The author at the Taj Mahal, India.
It has been three months since I started IFSA’s Global and Public Health program in India and my studies at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education. Looking back on the entire process so far, I feel the whole experience has been exceptional for both my personal and academic growth. The program is designed comprising not only of the school’s curriculum but also of traveling –a lot–which makes me aware of the exceptional and diverse Indian cultures and adhere to the culture of being in my close-knit group of friends. With that being said, traveling plays an important part of your experience while you are studying abroad, and thus, how to make it an extraordinary opportunity is another story needed to tell.
Before embarking on these cool traveling experiences, you are probably thinking about how you will be able to budget your travels and what you should bring along the way. I was at first a newbie of traveling because many of my past trips I made were short-term or to where I already had my friends or relatives. Going abroad to another land was much more difficult to manage my travels and to know what should be done to make the most out of my trips. I hope that my blog will help to facilitate your process of traveling within your study abroad term!
When studying abroad, while visa rules vary by country, typically you are not able to work in your host country on whatever visa you enter on; also, you are typically too busy with program events and your studies to take on a job abroad. Due to this, my first and foremost piece of advice is that you should plan on saving early on. After I received my acceptance to study abroad, while I was so happy to hear the news; however, I knew I had to get started on my saving plan! As a first generation student studying abroad, I was inherently more aware of the cost of doing a term abroad and discussed with my family which fees I would be able to cover on my own, and my parents agreed to cover the rest. The summer right before studying abroad, I worked harder and consciously raised my budget. I had to think twice before making any spending to avoid the waste afterwards. With the budget I already earned and the amount I spent, I anticipated how much I would save on my own expenses for going abroad and traveling around. Depending on which country you plan on studying abroad in, you may want to save a little more for emergency cases or financial shortages. My tip is to save one fifth or one fourth more than the budgeted amount you plan on bringing. After three months being abroad and traveling in India, I am still efficiently managing my budget, so I think I have been spending right and making financially sound choices!
While in India, one of the most difficult decisions I have made was about what I should spend my money on, since many things such as clothes, souvenirs, and foods in another country are tempting to my eyes. Overspending can easily ensue if your spending is not in check. As for suggestions, one of my friends roughly had his amount of spending in mind and divided his budget weekly or monthly to avoid overspending. However, you do not have to be that strict on your personal budget. From my observations, it seems like halfway or three-fourths of the way into the program is when most of the trips are planned where you could end up spending the most of your money. Therefore, I would likely underspend at the first of the program, and as you would explore more about the country’s culture along the way, you will know which things are worth spending your money on. Moreover, the program’s coordinators are the best for knowing about the places you may want to stay or travel to and would be able to advise you on which are signatures of their country or regional cultures. I would suggest doing a little research on your program’s planned trips and excursions in order to plan your spending accordingly throughout your term abroad.
I have travelled quite a few times throughout abroad program and learned some tips that might help to minimize your stress about travel preparations as well! In many places in India, I had to carry my bag the whole time, so I would rather pack light.
Some essential things contained in my bag include clothes, but less pants as you can wear them multiple times, personal toiletries and first aid kit, a pair of sneakers, your passport, and money. Snacks and water can be bought along the way, and you may not need to bring many books as audiobooks could be a better choice. I just kept in mind that at the end of the day, I would have some food, get clean, and sleep, so this set of thinking helped me plan on what were the necessities to pack for a short trip.
Overall, being an expert in traveling requires you to actually get out there and travel in order to understand what is necessary to pack, how much you should spend, and discover what you find as entertaining along the way. As everyone’s packing choices are subjective to their preferences, traveling — although being somewhat difficult and daunting in the beginning — will gradually bring you self-awareness and help you learn valuable budgeting skills that you’ll use throughout your life!
Nhan D. Nguyen is a Biochemistry major at Wabash College and studied abroad with IFSA on the Global and Public Health in Manipal program in the fall of 2018. He served as an International Correspondent through the First Generation Scholarship program.