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Survival Guide: Study Abroad (in Europe) on a Budget

As the semester winds down, many sophomores are starting to dream about classes in Europe:  lunching on the Thames, strolling past the Eiffel Tower, or tanning on the beach in Sardinia.  While studying abroad in Europe, students also want to travel to as many countries as possible.  This is a great goal, but it’s also an expensive one.   I know people who spent nearly $8,000 during that one semester.  Since the euro is worth about $1.50, expenses add up.  However, it’s definitely possible to experience life abroad without spending thousands of dollars.  Here are some tips:

1.     Use budget airlines – Europe’s budget airlines are insanely cheap compared to those in the US.  Ryanair and easyJet are two budget airlines that offer tickets for as low as 9 euros before taxes and fees!  There are also price comparison websites specially made for travel between countries.  When I was in Venice we used Skyscanner to check airfares.  The key is to compare prices so you know you’re getting the best deal.  Also, try to plan at least a few weeks in advance since rates increase the later you book.

2.     Stay in hostels or with friends – Most of us who travel in the US are used to staying in hotels because they are the most accessible.  In Europe, however, hostels are a viable option with a much better price tag.  Three friends and I stayed right outside of Las Rambles in Barcelona for 15 euros a night with breakfast included.  The most helpful websites were Hostel World and Hostel Bookers.  These two websites provide booking options and pricing as well as user reviews for almost every hostel.  These reviews are usually posted by other students and provide useful information like if the area is safe or whether linens are provided.  I used these two websites for trips when I wasn’t staying with friends.

3.     Use your meal plan – In Venice, we were given meal plan money called “Day,” which were like gift certificates that could be used at various restaurants, grocery stores, and even pubs throughout Italy.  We took several day trips:  Milan, Cinque Terre, and Padua, where we were able to pay for food, and sometimes drinks, with our meal plan money! 

4.     Carry your student ID – In all of Europe, especially in France, prices are reduced for students.  We got into the Louvre, climbed Notre Dame, and saw the Pompidou Museum all for free!  Even movie theatres and restaurants had student pricing in some cities.  In Venice, the government subsidized our boat passes because we were students.  So when you travel, don’t forget to pack your student ID!

5.     Ask the locals – Food can get expensive in Europe, especially in the touristy areas.  So when you meet the locals, be sure to ask them where to dine.  They know the secrets, like the fact that many bars in Milan turn into “Aperitivi” during what we consider happy hour.  For about 5-8 euros you can buy a drink and enjoy a seemingly endless buffet of appetizers, salad, pizza, and sometimes dessert.

6.     See what your school offers — VIU, the school that I went to, offered multiple “field trips” on Fridays.  These ranged from bike rides on the island of Lido to a private tour of St. Mark’s Basilica.  The activities were all free and transportation was usually provided.  I’ve heard that other schools sponsor everything from white water rafting to trips to the opera.  So make sure you check the bulletin board or ask your professors!

7.     Take advantage of free events – Some of my favorite memories in Venice are of sitting in Piazza San Marco and listening to the live violin music played to entice passersby to eat at a certain restaurant.  We would grab gelato at a place that took our meal plan money and then sit on the steps of the Basilica and enjoy the free entertainment.  Also, the Guggenheim would have student night once a week with free admittance and appetizers.  Finding out about events like this guarantees a good time free of charge! 

Overall, just enjoy the experience.  The time goes by so quickly, so don’t waste it worrying about finances.  For a few more tips, or just to read up on my abroad experience check out my blog.  Happy travels!  And, as the Italians say, “In bocca al lupo.”

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Allison Lantero is a recent graduate of Boston College where she graduated with honors after being "called out" by the Secretary of Transportation during commencement. She's spending her summer writing and applying to grad schools in DC for the fall. She is a frequent contributor to HerCampus as well as her school newspaper, The Heights. When she isn't writing, or playing lawyer, Allison loves travelling, especially to Venice, Italy where she studied abroad. She is looking forward to moving into an apartment in Washington and working for Ray LaHood in September.
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