the University of Kentucky studying French and Sociology. She studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France during the Spring 2016 semester.