What I Didn’t Plan For
Financing a study abroad program can be a challenge for some students, especially, it seems, first-generation students. I know that one of my most pressing worries was “Do I have enough money to sustain myself in a foreign country?” I was very careful about anticipating expenses and planning my budget to save money in Northern Ireland, but there were still a few things I failed to consider. One of them was laundry; I’d completely forgotten to put laundry money into the living finances budget because I don’t pay to do my laundry at home. But many students generally will while abroad, as they will be living in student accommodations. Another thing that I was not prepared for was my new dorm kitchen. While it was nicely furnished and had all major appliances, if I wanted to cook (which is what I had budgeted for) I would need to buy some cookware. I would also need to buy the standard basics for the kitchen such as salt, pepper, butter, oil, and everything else needed to create home-cooked meals.
Those small things that were overlooked quickly added up to me being over my budget. With that in mind, here are 3 ways to help future students spend less while abroad.
1) Do Your Laundry at the Facility on Campus
There were a few laundry facilities in the town near my college, and they were mostly self-service, coin operated. But I discovered that they were the same price as the laundry facility at my school, around £3.40 per load to wash and dry. In the school’s facility, the machines were used with a card that I was issued by administration, which I could add money to online. By staying on campus to do my laundry, I saved money by not having to pay for travel. Another bonus was that I could go home to wait between loads.
Bonus Laundry Tips:
- Do small-normal sized loads, not large! Smaller loads will get cleaner and dry faster than larger loads.
- Use laundry pods for detergent. They are small so they are easy to store, and you get the right amount with every load.
- Make sure you clean the dryer lint trap out completely before you start to dry your load. Sometimes people forget to clean this after they use the machine, but your load will dry better if it starts out cleared.
2) Find Your Local Versions of “Walmart” and the “Dollar Store”
If you have access to a kitchen with appliances, you should use it. You will be able to save some money by not going out for every meal, and you might also get a chance to share your secret cooking talents with your roommates. But, before you can cook on the stovetop, you’ll need pots and pans to cook with. You will also need to stock the cupboards and refrigerator with all of those things that we don’t think about at home. Want to make fries in the oven? Sure, you have frozen fries, but did you remember to buy salt and ketchup? How about toast with your cereal? Well, then don’t forget to buy some butter.
When I realized that I needed to do a major shopping trip, I asked around about the best places to shop nearby. I was directed to Tesco, Northern Ireland’s version of Walmart. It is a large store with a little of everything, all reasonably priced. That is where I found my cookware and serving dishes. I was also able to buy the basic food items to stock the kitchen.
Another store I found just down the way is called Pound Land, which is very similar to the Dollar Store in the US. They carry inexpensive versions of seasonings and sauces, as well as mixes for baking treats for your roommates.
Bonus Shopping Tips:
- Remember that you are only purchasing for sort-term use. Try to get by with as few pots/pans as are necessary, and only a few settings for plates and cutlery. The cheap/generic brands will serve for short-term.
- You might be exposed to many new foods in the stores. Buy a little to try each item that you’re curious about, but don’t buy the larger packs unless you’re sure you will like it. Foods are often cheaper when bought in bulk, but it’s still just wasted if you discover that you do not like it.
3) Check Out Student Passes for the Local Transportation
I knew that I would be taking busses, trains, and taxis while I was abroad, but I did not know how different the UK’s public transportation system is from the one at home. Their’s runs almost 24/7, and the buses and trains are in an integrated systems, so if you buy a pass from the train station, you can use it for the buses as well. And you can often get discounted ride passes for students (with appropriate student ID).
Bonus Travel Tips:
- If you are not buying a pass, but are paying each trip instead, ask for a return when you purchase your ticket. Return trips are often only a few cents more than the one-way ticket.
- You can look up timetables for the trains or busses online. I used Translink in Northern Ireland to plan my trips into town or out for the evening.
- Put the phone number for two or three local taxi services into your phone. If you find yourself lost, or you mistimed the train or bus, you can call a taxi for help.
- Europe has a train system that travels throughout each country. Many students use it as an inexpensive way to visit more places than just where their program is located.
These were the three most expensive aspects of my trip that I did not adequately plan for. I hope that by outlining them here, and providing some solutions to save money in Northern Ireland , that you will be better prepared and better able to anticipate the costs during your study abroad experience.
Jacqueline Paul is a Dietetics major at Oregon State University and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at Ulster University in Coleraine, Northern Ireland in Summer term 2017. She is a First Generation Scholar for IFSA-Butler through the First-Generation Scholarship program.