Facing Challenge Abroad

I’ve realized that in my two stints abroad, there are challenges that one can predict prior to leaving and others that come up during the program.  For me, my biggest challenge was maintaining financial stability during my time in Sydney.

Before I took my flight to Australia, I knew that being in another country for over three months would be a financial burden.  Outside of tuition and accommodation, simply having enough pocket money to spend on things like food and travel definitely added up.  I was grateful to have plenty of support from my parents, but I soon realized that Sydney is an expensive place and I was spending money more often than normal.  Additionally, considering Pitt students only acquire a tourism visa when going abroad, we cannot legally work in our host country.  So if you were planning on getting a part time job during your stay, it may be very difficult.

As one can imagine, being far away from home for an extended period of time is a surreal experience that you’ll want to make the most of.  If you are based in Europe, you will probably want to make weekend trips to other cities and countries and in Australia you will definitely want to travel up the coast and visit cities like Melbourne and Cairns.  For Spring break, destinations like New Zealand and Bali are extremely popular.  These travel expenses put a dent in my wallet and made basic needs like buying groceries pretty tough for certain weeks.

Going along with that last idea–wherever you travel, it is understandable that you will want to explore the local food scene by frequently going out to eat.  However, this will add up, so I encourage future students to frequent food stores and use your accommodation’s kitchen!  Personally, I enjoy cooking but I guarantee that eating at home every now and then will help you save plenty of money.

Here are some more suggestions to overcome financial boundaries while abroad:

  • As soon as you have committed to your program, do some research on the exchange rate and average item prices of your host city.  Certain things that you take for granted back home may be more than you expect.
  • If you have any sort of job or income at school/home, I would recommend creating a travel fund that you can drip money into prior to departure.  Additionally, if you are traveling with friends, it may not be a bad idea to plan outer city excursions while still at home–this will definitely give you more time and insight to finding good deals.
  • If you live off-campus, it will be your benefit to find a sub-letter for your semester away.  Avoiding the cost of rent while abroad will give you more pocket money and relieve financial stress.

Granted, every student has a different financial situation, but I hope my experience and suggestions can help future students budget their money when they go abroad. I would encourage anyone to visit Sydney, but just keep in mind that along with the flight costs, the city is considered to be very expensive. It is important to accomplish as many travel goals you may have, but always remember most of those things will have a price tag!