December 1, 2012

Studying Abroad and Staying Healthy on a Budget

Studying abroad during your university years can offer several opportunities to grow professionally, academically, and personally while going on a once in a lifetime adventure.

For me, studying abroad seemed unrealistic. I was focused on work-study programs and figuring out the best financial aid options or looking for a part time job while trying to keep my weekly expenditures down.

I think it was during one Christmas feast when my mother's brother, my uncle, told a story about his oldest three children (6 total!) and their experiences studying abroad and how they did it.

My wonderful mother finally talked me into going to the study abroad office and looking into it. It turns out this was the hardest part of starting (until now) my greatest life-changing event. There are several ways to travel abroad with little or no extra tuition payments and reimbursing travel costs, like airfare. In fact, some universities even pay you to go abroad!

I had to decide between Japan (6 weeks for a summer Semester and a separate cost of roughly double my tuition) or Spain (4 months in the Fall and the only paying in-state tuition). Japan's program was more prestigious and I have always wanted to go visit Japan because I find the culture extremely fascinating. I knew nothing of Spain, little Spanish, and Germany, Scotland, or Ireland seemed to be way more "right up my alley."


Ultimately, being here in Spain has been amazing and I recommend to study abroad anywhere you can get the opportunity to and I want to share some of the things I've learned on staying healthy while travelling and living abroad on your own for the first time.


An image that appeared on my facebook during my time in Spain. The Erasmus program is for higher education students that is open to European students. The social aspects of it mirror that of similar organizations back home like Fraternities, and take on the same feel of starting college for the first time. Scary and exciting, to name a few emotions.

Given my past experience with the Freshman 15 (in my case, the freshman 40) I was severely concerned with gaining weight back having to live abroad in a new country and experiencing city-life (Valencia has a population of around 2 million) for my first time.

While I cannot join erasmus, several of the events like free Paella mixers and organized travel to nearby cities in Spain are open to all students of the Universities here in Valencia. Given an erratic daily schedule, Roman Numeral number IX scared me to death. After all, I had worked really hard for 6 months on losing weight!

What to do and what not to do

When you arrive in a new place for the first time, it's natural to explore. Use this natural tendency as an opportunity to find health stores and gyms as well as recreational areas like parks that you can use in a pinch.  Valencia is a beautiful city with several green areas and lots of small parks.

As a student, start looking around school for clubs and organizations that are free to join and engage in the activities you enjoy. If there aren't any, establish a group of friends that like to stay active.

To the right is a picture of our small group one weekend in the mountains just outside the city. We spent all day hiking a trail and got to visit several small towns along the way. We found a small tavern run by an old man that had the best Paella I've eaten in Spain.












A group of International classmates on a weekend trip to the woods for some friendly paintball!




Find out where the local farmer's markets are located. Valencia has several that offer fresh fruits and vegetables, farm raised chickens, and fresh caught seafood (I'm really going to miss living in a coastal city!) not only will you be supporting the locals you'll get some great deals. I bought almost a whole salmon for 9 euros which equals around $12-14. Many stands had whole chickens (medium seized because they were naturally raised) for 2 euros each. That's like $3.50 a chicken!

Living in a city, it's tempting to want to get a bike. I think this is a fantastic idea if you are going to be working there as cycling is a great form of aerobic exercise. However, for the student on a shorter stay, I recommend using your legs to travel everywhere. You get to take a more leisurely stroll and enjoy the sites while at the same time helping break down those pesky triglycerides (especially if you are fasted). I never got around to buying a bicycle saving me 60 euros.

Your first time abroad and away form the family will be scary, but will give you an opportunity to grow personally. Living independently for 4 months means I am now so much better at managing my budget to save up for the things I want to do like Travel or going to concerts. There are several cheap options to travel in Europe. Check out sites like blablacar.com  that offer ride shares. A friend of mine traveled to Madrid from Valencia for 12 Euros using this service. If you want to explore a new city and the hostels or hotels are all booked up, why not try couch surfing?

According to Volume 34 of Society and Economy in Central and Eastern Europe, the most competitive industry today is the discount airline industry. Use companies like RyanAir or Wizzair to make connecting flights. These two companies compete with each other driving costs down. They also compete on service, RyanAir boasts that it is always on time, in fact they will take off early if everyone is boarded (but be careful they will leave people!)! You may have to hop on a train to get to another city to fly out again that night but when you save $165 dollars for that trip to Ireland you always wanted to take, the extra searching is worth it.


This is me arriving in Malta, a small island similar to Hawaii. A flight with Ryan Air that cost only 43 euros.
Our group of 12 booked a hostel for 8 euros a night, it just doesn't get any better!


Through studying abroad I've also become better at having better health and making good long term decisions. Because Mom and Dad aren't around to watch your every step or criticize every decision the temptation is there to go do things you never would before, like buy that expensive purse. You also realize though, that you are on your own for the very first time. The path your life takes ultimately rests on your shoulders.

How did your study abroad experience turn out? Where are you planning to study abroad? What are some of the pros and cons to studying abroad? I want to hear you thoughts and opinions.

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Jhon anderson said...

Great article, thanks for sharing a unique content. Now I'm in abroad pursuing my higher education. Thanks to Education Consultancy in Chennai