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One of the toughest things about study abroad was staying financially responsible -- and for those of us without much money to spend, I have some tips!
I had a wonderful semester with CEA. Paris is a truly special city and I feel honored that I had the opportunity to study there. Many of my tips will focus on being in France, but relate overall to the study abroad experience.
Maximize your opportunities:
No matter where you travel, there are many ways that you can have fun free of charge. Not only will this help you save money, it also will teach you a lot about your host country. My best experiences in Paris were at free events!
As students, many museums and sights are free -- so make sure to always travel with your student ID! It will save you more money than you think. Here are some examples:
Musée du Louvre
Jardin du Luxembourg
Fun fact: MOST museums are free the first Sunday every month in the EU! (Exclusions do apply so make sure you do your research.)
CEA excursions are also a great way to maximize your opportunities without spending money! These include a trip to Bruges (a city in Belgium), a circus in Paris, a trip to Chantilly, a weekend trip to Provence, and more. These excursions allow you to learn so much about your study abroad location while avoiding excessive spending.
Credit Cards/Debit Cards:
From my experience abroad, credit cards proved very beneficial. I would strongly advise students to look into them and research your options. Credit cards allow you to budget and balance your expenses.
I would personally recommend the Student Chrome Card from Discover. I used it mostly to purchase transportation tickets. I think the Discover card was good to have because it wasn’t widely accepted in Europe, which prevented excessive spending. They gave a $20 student credit reward if you had a GPA over 3.0, and they had lower rates to accommodate students. I definitely would recommend it! Remember to research the best credit card fit for you.
As for debit cards, make sure to check with your bank so you know if there are any ATM fees or charges for international use. American banks normally charge a base ATM fee ($5 with PNC bank), no matter how much you withdraw at a time. Be aware that many cards will charge a small foreign transaction fee for use, and that’s pretty normal.
While being abroad, you'll definitely want to visit other countries -- and there are many ways to do this while remaining fiscally responsible.
Train tickets are normally much cheaper for travel than plane tickets when bought months in advance. Last-minute, train tickets sometimes prove more expensive than plane tickets.
My advice: Plan your trips once you arrive. Use a planner, write out your assignments, and plan your trips around your academic obligations. Try to plan with your new friends to save money on accommodations. Many of the activities I did abroad were free; I mostly spent money on lodging, food and transportation. Even with this, there are ways to plan strategically. You can save a good chunk of money by purchasing your tickets (plane or train) a few weeks in advance!
You can still have an amazing experience while living within your means. Other students may have more financial freedom, but it's in your best interest to be wise about your finances while abroad. Everyone is in college, after all -- there will be many students trying to travel and save, so plan with them!
Plan your monthly budgets and be strict when it comes to your spending; do not allow yourself to overspend.
Don't let your finances be a dark cloud over your experience! Be smart, strategic and organized, and you'll be shocked at how far your money can stretch.