Broke and Abroad – Students ponder living penniless in a foreign country


Webster student Alison Bacon is studying abroad in Vienna and is traveling to other countries with little to no money. She has enough cash for one meal a day, and a lot of her cash has been wasted on public transportation.

“I am disappointed with how careless I was in the beginning because my friends have similar budgets but also aren’t in the same situation as me,” Bacon said. “ I learned a lot from this whole experience about how to go about things the best way.”

Bacon, a junior photography major, started a GoFundMe in June 2018 to help raise money for her trip. She raised about $2,000, and Webster suggests that students go abroad with at least $4,000. So she got two full time jobs to raise $4,000 more. She says, however, that the bills pile up.

“I had the money, but when you first get here you think you have plenty and you go shopping to try and find your style that fits the city you’re in,” Bacon said. “This being said, there are so many unexpected expenses that you don’t realize, and things add up so fast.”

Things like paying for bills at home for a car that’s not being used, or the fact that an ATM abroad charges an extra $55 every time $300 is taken out because of the currency exchange, are what Bacon says are the most aggressive interferences when trying to save money.

Right now, she is traveling to countries like Ireland and the United Kingdom, and she is bringing her money issue with her. Because, she says, it’s not going to get in the way of her experiences. However, Bacon says she also could have done a few things differently to help herself along the way.

“I got the cheapest flights, but I didn’t realize how far away they all were from where I was staying,”Bacon said. “I also could have simplified it by not going as many places and just staying put in the major cities for a bit.”

Saving Money Abroad

Trace Turner, who is also studying abroad in Vienna, has found ways to help subside money issues to help make his trip more enjoyable, and also to incorporate as little financial stress as possible.

He says he uses multiple routes of transportation to help save money when traveling to other countries outside of the one he is studying in.

“Travel is cheaper generally than in the US so you can find ways to make it cheaper for yourself,” Turner said.  “For instance, on fall break, I traveled from Belfast to Glasgow by a boat to a bus to a train. Just being smart and planning ahead has been helpful to me so far.”

Turner also worked a lot to try to save money for his trip and still has to be smart and careful with his money when he is there, he says. When it comes to places to stay, Turner says hostels abroad are cheap, and good ones can be found online. He also suggests CouchSurfing, an app that matches users with someone who is willing to let them stay the night on their couch free of charge.

“With hostels you get to meet a lot of people with a lot of different perspectives,” Turner said.

For Amina Kopic-Osmanovic, travel app usage is seemingly common among students studying abroad. Like any broke college student, Kopic-Osmanovic says students abroad are always trying to find cheaper alternatives. Kopic-Osmanovic will cook at home to save money, or use a variety of money-saving apps.

“For me, it’s not necessarily being broke and abroad, it’s just learning to budget which not a lot of people know how to do because they’ve never been on their own,” Kopic-Osmanovic said. “But I just learned to budget my money and it gets easier after exploring the city abroad and finding the cheapest prices.”

Bacon said saving money while studying abroad has just become a part of the process, as it has for many of her other peers. She says, however, it still hasn’t hindered her travel itch.

I have learned a lot about traveling and am so grateful for every experience I’ve had because I’ve grown more in the past 3 months than I have my whole time in uni,” Bacon said. “I have learned about the most amazing people throughout my time here from all over the world and it gives me a lot of perspective.”


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