Budgeting While Abroad…Or Trying To, Anyway

Caitlin Caswell was a First Generation College Student scholarship recipient and attended the IFSA-Butler Ireland program (Queen’s U) in Spring 2013. Caitlin attended Austin College in Texas.

“A penny saved is a penny earned.” –Benjamin Franklin

When I was first preparing for this semester, I was told the statistics of American study abroad students: overwhelmingly white, female, privileged students from small liberal arts schools.  This has proven to be quite reflective of the group I came abroad with; all but two people are white, there is only one boy, and nearly all of us described our home universities as small liberal arts colleges.

There is no doubt that compared to the rest of the world, I am very privileged.  But there is a definite division between the rest of the group and the First Generation Scholars (myself and a friend).  While others buy a coffee every morning on their way to class, eat out at cafes for lunch, order pizzas for dinner, and go to pubs several times a week, I’m still caught up on the exchange rate from the dollar to the pound.  When someone tells me that a Guinness is “only four pounds,” all I can think is, “That’s nearly $8!”  Instead, I’ve been having a competition with myself to see how little I can spend on weekly groceries.

Fortunately, Laney–the other First Generation Scholar in my program–and I have been able to share our  money-saving concerns and find things to do that are inexpensive (and walking there together rather than taking a cab). The truth is, in a city as fantastic as Belfast, there are so many things to do that are free.  There are libraries to visit, like the Linen Hall Library, there are buildings to tour, like the Ulster Museum and the City Hall, and on every Saturday, there is a farmers’ market, St. George’s Market, where it’s fun to just walk around and people-watch.

Living on a budget while studying abroad is difficult, especially when it seems like no else around is, but it is certainly doable. There is always something fun going on for free–tonight I’m going to a poetry reading at a local bookstore, for example. And it’s much easier with a friend who is willing to walk a little further to save a couple pennies. Or in this case, pence.

 

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