- Reading up about loans and grants for the year abroad
Looking at grants, scholarships and loans before you embark on your year abroad is a wise choice. It might open your eyes to what’s out there, you might decide to change half-way through, and it will certainly give you an idea of what you can budget for, and what you should hold out on. Whether it’s a semester, six months or a whole year, you’ll need to go there with your money cap on, and a few extra coins and coppers wouldn’t go amiss.
- Getting the most out of the transport system
Getting quotes of expensive travel by bus? Appalled by the sky-high prices of the metro? Then give walking (yes, walking) a go - you’ll save the spare cash for more exciting things, like travelling! Alternatively, you could try getting your hold on a second-hand bike, by looking at local ads and websites such as Freecycle offer stuff for, yes, you guessed it, free. Whenever you can, try not to use the transport system; you’ll get to see some of the coolest places of the city, and some which might be slightly less sightly, which in turn can only help you get a better insider’s view of wherever you’re staying. If you have to take a taxi, try and share one; get hold of an ISIC card and you’ll get discounts on travel, as it is an internationally recognised student card.
- Going off the-beaten-track
Most people, when travelling to either Europe or South America, end up taking the been there, done that route, with its saturated tourist traps and the subsequent inflated price tags. Research the country, look into other areas than those mentioned in the first few pages of your guidebook, and ask the locals where they’d recommend. There’s nothing that can quite beat the feeling of having made your own discovery of a hidden gem, as a foreigner. You’ll save money by not going to a popular resort or hotel, you’ll meet different people, you might even get cheaper prices as foreigners are not common visitors in these parts...And you will undoubtedly have a good story to tell by the end of it. It’s not just about Paris, there’s Lyon too. Fancy partying in Barcelona? Try Seville, down South, with its strong student vibe. Seattle is just as vibrant as New York, at only a fraction of the price. Try car-sharing perhaps, by typing into a search engine the term and the country. Cheap flights, train services and bus routes can run across countries, so make sure you do your research before you book. Brilliant websites, such as The Backpacker, give great tips about where you can go and what you can do, by people just like you.
- Eat like a local
Restaurants abroad may occasionally play host to the locals, however, you won/’t spot them eating out every day, as it becomes expensive. Try finding local produce at the market, look up cheap recipes, like the ones here, at Student Cook and Epicurious. Try searching for deals, too at the supermarket or at the market - if you head there after 6PM, most things will be reduced to clear. Try cooking with some local friends, too; you’ll learn more vocabulary and see what the regional dishes are. If you’re trying to recreate a home dish, or are really craving for some home food, try not to splash out too often, and try the delicacies on offer; some might quite be to your liking, but giving stuff a go is all part of the fun!
- Get the most out of free stuff
You don’t necessarily have to fork out a tenner each time you’re planning on going out. Part of the fun of being a student is the fact you can get discounts, especially if you’ve got your student card on you, but bear in mind that there are load of free, great days and evenings to be had without having to spend much. Sites like Joobili offer stacks and stacks of things to do, as does Ooh.com. Get involved with the university, the town hall or community centre, and you’ll soon see that you don’t have to always opt for the expensive stuff, to have a good time. Taking advantage of courses or charity work, where you’re living, will prove beneficial both there and then, and later on for your CV. Sleeping arrangements can also become a friendly, cheap affair - Couchsurfing has been known to help people gain friendships, as well as a free couch abroad.
- Be adventurous and resourceful
...And it’s nearly a guarantee that you will have an outstanding year abroad, without having to break the bank. And live happily (abroad) ever after!