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The Elephant in the Room | How to Survive On A Budget While Studying Abroad or Off-Campus

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A lot of students choose the spring semester to study abroad or take advantage of off-campus opportunities such as Cornell in Washington. As an international student, I’ve essentially been “studying abroad” since freshman year but this spring I decided to take a break from the Ithaca cold while also getting work experience and Cornell credits by participating in the Cornell in Washington Program. While an off-campus experience is enriching and is for many the best semester of your four years at Cornell, it can take a toil on the pocket.  Living a week in DC and also sharing tips with my friends that are studying abroad this semester, here are some of the ways I’ve managed to save while making the most of my time away from Ithaca.

Cook More

Buying groceries, cooking and eating out once in a while helps to reduce the amount spent on food monthly. While cooking may not be everyone’s talent, there are simple rice and pasta recipes on YouTube that can get you through the semester. Setting aside a day on the weekend to cook and to then refrigerate your dinner for the rest of the week saves both money and time. In my case there is, there is a Trader Joe’s and Metro Supermarket a few minutes away from the dorm with reasonable prices and good groceries. There is also a farmer’s market every Sunday in the neighborhood for fresh produce. Taking note of affordable stores nearby is a good way to stay within your budget.

Hunt down free food events

Combine networking with your dinner plans. Much like how students take advantage of campus events that offer food, cities like Washington, D.C. are filled with public events with good food. Go listen to an inspiring talk at a think tank or attend a networking lunch; this will mean meeting more people while saving on buying food.

Hunt down free tourist activities  

If you are doing a program through Cornell, there will most likely be some free outings and tours organized during orientation week and throughout the semester.  My friend Kwesi Kwapong ‘19, an architecture student currently studying in Rome, used an orientation event to go sightseeing around the Colosseum. In addition to participating in tourist activities offered by your program, take advantage of free museums, free walking tours and concerts available in most cities. This will ensure that you are still exploring the city but spending minimally on sightseeing.   

Finally, the rule of thumb when living in a new area is to find out how the locals live. Shopping at the stores that the locals shop at, eating out at less touristy restaurants will save your budget a lot, and using public transport that the locals use such as the Metro will steer you away from a “tourist” lifestyle to a more frugal lifestyle. With these helpful tips at your side, you can live it up off-campus all while not straining your budget.

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