Studying abroad is one of those dreams everyone has but not everyone can afford. But I’ve spent the last seven years ambling around the globe collecting tidbits of advice that can help you realize the goal of going abroad and doing it cheaply. When considering if, when, and where you’d want to study abroad, here’s some important things to consider:
Europe is beautiful but it isn’t cheap. Remember that there’s a whole world out there. And even if you study abroad through your college and have the pleasure of paying the same tuition to go abroad, remember that living expenses are significantly more expensive–in no small part because, excepting a few places like Czech Republic, you’ll be converting your dollars to euros. Simply put: your money doesn’t go as far. Also remember: the value of a study abroad program isn’t solely in the academics. You are abroad to learn about culture, language, global politics, and a social structure different than your own. I studied abroad in Ghana, where the classes were questionable. But the most valuable things I learned weren’t related to studies at all. And the best part? Ghana was cheap. Consider South America, the Middle East, and Asia as places to go, to learn, to scare yourself, and to pay less for it.
Think about travel expenses way ahead of time. Planning ahead can save you buckets, especially on plane tickets. As soon as you know where and when you’re going, make a reservation. Use comparison sites like Kayak.com to help. Other personal favorites: BT-Store.com and Mobissimo.com. Another consideration: be flexible in your departure/arrival times and what carriers you fly. Flying late at night or switching to a European or Asian airline could save you hundreds of dollars.
Forget phone calls. Technology means you can talk and see your family for free. Skype is the standard, but lots of instant messaging clients also offer video options. That means you can talk as much as you want and save your money for better things, like your education. One caveat: you’ve got to have internet that’s reliable enough to sustain video chat. Or even just voice chat. And from experience I can tell you: sometimes that’s hard to find. If you can’t manage, get a local cell phone and have your family call you via Skype-to-phone. It’s not free, but when compared to the cost of talking phone-to-phone, it’s almost nothing.
Consider changing your bank. If you’re studying abroad for an entire year, consider local banking options. Or switch to a domestic bank that refunds ATM fees even if they’re international. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars throughout my years of traveling on ATM fees alone by using Charles Schwab.
Get an ISIC card. If you don’t have one already, they’re great. You can find information on the card here. It’s not free, but it can help you save a lot of money on all kinds of things: hotels, tours, historical sites, transportation costs, museum tickets, even restaurants. The rule of thumb: once you have the card, show it everywhere you go. Sometimes places don’t advertise their student discounts. But ask and you might get one.