Studying abroad is probably one of the best choices I made in my life, not only because it greatly improved my knowledge of the world but also because I had the chance to explore all of Europe (as well as parts of Africa and Asia) while doing it.
Want to know how to do it without spending more than 600 euros a month?
Here are five of my best Study Abroad Travel Tips, enjoy!
It’s all about the money (and yes, you DO need their money).
If you’re a middle class average guy like me, studying abroad and traveling might seem prohibitively expensive but trust me, it doesn’t have to be. If you already have a scholarship then you don’t have to pay tuition fees in your exchange University, plus, you can apply and obtain a grant from either your home country or your home university.
A friend of mine went to Montreal and received about 1000 USD each month from the Mexican Government. For free! She saw an opportunity and she took it! If you’re also from a developing country, you should be aware that there are some Government sponsored programs that actively help young university students that want to travel abroad, you just need to do your research and make it happen.
If you’re from Europe and the USA/Canada then you’re extremely lucky because there are tons of scholarships and funds to encourage people to get to know the world, the most famous being the Erasmus program of Europe. Trust me, money is NEVER an issue when there’s willpower.
So yes, let’s say you already have the money, that’s the easy part. What’s the hard part? The hard part is managing it in order to fulfill your travel goals.
Here’s 7 tips I wrote about saving money in general. Useful stuff, right? Well, let’s get ready for our next Study Abroad Travel Tips then, which I believe is the one that makes or breaks the budget of most students: Location.
Choose the right destination.
Sure, your university probably has a fair number of exchange programs but ask yourself: Is Norway a really good idea cost-wise? (Hint: It’s not).
Some people wrongly believe that you need to be rich in order to study abroad and travel and that’s not the case, if you’re from North America (USA, Canada, Mexico), the most obvious choice is Europe…but that’s not the only one.
I met a lot of friends who studied in Buenos Aires, Argentina and thanks to the current black market for US Dollars, they lived and traveled like kings for less than 500 USD per month! If they had followed my Study Abroad Travel Tips, they could have even do that for less!
If you’re really keen on studying and traveling abroad in Europe, stay away from the big capitals and instead focus on smaller cities, when I was offered the choice between Paris and Clermont-Faire-Rien (seriously, Google it!), I opted for the latter because of costs.
My three bedroom house in Clermont? 500 euros per month (and if you consider the fact that I shared with two other International students, the price per person was less than 200!).
For the same amount you could get a closet in downtown Paris. It also helps to rent outside of the city center, the 20 minutes bus ride to school was totally worth it since apartments right next to the school cost the same but offer way less space and amenities!
Sure, you won’t be the coolest kid of the block but you’ll definitely be the most traveled one. How? Because of my next Study Abroad Travel Tips!
Don’t go to all parties. Seriously, don’t!
The main expense of any International Student, besides housing and food, is alcohol and parties. International parties ARE wild and yes, most people see their international exchange as a chance to hook up with people from other countries (I even heard of a guy that has a travel map for every country he has “visited”).
They’re also a huge waste of money and, after the fourth or fifth one, they’re extremely monotonous and quite predictable. Besides, if you want to hook up, a nightclub is definitely not the best place to do so (specially because the cab fare and the fact that night clubs are mostly located far away from where you’ll live).
My Study Abroad Travel Tips? Avoid going out to clubs and opt for house parties instead. The same bottle of wine that they sell at the club for 50 euros can be bought at the supermarket for 1.99.
Sure, you risk being perceived as a very cheap guy but who cares? Your wallet is better off thanks to that (and you’ll have greater chances of hooking up if you organize the party at your own house!), plus, most parties take place during the weekends and you’ll be busy traveling anyways!
Organize your calendar and take advantage of long weekends.
At least in France, the college calendar has five big breaks: One to two weeks in February, one to two weeks at Easter, two months and a half in the Summer, one odd week in October and finally, two to three weeks of Christmas/New Years’ Eve.
The first thing I did after receiving my syllabus was to take a good look at the calendar and plan accordingly. What most people did during their first break in February was to take the short three hours train ride from Clermont to Paris and spend a week there.
Me? I went to Spain instead, you can read all about it here. The reason for that is because I could go to Paris any given normal weekend but going and coming to Spain would be impractical in only two days. Want to know the most important Study Abroad Travel Tips? Always bear in mind the high-low seasons of the place you’re going to be studying in.
You also need to consider that Easter, Summer and Christmas are THE highest season in all of Europe so you need to book flights and make hostel/hotel reservations at least six weeks in advance.
And yes, teachers are probably going to hate me for saying this but: it’s alright to skip classes once in a while. Provided that you do your homework in advance and study hard for the exams, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t extend your long weekend and avoid going to school on a Monday.
I learned more about the European Economic Crisis by interviewing the protesters at Frankfurt than by listening to my professor’s lecture. Yes, I got an A.
Travel is the best school and life is the dean, if it wasn’t for my visit to Muslim countries and to Israel, I would have never been able to find the inspiration for my thesis about the “Marketing of Religion”.
Set a goal and make it happen!
You are your own best cheerleader so you really need to keep yourself motivated to accomplish all of your goals! After my trip to Spain, I set the goal of visiting at least two countries each month and to travel at least once to another continent.
By October 2012, I had already exceeded my initial goal and I was ready for more. The best part? I did it with a budget of 20 euros per day while having a home base in a God-forsaken French town.
That’s 600 euros per month (rent and food included!), roughly 800 USD. So no, you definitely don’t need to be rich in order to accomplish all of it. What do you need? Just the right motivation. If I could do it, I’m sure you can do it too!
Have you ever studied abroad? How was your experience? Share your best Study Abroad Travel Tips and let me know what you think!