Living Frugally While Studying Abroad

 
Some little girls dream of their weddings from age three. I on the other hand, dreamt of living in Istanbul (and many other international cities) from age 5. Every time I would go on an international vacation with my family, whether it was Turkey, Spain, France, Argentina, or even Zambia, I imagined what it would be like to live in the apartments overlooking the main squares of various metropolises. These vacations were lots of fun, especially because my dad was footing the bill for a week or more of travel. However, when I decided to study abroad, I was under a much more stringent budget. My overall stay couldn't exceed more than the tuition, room, and board of my home university. Although my home university was private, with expensive tuition, this ended up being VERY difficult endeavor. If you plan to study abroad in Europe or even Asia, things can get pretty expensive. Here are some tips to help you save money during your exciting abroad experience.

Before You Go: Choosing your Destination

If money is a big issue for you, you should choose your location wisely. If you barely have $300 to spend a month, Moscow (one of the most expensive cities in the world) probably won't be the best choice. You should find a place where the currency exchange rate works in your favor. Try going to South America or Central America if you are an American! Countries in this region are likely to give you bang for your buck. Also, just because the exchange rate works to your advantage doesn't mean a city will be cheaper. Ask your program director or study abroad office for some financial advice! 

Live with a Host Family

If you have the option to live with a host family during your study abroad semester/year, you should definitely consider it. Most programs, such as the Center for International Educational Exchange (CIEE) and International Studies Abroad (ISA), provide home stay options. Home stay options usually guarantee and incorporate at least one or two meals a day for students. This saves you from finding and funding your own (often expensive) meals. Usually the home stay option is not significantly more expensive (it's often cheaper) than living in a university dormitory. Plus, by living with a family, you will get a better acquainted with the cultures and traditions of a country or region!

Evaluate Costs of Living in an Apartment Versus a Dormitory

If you are unable to find a cheaper home stay option, make sure you check out local apartment costs. Many times, monthly rent can be much cheaper than the boarding costs of a dormitory. Programs usually allow you a grace period to leave a dormitory when you arrive. Living in an apartment can give you the independence and experience to truly get to know a city! 
  
Don't Buy Souvenirs until Your Last Week

My greatest expenses during my studies abroad: my unnecessary shopping expenditures! I traveled within Turkey almost every weekend. I wanted to buy an item from every place I visited. After all, you want to remember a place long after you visit it. The reality, those souvenirs mean NOTHING to me now. If you really want to remember a place, take great pictures. If you just NEED to buy something, buy a postcard from the various cities you visit. Tell yourself you won't buy anything until your last week of your study abroad experience.  You will be less likely to buy everything in sight, as the novelty will have probably worn off!
Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online college. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031 @gmail.com.

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