February 8, 2011

Living Frugally: How to Make the Best of Your Study Abroad Experience

You have probably heard this many times, but your study abroad experience really will be one of the most memorable periods of your life. However, there are a lot of stresses that come with living in another country. In addition to all the applications and visa paperwork you have to complete beforehand, the financial burden of studying abroad often deters most students from leaving their comfort zone. However, if you make smart decisions both before and during your stay, you will realize that studying abroad doesn't have to put a strain on your pocketbook. You can still have an amazing experience by planning ahead. Most importantly, living frugally is key to prevent building up debt and unnecessary expenses.


Currency: When considering your potential destination, keep your financial situation in mind. You don't have to study abroad in Tokyo or Moscow, two of the most expensive cities in the world, in order to have fun. Look at countries where your own currency goes a long way. For Americans, countries with favorable exchange rates include: India, Dominican Republic, Panama, Argentina, Turkey, Chile, El Salvador, and the list goes on.

Direct Exchange: Third party providers that offer programs are usually much more expensive than direct exchanges with your home university. If you do a direct exchange, a program should not cost much more than your normal college tuition. Start planning early and schedule appointments with your study abroad office to discuss the possibilities.

Plan for the Future:  It is important to choose a country that is suitable for your personal interests. Still, be sure you can market your experience in the future. You do not want future employers to think this was just time off to party in another country. For example, companies and markets are highly inner-connected these days, and being proficient in another language is a great asset to have. Plan to take some courses in the local language. You can even practice your new skills in a real world setting! After all, it's more fun to put your skills to use in a new place, perhaps a market or cafe, than in your high school or college classroom.


Cultural Events: One of the most important assets of living abroad is the exposure to a new culture and way of life. Luckily, most students are offered discounts or even free admission to museums and events. Be sure to ask your university about discounts. Check out the student rates on the government websites as well. They usually post links to free events.

Cook, But Still be Cultural: One of the perks of living in a new place is the wealth of new cuisine and restaurants. However, this leads you to rake up a large monthly bill. There are usually many other international students in a university. Make some friends, and try to cook together at your dormitory or apartment on the weekdays. This technique will also allow you to try new foods and meet great new people.

Drinking: Many European and Latin American countries charge exorbitant prices for drinks. Don't plan on ordering more than one drink at a bar or club. Have a fun get together with your friends beforehand, where you share conversation and drink a bit before you go out on the town. Also, don't waste your study abroad experience by binge drinking. This is a time you want to remember. Drinking heavily abroad can take a toll on your health personal expenses. Be responsible!

This guest contribution was submitted by Lauren Bailey, who specializes in writing about online colleges. Questions and comments can be sent to: blauren99 @gmail.com

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