Studying abroad while in college will afford you some incredible experiences. You’ll have a whole new country to explore alongside all of the usual growth and development college creates, and a group of friends to discover unlike anyone you’ve ever met before. But the best a study abroad program has to offer you won’t come to pass if you don’t have the money for it. You’ve done your best to get grants, scholarships and student loans to take care of room and board and tuition, but what about the rest of your life in this faraway land? You’ll have to determine a proper budget and stick to it, or your experience could be cut short. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your budget when you study abroad.
First of all, you’re going to have to determine a clear budget, either by semester or for the full year, and stick to it. Make a list of all the necessary expenditures, the utilities, food, transportation and book expenses you just can’t live without. But consider your choices in each area before deeming them set in stone, to see if there are any ways to cut corners. Food is one expense that could range wildly. You’ve got a number that you need to spend every month, but is that based on cooking at home or eating out every day? Try to make enough concessions that you can stay within your budget, but not so many that the study abroad experience isn’t worth the effort.
Consider how various banking choices can help or hurt your bottom line. One major issue is the exchange rate in your host country. This will fluctuate significantly during your time there, which will always impinge upon your plans. The best idea is to create a monthly budget in your host currency, so you won’t get confused by conversion rates. Make sure you reassess this each month, to make sure that fluctuations don’t impact things severely. You should also choose a bank in the U.S. that will help you through the process. Some banks charge steep ATM fees for foreign transactions, and those expenses will surely add up. Try to choose a bank that has a relationship with a bank in your host country, and see if you can get them to waive the foreign transaction fee. The same goes for your choice of credit card. You’ve got to have one when studying abroad. But some charge exorbitant foreign fees and others don’t charge a thing. Read the fine print carefully to make sure you’ve got the right tools at your disposal.
If you really want to stick to a budget you’re going to have to plan your trip well in advance, and the farther out the better. You’ll get better deals on the travel expenses, and might be able to negotiate a lower rate on an apartment as well. With the extra time you should do a deep internet search into your new area and ferret out any student discounts. In other countries you’ll find deep discounts for students on a wide range of products and services, from coffee shops to rail passes to movie theaters. Generate a list you can take with you and you’ll save money in the long run.
Finally, be flexible when you need to be. Chances are you didn’t choose to study abroad because that particular school had the best certified nursing assistant programs. If it was just about education you’d stay here. You want to experience another country, and sometimes that takes money. If you’ve done your due diligence and saved wherever possible and you still come up against unforseen issues, relax and go with it. This is a once in a lifetime experience, and you can always take another look at your budget for next month and adjust. You’ve got to allow for the unexpected, so even leave a bit of wiggle room for you to be impulsive from time to time. After all, that’s also what being a college student is all about.