I needed to take a break from studying for my last two finals so I decided to share some money-saving tips with you all. If you are planning to come abroad on a budget, fear nothing. You can still have so much fun even if you're balling on a budget.
1) I use a journal to keep track of my daily spending. It helps keep me accountable, and I get to see how much I am spending on food, coffee and other fun things throughout the week. I have given myself a certain budget every month and it will be different to get use to the currency exchange, so it was nice for me to see what I was spending on paper.
2) Plan travel ahead of time. If you want to travel, you should start looking for potential travel dates and weekends. Be sure to check the tentative schedule for your upcoming semester and make sure you are free on a weekend you want to travel. I have travelled with Easy Jet and Ryan Air primarily, and let me tell you that the tickets are so inexpensive. It's amazing to be able to hop over to another country on a weekend. I've visited the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Spain during my time here. There are also really cheap fares for cities you may not necessarily know of but it's fun to take a chance and say that you've been to a different country that maybe no one else has. I will be heading to France, Spain, Greece, and Germany next week with my sister, and I was able to buy the tickets for next to nothing, but I started planning this trip at the beginning of the semester. So start doing your research now. You will thank yourself later!
3) Some of my favorite memories from the semester are just days when I have stayed and explored my city. If you find yourself in Milan, I would recommend going and chilling at the Sforza Castle with a picnic lunch and some wine. Or head to the Navigli area, and stay for an aperitivo which is similar to happy hour in the States but with a buffet! My favorite coffee shop, Gogol and Company, in Milan is near Sant'Agostino metro stop. My drink of choice is Nutella Marochino (which is basically an espesso shot with nutella in it). I have spent many rainy days here studying and reading. The coffee is cheap and they don't charge you to sit here and study. Do some research before you head out to study, because some places here in Milan do charge you sometimes by the hour to sit in their establishment and do work.
4) Take advantage of doing smaller day trips if you have free days during the week or don't want to go far away during the weekend. Head to Bergamo which is 45 minutes from Milan and explore their ancient city on a hillside. Or head to Turin, home of the 2006 Olympics, to the west of Milan. The train tickets for both destinations will set you back around 12 euros round trip. Explore Italy. Ask your Italian professors where they recommend going. Also if you want to travel within the country, trains are pretty cheap, but if you really want to save on travel, use Flixbus. Their bus tickets are super inexpensive and although the travel times are longer, you can save a lot on tickets.
5) One of the expenses that I've seen add up quickly are my lunches. The program doesn't provide lunch, and if you live in the collegio you will have breakfast and dinner, so that has been a huge saver. A few months in, I found that I was spending a considerable amount of money on lunch. So I recommend packing your own or going to the grocery store during your lunch hour to pick up a few snacks to hold you over until dinner. There are also many bakeries near the IES Abroad center in Milan that you can grab a cheap lunch from.
6) There are plenty of places to shop if you are on a budget. Near the Duomo you will find all of the big brand name stores with lots of cheap clothes. In fact, I would recommend packing light when travelling here because you will have so much stuff to pack when you head back. It's impossible not to buy things here. It's hard to go shopping and realize you may not have room in your suitcase to bring it back, but if it's something you really want, go ahead and splurge. I have to pack over the next few days, and I will have to donate some clothes that won't fit in my suitcase, but it's alright. IES Abroad has donation boxes we can drop stuff off into so that will be nice knowing that my things will be put to good use. Remember to budget for clothes and extra items that you might see here.
7) Beware of lofty ATM fees when withdrawing euros. Go talk to your local bank before departure and see if there is anything you can work out with them, so you won't be charged international fees.
8) Lastly, check Facebook for local events. There are always tons of free events going on around the city. Also many museums offer discounted tickets to students.
These are just a few tips, and I can't stress the fact that you can come abroad on a budget. It's possible to save and still have a wonderful time. Now get to planning!
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<p class="MsoBodyText" style="margin-top:2.35pt; margin-right:10.6pt; margin-bottom:.0001pt; margin-left:5.0pt"><span style="line-height:115%">I am a Junior Vocal Performance major with an interest in history, romance languages and the art of recitals and opera. My hobbies include practicing new music, listening to operas, playing volleyball and hanging out and cooking with my friends. I love travelling and exploring new places, especially art museums. I am fond of history and music, and the way they intertwine is fascinating to me.</span></p>