Having committed to the Rome 4 Week Mosaic II, my excitement to travel is through the roof. However, there are some items which cause less excitement in the travelling department, and the topic of money is probably the biggest one. Temple’s Study Abroad website and office are by far the two most fantastic sources to learn how to fund a study abroad experience. Nevertheless, as someone who has been going through the process of finding the appropriate funds, I believe my personal experience can be of help to many looking to study abroad. I have, thus, compiled a list of the strategies I have used, am using, and will continue to use to finance my program to the best of my abilities myself. Of course, the Study Abroad Office has a girth of information on scholarships and grants to fund a study abroad program, but this list goes into other, perhaps uncommon options to save money. Without further ado, here are a list of things you can do to help make financing your program easier:
Take Advantage of Airline Miles/Reward Programs
My parents were excited about my desire to study abroad, but made it clear from the start that they would fund very little of it. Nevertheless, due to his need to travel for work, my dad has points on some airlines which helped me cut down on the cost of my flight. Moreover, I myself signed up for my airline’s reward program (I am flying American Airlines direct to Rome from JFK, and the signup was free!) and as a result got many great offers on flights throughout the weeks leading up to me receiving my program acceptance letter. I ended up saving hundreds of dollars on comparable flights because only a few days after signing up for the rewards program, thanks to an email which notified me the price on the flight I wanted was reduced by almost $200!
Don’t Limit Yourself to One Airport
As I mentioned previously, I am flying to Rome from JFK, which is in New York City. I am originally from Washington, DC so I have an extra 4 hour drive built into my itinerary. Needless to say, the money I saved by choosing to fly from New York vs. DC was high enough to warrant a few extra hours of driving. Be open to checking all airports in your area, even if it’s a few hundred miles away because you could end up saving a lot of money!
Cut Down on Unnecessary Expenses
As obvious of an option this seems, many people do not go about cutting down early enough, or in the right way. This could be cutting down on anything, from going out to parties or even the type of food you eat. I personally eat out for 5-7 meals per week while I am at school. Ever since I got accepted to my program, I cut that back to 3 meals per week, which is saving me on average $20/week. That equates to $80/month, or almost $500 leading up to my study abroad program, which is no small sum of money. One could easily use that cash to go on a trip to various parts of the country they’re visiting (personally, I plan on going to Sicily and the Amalfi Coast using the money I’ve saved up the last few months).
Sign Up for an Appropriate Phone Plan in Advance
My friends who have gone abroad have all had access to the data on their cellphones to help them navigate the foreign country. However, none of them got their international plans until they arrived in their host country, and realized their dire need of a phone with map and translation service. As such, they got enormous overcharge fees. If you know you will be going abroad, contact your cellphone provider immediately to see what international plans they have, and get the appropriate one for you. You’ll save potentially hundreds in the long run the earlier you do this research and sign up for something. Ideally, you’ll want to have a plan that allows at least 1-2GB of data for any directions or translations, and cheap texts that are under $0.30/text.
Watch Currency Rates and Notify Your Bank
You don’t want to ever lose big when converting currency. Watch and keep track of how the rates are fluctuating and make sure that when you convert your currencies, it is not at a time when the exchange rate is unfavorable. Moreover, visiting your bank can often save you big time as compared to exchanging money at the airport. Do your research well in advance, and make sure to check your bank’s policy on using your credit/debit card abroad (many banks don’t have an exchange fee when using your card abroad).
My flight is just days away and the time can’t pass quickly enough! I hope these tips help anybody who’s planning on going abroad soon. Even if your flight is coming up (like mine is), you can easily implement some of the aforementioned practices to continue saving money on your study abroad experience.
See you all in Rome!