Samantha Gauvain is an Official CAPA's Blogger for Fall 2014, sharing her story in weekly CAPA World posts. A Journalism major at Arizona State University, she is studying abroad in Dublin this semester.
In this week's post, Samantha shares how she tries to maintain a healthy lifestyle while being on a student budget and saving for travel while studying abroad.
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I consider myself one of the elite… a connoisseur of culture and critic of all things culinary: I am a coffee snob. I can be found on coffee tasting tours, sipping black mud whilst perched on café chairs or enjoying a morning brew in the breakfast nook. I am a coffee snob who just purchased instant coffee.
Traveling, studying abroad in particular, means conserving your monetary resources by cutting out the “fat,” indulgences, luxuries or what have you. Unfortunately, coffee falls under that category. Purchasing a coffee maker is impractical (though I would be the type to try to fit a ChemEx coffee brewer in my carry-on) and while large Soya Cappuccinos are delicious, five euros per cup is equivalent to several breakfasts at home. Several cappuccinos equal one plane ticket to Scotland. You can see my dilemma.
It’s not easy to maintain a healthy lifestyle and have fun while trying to save money during your study abroad trip. For your benefit (and to confirm my own sanity concerning the purchase of instance coffee) I’ve compiled a brief list of ways to save some dough; while compromises must be made, the benefits are well worth it.
Obviously cheap substitutes like instant coffee aren’t generally pleasant but there’s usually a “spoonful of sugar,” to be found… literal or otherwise. To offset the pleasant aroma of that glorious brown, granular substance, I’ve discovered that adding hot cocoa to my morning cup really makes all the difference. Similarly, to avoid spending excess money on pricey ingredients for foods I can’t make (I don’t have an oven) I’ve been adding a large jar of 3-euro salsa to three for five-euro, reduced-salt vegetable soup. It tastes divine, I swear… Okay, maybe not as good as Cornucopia’s sweet potato coriander soup but if you’ve been keeping up with my blog, I’m still working on that free food thing.
Restaurant food also falls in the same category as cappuccinos. To be honest, I would lump pricey groceries under the same category as the former gourmet luxuries. While that sack of quinoa or expensive farmer’s market goat cheese looks exotic, you can probably live without it. Ireland has some great, low-cost grocery stores such as Lidl, some moderately priced but convenient stores such as Tesco and of course, your higher-end, pressed-juice-selling food halls, such as Marks and Spencer. Lastly, don’t rule out your neighborhood’s corner markets either, they usually have very inexpensive produce if you can get over the curb appeal… or lack thereof. Food co-ops and outdoor markets located in more residential areas are also a great place to find locally sourced products without facing sticker shock. Hole in the wall outdoor markets are also a treasure trove for unique souvenirs and gifts; a far better option than magnets from Temple Bar or whiskey glasses from Brazen Head Pub, it’s also easier to avoid clichés that way.
You don’t have to rule out wine and fine dining entirely though, just save the eating out for the weekends or when you travel. Eating local cuisine is all part of the traveling experience. However, remember that tip about curb appeal; avoid the touristy areas and opt for more local watering holes to find not only authentic cuisine, but a lower price as well. Many Dublin restaurants feature what’s called an “early-bird special,” or a main course and starter for a fraction of the cost. The catch? You eat dinner at four or five p.m. rather than at eight, as most Europeans do.
A lot of restaurants also offer student discounts, so have your I.D. ready at all times. That’s assuming you want a less than 4-euro double avocado burrito though. The choice is yours.
Student I.D.s also open a lot of doors in terms of museum ticket prices and even transportation. Keep an eye out for free museums as well. This past week, I visited the Chester Beatty Library, the National History Museum and the Dublin Zoo for under 15 euros. The first two were free museums and I paid the reduced, student price for the zoo. CAPA’s MyEducation events are also a good way to tour the country; my group and I visited the Cliffs of Moher this past week and it was Ireland in all its glory. I also didn’t have to worry about booking a tour or transportation.
While student discounts aren’t applicable for any airline I’ve heard of, train companies usually offer a student priced ticket that’s several euros cheaper than normal tickets. Buses and the light rail system work the same way, although you have to purchase a student Leap Card to access those benefits. Student travel may also be available through your host university; Griffith College Student Union runs a few school trips throughout the semester. My roommates and I are going to sign up for a trip to Bunratty Castle for a medieval dinner, overnight stay and breakfast. Normally, a trip like this would cost a little more than 100 euros but because the student union has access to group pricing, the trip will cost only 70. Unfortunately, I won’t be in Dublin for the surf trip this spring.
Student unions also host recreational sports or activities that help budget-conscious students save money. For instance, rather than signing up for Yoga classes, I joined the student union’s yoga club for free (note: your mom is telling you this is also a great way to meet other students). In terms of cost cutting, that’s where collegiate benefits end. I would encourage you to avoid the dining hall like the plague unless there aren’t any other feasting options. It is usually healthier and cheaper to make your own food and you can omit the fermented cabbage if you so wish.
I’m not broke yet, so there’s something to be said about drinking instant coffee and student unions. However, there’s a trip to Scotland to book…and Madrid…and Paris. Ah well, at least I’m prioritizing right.
Samantha’s journey continues every Friday so stay tuned!