Exchanges are often the best year (or semester) of a student’s whole degree, but the stress of making sure you can pay for your time abroad can take away from the fun. Studying abroad can be very expensive, depending on where you go, but you shouldn’t have to worry about money. I mean, if you’re going to worry about something, shouldn’t it be that you won’t see everything your new home has to offer? If you plan ahead and follow this guide, you should be able to do your exchange on a budget.
Apply for all the financial help you can get.
This one is big. There is a lot of help out there, you just have to look for it and apply for as much as you can. There’s always a small chance you’ll get money, so it’s always worth a shot.
It’s all about applying on time and for as many jobs as you can. This includes any scholarships or money that can be given back. For example, if you’re a British student going abroad, Student Finance can give you a bigger student loan to help pay for your trip. Depending on how much money you have, they will also pay for three (yes, you read that right) round-trip flights home. So, even though it can be boring and annoying to fill out forms for financial help, it is always worth it.
Get a card for students and use it.
Student discount cards are great, but when you’re on exchange, they’re a real blessing. I literally asked everywhere I went in New Zealand if they gave student discounts. Depending on where you study, you might have to pay for your student card, but it’s still worth it. Do your research and order it before you leave so you can start saving money as soon as you get off the plane.
Meet the people who live there.
During my first week in New Zealand, I had a hard time buying things because I was still confused by the change in currency and coins. For example, New Zealand doesn’t have one- or two-cent coins, which bothers me because in England, we wait for all our bloody change. I would go to the nearest grocery store and buy a lot of things at once because I didn’t know what anything would taste like and I wanted to try everything.
Lucky for me, my Kiwi friends saved me quickly. In my second week, they took me to the grocery store and taught me what to buy and what to avoid. They also told me where I could buy food for the least amount of money.
Not only do locals know where to find cheap food, but they can also help you find cheap ways to get around. Which leads us to…
Find the most affordable ways to get around.
Any sane person would choose a comfortable train ride over a long, uncomfortable bus ride, but sometimes a bus is the cheapest way to get somewhere. If you’re on an exchange in the UK, for example, please check out Megabus the next time you need to travel. If you book early enough, you can get from one end of the country to the other for just £1. Even if it takes you a half day, think about how much money you’ll save.
Also, ask around to find out which airlines travel between countries for the least amount of money. Ryanair, EasyJet, and Jet2 all offer great deals for students in the UK. Check out websites like Skyscanner, Webjet, and AirfareWatchdog to find the best deals. It also helps to pack lightly and make reservations ahead of time.
Spend some time getting your bank account in order.
I wish I had done this right before I went on exchange because I wasted so much money because I didn’t plan and budget well.
Sort out your bank card before you leave. Even if you’re only going to be in the country for a semester, you should still open a bank account there. Most of the time, it will only take half an hour and will cut down on the international fees you have to pay. Check to see what your bank’s rules are for international transfers. All banks charge fees when you send money abroad, but these fees can be very different.
If you can’t open a new account while you’re away, make sure your bank lets you use it from other countries. I would suggest using a big, international bank account because this usually lowers these fees.
Make a budget and keep track of how much you spend while you’re away. This will make life easier and less stressful in so many ways.
Check out your options for trading
If you can choose from more than one place to study, don’t just pick the city or country you want to visit the most. Also think about how much each place will cost you. Exchanges really depend on how much you take advantage of the chance, not on where you are.
Researching where you want to live and how much it costs is a very important way to figure out how much you’ll spend and where you’ll have a better quality of life.
Also, if you can’t stay for a whole year, you can stay for a lot of other lengths of time. Don’t worry, your financial situation won’t stop you from having a great time, no matter how long it is.
The year I spent abroad was the best of my life. Everyone who knows me is reminded of this every day, because it’s the only thing I ever talk about (sorry guys). As someone from a very low-income family, I’m so glad I was able to plan a budget for my exchange and use all the help I could find. Because of this, I had an experience that changed my life, so take the time to plan well, and I’m sure you’ll also have the best time abroad.