The first thing that stops most people from traveling is lack of money. Don’t let this stop you! The experience is worth every penny you will pay. There are a lot to pay for including your flight, the study abroad program fees, the student visa fees, etc. But there is a way. A couple of ways, I should say. Here is my advice:
How I Funded My Semester in Spain
- Plan ahead – The sooner you start saving up, the better your experience will be when you are abroad. The more you will do and the more unique souvenirs you will come home with.
- Start a “Travel” savings account – Put a percentage of your paycheck every pay period into this. If you put $50 every 2 weeks in to this account, you’ll have $100 per month, $1200 per year! Have a goal and a deadline in mind, “I will have $1000 by the end of June.” You can start a bar graph, and color it in every time you reach a certain amount of money. This is very motivating for me as I have a visual of my goal. Do what works for you.
- Fill out your FAFSA – If you’re a college student in the United States and do not know what a FAFSA is by now, I am thoroughly surprised. The government lets you know how much you are eligible for a grant (free money!) and student loans if you fill out this nightmare of a form. It’s very long, but so worth it. You can always reject a loan if you end up not needing it in the end.
- Apply for scholarships! –Scholarships are the educational god’s gift to students. Your university should have a scholarship office that can give you a list of scholarships you can apply for. Read the eligibility statement and make sure that you are eligible for the scholarship. Apply for as many as possible! Some scholarships ask for personal statements, essays, school transcript, or letter of recommendation. The more scholarships you apply for, the easier it gets as you can use the same personal statement and ask the same person to print out a couple of copies of recommendations for you. Don’t forget to send them Thank You cards afterwards! You can also sign up on fastweb. They will email you a list of scholarships that you may be eligible for. Even if the scholarship only offers you $500, apply for them anyway. The lower the award, the more likely you will win (at least from my experience). Your school’s international study abroad office should also be able to give you scholarship applications specifically for students who want to study abroad. There are plenty of resources if you ask. Apply apply apply!
- Tuition Reimbursements – If you are a working student, find out if your company offers tuition reimbursements and take advantage of it. I applied for scholarships and tuition reimbursements every semester. I got a free ride through my semesters because of my scholarships and grants, so I paid $0 for school. Then, I was awarded the tuition reimbursement at the end of the semester. I pretty much let my scholarship pay for my classes, then I got extra money from my tuition reimbursement that I pleasantly deposited into a savings account. Free money!
- Take extra hours at work over the summer/winter break – If you can take extra hours at work over the summer, ask for it! The extra cash can be added to your “Travel” savings account.
- Have constant motivation – Months before the trip, I sat at work reading up on traveling around Europe. I was on Matador Network for hours, and work went by quick. I was also on eurotrip planning my trip and reading up on how people did theirs. I also followed travelers on twitter who are always ready to give you tips on finding the cheapest flights and the best hostels. Read up on things that will keep you motivated and keep you excited.
- Be cheap – Besides these seven simple steps, I also lived a cheap lifestyle. I cooked at home as much as I can. I didn’t get Starbucks coffee every morning. I brought my lunch to work. I didn’t buy snacks throughout the day. I didn’t shop or spend money on drinks every weekend. If you think you will get withdrawals from not doing these things, try lessening your snack-eating to every other day, then to every other other day. Think about it. A startbucks coffee cup averages $4. Five school days later, you’ve spent $20. Every month, you’ve spent about $100 on coffee. Think about what you else you can buy with an extra Benjamin in your pocket. You will soon find out that you no longer need to eat snacks or go shopping to survive.
These might not work for everybody, but these are the steps I took in order to live in Europe for 4 months. Do what works for you! How many people can say, “I lived in Europe for 4 months manager-free. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were set for me every day. My laundry was done every week when I wanted them to. And I got to meet and greet foreigners from all over the world at different bars”? Not to mention the fact that I also got to snowboard on the Swiss alps and rode a camel through the Sahara Desert. Whatever makes it all worthwhile, right? After all of those experiences, do I regret ever paying this much? How much did I pay, again? When I think of Europe, I only think of the friends I made and our experiences. Never the cost. If you get scared of not being able to make the money, stop being scared and get motivated instead! You will be on the most exciting 14 hour plane ride in no time.
What’s your traveling financial advise?
Length of stay abroad: August, 24, 2009 – December 15, 2009