7 Tips for Studying Abroad on a Budget

If you’re enrolling or plan to participate in a study abroad program during your college years, there are some things you should know before you go, especially if you are on a “I only have the money I saved up and brought” budget. Here’s how I survived 4 months studying and traveling Europe with $2,000.

  • Get a credit card with a chip in it and do your research on which cards have lower foreign transaction fees. And remember to take out enough euros and pounds, depending on your long-term location, before you leave your forgiving motherland that doesn’t have these fees. I am NOT about those foreign transaction fees and spending money that I don’t have just to take money out, and I’m sure you won’t be either. 
  • Leave 4 and a half hours early to get to the airport. Doesn’t matter if you are a “leave the house 20 minutes before you have to be there” person. Get your shit together and leave early. You’re in a strange country, you don’t know where you’re going, and sometimes, the bus pick-up to the airport turns out to be a shady, dark lot for stationed buses that your google research directions lead you to, rather than where you were supposed to go. Or facing bus delays and missing your flight with 3 months worth of luggage and pathetically crying to the cold British airport clerk who you just want to punch in the face for being so insensitive. Unfortunately, the problem isn’t her fault. So get there early.
  • Don’t stay in an airport over night. If you think you’re saving money from the hostel costs by leaving a day early, you just end up spending the money on airport food anyways and you feel like a scum bag laying across a row of seats in your own filth. Stay an extra night, take a shower, sleep in a bed, and buy enough pasta for the weekend. 
  • Plan a budget. Don’t go crazy with clothes shopping or buying jewelry in the country where you’re spending 3 months or longer. Be aware of how much you are spending a week on groceries, and plan out how much money you will need for a trip to each country, including food, flight, hostel, and a little extra souvenir money. Suck it up and eat pasta throughout the week if you want to go to Ireland. 
  • Get a lock for your backpack. It’s a pain in the ass to travel with a turtle shell on your back and not see what’s going on back there. It is extremely easy for pick pocketers to open your bag and take something, and you don’t feel a thing. Or pack all of your underwear at the top and have them strewn along the streets of Paris. A little embarrassing, but from personal experience I’d rather have someone take my drawers than having all of my money and identification stolen. Plus, you get the gratification of picturing the look of disgust on the thief’s face when they accidentally grab a hand full of underpants instead of your wallet.
  • Don’t bother with a phone plan. It’s hard enough to figure out where you’re supposed to go and public transportation. Don’t bother with signing up for a phone plan that you’ll only get 4 weeks out of before having to make your way back to the inconveniently located phone store and sign up for another 4 weeks. Just download an app like everybody else and use your residence hall’s wifi. And yes, you’re going to have to plan directions ahead of time, use maps, and ask for directions. The horror of not using our phones. 
  • Do your research on the hostels before you go. And if you can scrounge up for a room with less people, DO IT. I can’t stress enough the disgust and slight terror of living in a room filled with 14 strangers and three-tiered beds while the person in the bunk next to you is watching porn.

I hope these tips have better prepared you in your study abroad journey. Good luck, and remember to enjoy this traveling opportunity. You may not have another chance like this again. 

Lauren Peterson