Hello everyone! Getting ready for studying abroad can be so stressful because it seems like there are so many aspects you need to consider.
One of those aspects I am sure everyone is at least a little stressed about is finances, a.k.a. money.
Paying for my time abroad was most definitely something I put as much thought into as possible because traveling and moving to a new city is not always cheap. Luckily, I have found some pretty cool ways to manage my finances and make the most out of the money I have.
The first issue I wanted to work on solving was how to access my money easily. I wanted to keep things as simple as possible and not have to deal with too much stress trying to use my money. I also wanted to do my best to minimize transaction fees, ATM fees and exchange fees. All of that can really add up, and I did not want to waste any money if I did not have to.
I began researching what options I had with my bank. I bank with Chase, which unfortunately does not have many international partners, plus the rates to use my debit and credit cards were not optimal. Then I researched some of the most highly rated travel credit cards, though some require longer credit histories.
My next step looked into opening up a new bank account with a company that was more travel friendly. That is how I found Charles Schwab. I opened an account with them because they are completely online (ease of access overseas). It cost me absolutely nothing to create an account and they have no minimum account balances. It took me very little time to set up and best of all is that you can use their debit card at any ATM in the world and not get charged any fees to do so. No withdrawal fees means I have access to my money anywhere there is an ATM while saving money at the same time.
The next financial tip I have for you is to budget. Budgeting is a skill that I really did not ever take the time to learn while back at home. Being abroad has taught me that budgeting can ease my stress, optimize the use of my money, and is a valuable skill to possess for the future. With this, I do suggest that you do not let budgeting run your life while abroad. You should feel free to spend a little extra every now and again. Budgeting should be a tool to maximize your ability to do amazing things, not something to hinder your adventures.
I spent the first two weeks in Singapore not worrying about money at all because I just wanted to immerse myself into the country. I spent my money on experiences I thought were more important than saving for later. After these first two weeks, I began calculating how much money I should try to spend each week. I based this off how much I needed for food, transportation and made sure to allow some money for miscellaneous things.
Due to my budgeting, I have a clearer idea of how much money I will have when this is all over and that gives me comfort when I am spending. I do not have to stress out about spending too much or not having enough to last my entire time. If you need some help with budgeting, I suggest using Mint.com. It is a super helpful website to assist you with managing your money.
My final piece of advice involves getting money to study abroad. I was able to finance my trip to Singapore through several resources, including financial aid, scholarships, personal earnings and loans. All of this adds up, and even if you are worried, do not lose hope—the money will come. Some way or another, you will find a way to make your dream of going abroad possible.
If you receive any amount of financial aid (Pell grant, Cal grant, etc.), make sure that the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships is aware of this to ensure your cost of living stated in your FAFSA reflects what you will need while abroad. My financial aid increased due to my studying and living in Singapore and because I was proactive in contacting their office to ensure they had the correct information.
The next thing you will want to do is apply for scholarships—as in apply for every single scholarship possible. Use the SDSU scholarships page and apply for every single one, I mean, why not right? Be sure to specifically apply for the SDSU Study Abroad Scholarship. Also, do research on national scholarships like the Gilman International Scholarship and the Foundation for Global Scholars. Scholarships equal free money.
After all of that, if you still are in need of money, you could also consider taking out a loan. The ones offered to SDSU students will not start adding on interest until six months after graduation and the interest is not as high as most other loans. Also, getting a loan will help you appreciate money more and discipline you into understanding how loans work.
Well, that is about it for my tips on how to deal with financing going abroad! Hope it helps you all out. Remember to always stay stoked and positive!
Garrett Hein is earning a bachelor’s degree in international security and conflict resolution at San Diego State University. He is blogging from Singapore this fall.