Madeleine – Exchange to Catholic University of Lille, France
Semester 2, 2016
As most Australian university students work part time while studying, it’s easy to feel daunted at the prospect of making your savings stretch of over a 6-month period of exchange. But don’t let this put you off! Exchange is an amazing experience that needn’t break the bank if you take note of the below mentioned tips.
- OS HELP and other funding: This will be obvious for many, but for prospective exchange students, look into what kind of funding you may eligible for before you depart, either in the form of a government loan that gets added onto your HECS or grants offered by the university. For many students including myself, this is what turns exchange from a pipe dream into a reality!
- Conduct some thorough research on your chosen destination. The cost of living varies widely across Europe, and for me, living in Northern France on the euro makes for a more affordable experience in terms of accommodation, food and transport than students living in other regions. Generally speaking, capital cities will be more expensive than regional cities, but any university you are considering doing your exchange at should have a run down of general expenses on their website (usually under their international students section). Also, universities that offer some form of student housing generally make accommodation more affordable than a private rental agreement, and more social too!
- Planning your travel: Once you get your university timetable and your dates for exams/assessments, plan out some weekend trips and take advantage of the cheap deals offered by budget airlines such as Ryan Air and Easy Jet. Websites like Skyscanner let you put in your destination and will show you the cost of the flight across a number of airlines and a certain time frame so you can see what part of the month is the cheapest time to fly. Prices can fluctuate quickly but a few friends and I managed to score a flight to Norway for 5 euros just by frequently searching. Similarly, you can save plenty of money on trains, which are sometimes more convenient than flights, by booking ahead of time where possible (take note of when booking times open) or signing up for email alerts when rail companies are having sales, particularly if you want to take a trip on the Eurostar.
- Swings and roundabouts: You’ll find during your exchange that one week you’ll spend next to nothing, and the next will involve flights, trains and nights out that hit the wallet hard. But it really is a matter of balance. Knowing when your rent is due, anticipating when you’ll be home and when you’ll be away and buying your groceries accordingly will definitely help your budget. And besides, eating more frugally for a week will pay off when you can have a nice meal in a beautiful city the next!