How I Pulled Off a Foreign Trip While On Minimum Wage
In college, studying abroad is on many students' wish lists. But affording the programs requires saving, budgeting, and planning ahead. Here are some tips how.
A few years ago, I took a leap of faith right out of my comfort zone, over the Atlantic, to land in Ireland on a study program. As a broke college student then, this was an unbelievable accomplishment!
Under the program, American students had an opportunity to explore media and culture in Ireland. I was very excited until I attended the information session and was told how much the tab was. I walked out, deflated.
There was no way I could come up with $5,000 plus a round trip to Dublin at $1,000.
The $5,000 included housing at Trinity College in Dublin, lunch during weekdays, tuition for six semester hours, most admission fees, and medical insurance.
Though I had given up in theory, I couldn’t shake the thought of studying abroad. I began to do some research and travel hacking of my own to see if it were possible.
$5,000 is the average cost of most summer programs in a European country. But it still seemed like a ton of money to come up with as a college student.
Additionally, I had to pay for my plane ticket, passport, breakfasts and dinners, the application fee of $40 and other travel-related expenses that weren’t included in the cost of the program.
But I was determined to find a way. I came across organizations that issued travel grants for people just like me.
For example, if you are a journalist or plan on doing any special reporting work abroad, you may be able to apply for the Pulitzer travel grant. Educators can also receive travel grants and you may even want to reach out to the institutions at the other end to see if they would provide a grant, stipend or work opportunity.
Check out The Delaying the World’s $3,500 travel grant from Running Press. It’s available to U.S. citizens in the age group of 21 to 29, and who want to travel based on the ideas given in the book, Delaying the Real World. You don’t even have to be in school to receive this grant since your travel has to be independent of academic and religious organizations.
I received an education grant worth $1500 from my college.
Then I started some serious saving at my $11 an hour part-time job. I put a tax refund of $2,000 entirely to my Ireland fund.
If you’re planning on longer-term travel, you might want to try a few of these money-saving travel hacks:
- If you have credit cards, see if you can retrieve any cash back or travel rewards points that could go toward lowering the price of your flight
- Consider traveling to a location where your money will go farther, in terms of exchange value and cost of living.
- Utilize public transportation wherever and whenever possible.
To minimize the cost of accommodation, check out the local hostels available. Some of them are extremely affordable. I did stay in one in Galway for a few nights.
You may want to look into organizing a temporary legal house swap or Airbnb.
Dining out can bust your budget no matter where you are in the world. Since lunch was on my college deal, I went grocery shopping each week for the rest of the meals. Nothing is as cheap as cooking your own food!
Sometimes, I look back and wonder how I did it working part-time for $11 per hour. It had everything to do with my determination. When you’re drawn to something that strongly, as I was to Ireland, you will find a way and a budget!