One of the most daunting aspects of studying abroad is the cost. Some schools, such as Champlain College, have their own campuses where the tuition & housing cost the same. Some programs require a student to disenroll and the reenroll in order to complete the program, and the costs can change. No matter if it’s a third party program or through a school, the static costs aren’t the scary part, it’s the money spent while abroad. While planning a semester abroad there are a few tips that are universal that can enhance the experience. The worst thing would be traveling to a different country for a complete experience and being limited by finances. Some great guides on how to prepare for a semester are StudyAbroad.com’s Student Guide and GoAbroad.com’s resource section. From working in the study abroad office and experiencing a semester abroad, I have a few of my own tips:
1. SAVE SAVE SAVE! – If you have any hankering to study abroad or any desire to study abroad, start saving now. I don’t mean you have to dedicate whole pay checks to the semester, but put aside a few dollars every so often and it will pile up. One tip I’ve learned from the office is wrapping a elastic around your debit card. This way, each time you go to use your card you must take the elastic off and ask yourself if you really need this purchase or should you be saving the money to go abroad.
2. Apply for scholarships – There are hundreds of scholarships dedicated to sending American students abroad. Some colleges even offer money to students if they study abroad. A few good resources for scholarships and international scholarships are @payingforschool @scholarshipscom @borenawards
3. Understand exchange rates – One aspect that comes with studying abroad is using a different currency that is worth something different than American money. I can not tell you how many times I would think something in Dublin is cheap and then realize it was in Euros and wasn’t as cheap as I thought. When abroad, you must constantly remember that you are not dealing in dollars and prices on many things vary.
4. Cash or Credit based? – The US is a very friendly credit/debit card friendly place and most places accept cards and cash. This isn’t a universal commodity and many other cultures are still very cash based. Also, knowing that banks charge a fee when you use a debit card abroad for purchases. Some charge the basic international use charge in addition to a currency conversion fee. When you’re in a cash based society, best advice is to take out cash when exchange rates are in your favor and keep it safe. ATMs can charge massive fees as well, so limit ATM use and take out enough cash to last a bit.
5. Pace Yourself- Depending on the program, you are living in a country from anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Pace yourself, realize that you have time to spend and don’t spend your money all in the first weekend. It may be nice to splurge on nice outings every once in a while, but remember the money you bring is the money you’ll need to make last until you leave.
There are many different opinions and nuggets of advice people give regarding money. I would simply recommend saving as much as possible and pacing yourself. Set a budget, and even if you stray, monitor spending so you’ll have enough money to last you. Fees and exchange rates are also inevitable, so be aware of these and remember to take them into account when dealing with finances.