Budgeting for studying abroad – What to have in mind.

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Managing Finances During Student Exchange Programs

Exchange programs give students a chance to broaden their horizons in many ways. Some reasons why you should study abroad include learning about other cultures, getting familiar with different school systems, and of course, expanding your knowledge.

Students who wish to study abroad often have limited financial assets at their disposal. Studying abroad can cost a significant amount of money and includes a variety of expenses, from food and books to accommodation. Some students get accommodation at university campuses, while others need to look for apartments or residency programs.

No matter the case, it’s important to create a budget plan and manage your money wisely during the duration of the exchange program (typically six months to a year). 

Accommodation Options for Studying Abroad 

While planning to study abroad, the first thing on your agenda should be sorting out your accommodation. Some universities are located in bustling metropolises, while others might have small university towns. It is worth noting, however, that the rent for accommodations near universities is hardly ever cheap.

There are different kinds of living options available: 

  1. University Dorm: Since student organizations usually mediate exchange programs, exchange students often stay in dorms. In some cases, dorm prices are subsidized so you’ll pay only a fraction of the full price. 
  2. Local Hosting Family: Many programs offer the choice of staying with a local family that has volunteered to host exchange students. The clear benefits include a very low cost of living and having someone to help you acclimatize to a new culture and lifestyle. You’ll have the choice to form new connections and learn more about a new culture by interacting closely with your host family.
  3. Sharing an apartment: Sharing a private apartment or even a house with other students is also a viable option. In these cases, each student usually has their own room and shares the costs of utilities and rent.
  4. Renting an apartment yourself: The most expensive option is renting an entire apartment. Even though it’s the most comfortable choice, the cost is a huge deterrent, and so is living in a foreign place by yourself for the first time. 

Learning about living conditions 

When you’re forming a budget for studying abroad, calculate the monthly expenses you’re going to incur. Start from the rent and overhead bills, then add the monthly costs for food, travel, and miscellaneous expenses, together with books and materials for your studies. You can use websites like Numbeo to compare prices in your home country to those of the place where you’re going to study.

It’s best to consult with the organizers of the study program you’re going to take part in. They will know more about the covered costs vs. the ones you need to cover on your own, including but not limited to plane tickets and tuition fees. As a foreign exchange student, you might get a pass for a cafeteria, which is subsidized by the state. In general, cafeteria food is very affordable.

Before you set off for your semester or year abroad, find out more about the social aspects of living in the country in question. For some students, this is the first time they will be separated from their families. That feeling of being on your own gets compounded when you live in a new country with its own culture. But you need not worry since you can learn more about studying abroad without your family and be prepared for future challenges.

Electronic Payments vs Cash

Moving to another country means getting used to a new currency as well.

When it comes to foreign currencies and exchange rates, traveling abroad is much simpler than before. It’s easy to educate yourself about exchange rates with the number of resources available. You can also compare rates in different banks and credit card companies to get the best deal. Once you do the homework, you should get some cash in the currency of the country you will visit. That way, a money exchange office won’t be the first thing you’ll have to look for upon arriving.

However, cash is a better choice only at the beginning of your stay abroad. As you get accustomed to the local currency and prices, you should use cards instead. The main advantages of card payments are as follows:

  • Reduced risk of theft – If you don’t carry cash around with you, it’s less likely that you’ll get robbed.
  • Easy to accept payments – Your parents can transfer money to your card in no time. You can pay with it and keep track of your expenditures.
  • Transfers to the university account – Some programs can last longer than a semester, and others offer the option of paying the exchange fee in installments. A bank card can be used to make those payments much more easily. Your parents can transfer money to your card which you can use to transfer the funds to the university. 

You can use some modern payment methods such as PayPal and Payoneer, but there are some convenient new bank cards, like the Niyo Global Card. With this card, you can exchange money at real-time rates without additional expenses, load money onto the card at any time, and withdraw from any ATM in the world. Keep tabs on the exchange rate available in the Niyo Mobile App – which is quite transparent – when you need to make a large payment such as your tuition fee.

Limiting communication expenses

Living outside your home country can incur additional communication costs. Even though many people today use various communication apps, sometimes they’re not enough for proper communication.

For example, let’s say that you want to keep using the phone number from your home country while being abroad. When you’re connected to a Wi-Fi connection, you can communicate without any problems, but if there’s no Wi-Fi connection in your surroundings, you suddenly become detached from the world. Using roaming Internet data is too expensive.

That’s why it’s a smart idea to get a phone with a local phone number and a local data package, or just an additional SIM card in case your phone has a Dual SIM option. That way, you’ll be available to your family and friends all the time, plus, you’ll be able to make phone calls within the country you’re staying in. Be sure to do research on the top network providers before you get there!

Still, keep your original phone number active, so that people can get you that way as well. 

Spending money wisely

Higher education doesn’t only refer to the knowledge you gain during your studies. Students need to learn how to manage their expenses, regardless of whether they study at home or abroad. If you take the time to pick up some financial practices, you’ll be well on your way to spending money wisely and saving too. Here are a few pointers to get you started:

  • Buy things online at better prices (another benefit of using bank cards and electronic payments)
  • Subscribe to online libraries instead of buying books for studies 
  • Look for student discount cards (especially for railways and public transport)
  • Buy more valuable items at home if they’re significantly cheaper there (clothes, electronic devices, etc.)

You can also use the Niyo mobile app to track your previous transactions and monthly expenditures. These data will help you budget more effectively and keep your costs under control.

Spending some time studying abroad is a valuable experience for any student. Such a move requires a lot of planning, especially when it comes to finances. Students planning to study abroad need to know where they’re going to live, how much they’re going to pay for their studies, and how expensive that town and country are. When you take these elements into account and apply the budgeting tips provided in this article, you’ll be ready to start your student exchange period.

Anita Sambol

With years of experience as a content strategist and creator, Anita has a ‘super-power’ of being a clear human voice for brands when talking to their audience. One of the projects she currently enjoys the most is being a content associate to EU Business School, where she is writing about business education, student life and online learning.

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