In addition to fluctuating exchange rates and differing costs of living abroad, individuals typically have different spending patterns while overseas. Some former participants in study abroad programs report that they spent at least two times as much abroad as they would have during a typical semester at home. A good way to calculate how much money you may need is to talk to students who have recently returned from the program or country where you plan to study. An estimate of the cost of each program is available(see the links above). Cost estimates generally include program fees, airfare, living expenses, personal expenses and other costs normally associated with participating in the programs.
One of the hardest questions we are asked is, "How much spending money do I need for my program abroad?" It is not true that the more money you have the more you will enjoy your trip! Rather, ask how to take advantage of the opportunities the trip offers you and how to allocate the funds you have at your disposal. Keep these variables in mind as you build your personal budget:
- The dollar can fluctuate sharply.
- Keep a short record of your expenses here to help prepare a budget. How much do you spend on entertainment? How much on personal items? (i.e., shampoo, soap, laundry, evenings out)
- What are some of the expenses that are unique to study and travel abroad?
- Weekend Trips (those not scheduled as group outings)
- Local Transportation - Taxis (expensive), buses, subways, etc. In some cities, mass transportation is a bargain.
- Film - Best bought here and in bulk. Check mail-order companies. Processing overseas is expensive. Pictures make great, low-cost, lightweight souvenirs.
Students typically spend large sums in the first few weeks abroad as they learn their way around and buy what they need to get settled. It takes a few days to adjust to a new currency and understand its value. You will quickly learn the best inexpensive restaurants, shops and how to obtain student discounts for concerts, movies and other activities. Program staff and other students can be a valuable source of information on how to obtain the best deals on necessary items. Keep in mind, the more you travel, shop and eat out, the more you will spend.