If you're wondering how to finance your study abroad to London and live in this global city on a budget, here's a list of practical tips to get you going! Genevieve shares what worked for her from experience—from looking for scholarships to finding cost-effective strategies that work best for you.
Live in a different country. Participate in a career furthering internship in a new culture. Be able to travel to new places on the weekends. These make up the shiny side of study abroad. While parts of this image of study abroad are true, this is not the whole picture. The whole picture includes graphic depictions of the days where you have a cold and have used up a whole pack of Kleenex overnight. It includes the day when you are so tired from the week before that you can barely drag yourself from bed on Monday morning. Where you are on the tube for at least an hour and a half each day, jammed between a sweaty man and a really loud tourist group. The real picture of study abroad is not always pretty, and it definitely is not for everyone. It also includes something that most people don’t want to consider: money.
Living abroad with no income is expensive, especially when you are in a city that is among the 20 most expensive places to live in (London tied for number 19) and you are a broke college student. But, obviously, it is possible and worth the planning, if you want to use my roommates and me as proof. So, here is how I have survived not only studying abroad, but living there.
Some of the best things in London are FREE—like museums and street art!
Research Scholarships BEFORE You Apply
I looked for scholarships BEFORE I started my application for study abroad. Money for study abroad was always a problem for me. At my university, I temporarily forfeit my school scholarships since I am technically ‘not at the university’. However, I was still expected to pay for my usual tuition and room and board at my home university (usually you pay the program directly), without the help of my non-government scholarships. This meant that in order to be able to pay for my program, I had to look into scholarships. My advisor recommended a couple to me, ones like the Gilman scholarship and a couple church scholarships. I wrote essays and proofread in order to lower my semester price tag. I also applied for the CAPA blogger grant—which was a big help in providing money to live on when I arrived in London, which is a nice transition to the rest of the points. How do you live and travel on a tight budget once abroad?
Living and Traveling on a Tight Budget
Prices in London are ridiculously high—the average coffee costs about $3.50 (not fancy coffee, a black Americano coffee). The easiest way to cut down on costs? Cut down on your food budget. This doesn’t mean don’t eat for the semester, but find ways to make eating cheaper.
My sister and I kept costs down by only drinking coffee out on a weekend trip.
Here are some tips and tricks on how I lived on a budget.
- I have done this through not eating out. I pack my lunches and make my dinner at home. The amount of money this saves is ridiculous. An average dinner out is about £6 (£4.50 if you just have soup), but when I cook at home, my average dinner is about £1.50 (£0.50 if I just have soup). This really adds up over time.
- I also don’t buy my coffee out. I make my morning coffee either at home or at the office—both of which are completely free! This saves me a good £10 a week.
- This last food cost saver is not for everyone, but I have found it fits my lifestyle well. For the semester, I have cut out eating meat. I am a flexitarian, so I will eat meat if itis offered to me or if I am eating out, but if I am grocery shopping thenI won’t buy meat. This saves quite a bit, especially if when I replace it with frozen and canned veggies and salad.
Travel and save money by going on day trips to Oxford!
One of the beautiful parts of study abroad, especially in Europe, is travel. So many other countries are at the tip of your fingers, so it makes sense to make the most of it and travel around. However, this is not so happy for bank accounts. Travel is the biggest money drain I have ever seen.
So, here are my tips for traveling inexpensively
- I don’t stay in hotels; I stay in hostels or in an Airbnb. This is a blessing for my bank account, as it can drop the price from £200 to £12 for two nights in Dublin. However, this does require you to know yourself. This semester, I discovered that I prefer hostels to Airbnb, because I find the rooms to usually be better quality.
- I also compare ALL forms of travel, from plane to train to night bus. A helpful app for this is GoEuro, which automatically does comparisons for you.
- I don’t eat out, even when traveling. I will only splurge on coffee, dinners, and local snacks when I travel, but for the rest of my meals, I raid the local grocery stores.
- Lastly, a personal huge personal preference: I don’t book tours. I prefer to book a train ticket to where I want to go and explore for myself. However, if you prefer to book a tour, I have friends who love them. Plus, they are plentiful.
Glasgow travel tip: the train to Loch Lomond is only £6, which is much cheaper than a tour!
Those are just a few of the ways that I have helped my bank account survive this semester. The key to staying sane and in the black while abroad is truly to discern what is necessary to you and what is not, and yes, sometimes a little splurging is necessary.
Genevieve Rice is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An English Literature major at Anderson University, she is studying abroad in London this semester.
Genevieve's journey continues every Monday so stay tuned.