The Budgeting Issue of Studying Abroad

By LAUREN HEALY

“I just got off the phone with my mom,” says Camille Dottore, a junior at Providence College who is studying abroad in Rome this semester.

“She said I spent $10,000 so far. How did that happen? We’re not even half way through?”

Spending money and lots of it. It is a common theme for students on their four-month study abroad adventure. Whether it is a flight to another European city, a night out with friends, or even that 2-euro cup of gelato after class, money adds up quickly and many students say they lose track of their budget within the first few weeks.

Anna Felberbaum, director of Cultural Experiences Abroad, says traveling, eating out and nightlife are biggest reasons students lose track of their budgets. She added that her students in the past have seemed more responsible with their money than now.

“The [students] have that top ten list of places they want to see and don’t even see much of Italy,” said Felberbaum.

The average study abroad student at CEA spends between $4,900 and $10,780 on meals, personal expenses and travel during their four months. On travel alone, between $1,470 and $4,900.

“I think students should research how much flights cost and how much trains cost. They may think it’s a lot cheaper than it actually is,” warns Felberbaum.

Hannah King, a junior study abroad student from LeTourneau University, says she spent a lot more money on traveling than she anticipated.

“The first trip I took was to Interlaken Switzerland, and I spent around $1,000 dollars in just three days,” confesses King. “That’s absolutely disgusting.”

Sheer laziness appears to be one factor in increasing costs. Some students book trips with tour groups when they could save by doing the research and booking on their own. Others wait until the last minute to book flights, and this causes them to spend more.

“I wish I had planned all of my trips as soon as possible,” says Jeff Kurt, junior at the University of Arizona. “I booked a trip last minute and spent €100 instead of €40. That’s absurd,” said Kurt.

Eating out and spending money on food can also drain students’ bank accounts faster than most anticipate. A CEA study abroad student will on average spend between $1,470 and $2,940 on food throughout the semester. Many students tend to think that the euro holds the same value as the dollar (the euro is currently trading at $1.25).

“When you first come here you tend not to make the difference,” admits Brynne Murphy, junior at Providence College. “But spending €5 on a sandwich does not mean you’re spending $5.”

But King admits to spending a lot more money on food and treats than anticipated regardless of the currency difference. “When all of your friends are spending money, it’s hard to be the only one not doing the same,” she says.  “It’s a constant struggle between wanting to save money and not being left out.”

Clubs are common places for study abroad students to meet, and one of the top places where students spend money. “Students tend to go out more than just the weekends, and those euros add up quickly,” says Felberbaum.

Kevin Gleason, junior at Providence College, crafted a weekly budget before coming to Rome, but had no idea that nightlife would be so expensive.

“When I woke up the next morning I realized I’d spent over €40 in less than two hours. That was a big reality check for me.”

Even though many study abroad students struggle with their spending abroad, some manage they budget carefully. Hope Perri, a former JCU student, studied in Rome during spring of 2013, and then in London the spring of 2014. She initially learned some lessons the hard way, but ended up budgeting properly for the rest of her semester in Rome and her semester in London.

“It was hard for me to realize that I couldn’t eat out every meal,” says Perri. “I knew that if I wanted to eat lunch out and dinner out on weekends that I had to make dinner at home during the week.”

She also came to realize that she couldn’t travel abroad every single weekend so she stuck to her budget and enjoyed her time in Rome.

“Students need to prioritize the things they really, really want to do and should keep in mind that the moment they find things they didn’t plan on doing they have to take it out of their budget,” says Perri.

She suggests that students set up their game plan and stick to it.

“I allowed myself 700 euros for travel, and a 411 euro monthly budget,” she says.

“I stuck to it and I’m so glad that I did.”

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