Budgeting: Tips for Going Abroad
By Emilie Swartvagher
Going abroad is an amazing adventure, but planning is key to getting the most out of your experience. This especially applies to planning out your finances. Program costs, visas, food, souvenirs, and bussing from place to place adds up very quickly, so it’s important to be prepared for all of these things.
I started saving a year before going abroad. I had two jobs on campus during my sophomore year, and I got into the habit of putting a little away from my paycheck every time I received one. I also had a loose change jar that I filled with any coins I had and didn’t touch until a week before I left.
I applied for study abroad scholarships like the Gilman Scholarship, Diversity Abroad, and Go Overseas, which would help cover my flight, passport/visa, and program fees. There are tons more national, institutional, local and private scholarships that are curtailed especially for study abroad, and information on your eligibility is a google search away.
I made sure my FAFSA was in on time and talked to my institution’s Financial Aid department to make sure I was informed about it and how my federal and institutional loans and grants would be applied to my study abroad experience. I was in constant contact with the administrators on campus, double checking any paperwork I needed to ensure I was ready to go overseas.
It helps to have a growing list of approximate costs, whether in a notebook, a spreadsheet, or on a memo pad, but definitely, have it written down. Start with your budget, then start allocating how much you want to spend on food, on souvenirs, on travel and outings. More importantly: stick to the budget you give yourself! If you allocate $100.00 for souvenirs don’t go over that, or you’ll run the risk of not being able to afford lunch or trips to neighboring cities! You wouldn’t want to turn down cultural experiences because you spent all your money in the first couple of weeks on stuff to take home with you.
Maybe budgeting per month is easier for you. Allocating self-imposed disbursements of money each month will help keep track of where your money’s going and where you need it most on a day to day basis.
In Ireland, there are Carroll’s Irish Gift Shops everywhere. I didn’t go there to buy anything at all until my second to last day in Ireland. There were also plenty of stores and restaurants in Ireland that exist in America (LUSH, Starbucks, McDonald's, TJ Maxx etc) I didn’t buy anything from these places, because obviously, they’re not unique to my study abroad experience, and stores like these sell items that aren’t necessary for me to have while studying abroad.
I’m an English major, so I had a lot of coursebooks to read. Depending on your major you may get a syllabus with lots of requirements for your modules. St. Patrick’s College had a beautiful and really big library, I borrowed every book I needed, which was good for my wallet and my suitcase when I had to come back home (Books are heavy)!