Want to explore the world but need to economise? Fear not, the cards may be in your favour.
Although the opportunity of an international internship is an exciting prospect to experience the world through different eyes and broaden one’s horizons, many people decide against going abroad due to financial constraints. The costs of flights, visas and project fees, in some cases, can accumulate to a figure that, can seem quite overwhelming at a first glance and therefore discourages many young people from taking the leap to do an international internship. Looking up costs of international flights and visas has sent me staggering quite a few times too. However, whether you’re from a low-income background or you just don’t want to spend too much money, don’t let that preliminary cost scare you off. Indeed, it is important to see the whole picture. Travelling from Western Europe, your travel abroad will probably end up saving you money, while at the same time offering you the unique experience of enriching your understanding of the world… and here’s why!
1. You Only Pay Once
Although these first costs may seem extortionate at first, remember you will only need to pay them once. Possibly dividing them up into the months you will be staying in the country will give you a less horrifying, and more realistic idea of how much you will actually be spending. Compare this to the cost of staying closer to home. Given the much lower costs of living abroad, you will probably realise that rather than spending money, you are actually saving by going abroad.
2. You Have A Network Of People
If you are doing a placement abroad, don’t forget you will be in a network of people who can not only give you advice on which places to go and which to avoid. They can also help you find affordable accommodation through connections they might have. They can help you bargain if you are not native in the local language or help you find the best mobile phone deal. You might even get lucky enough to get a lift somewhere and cut your transport costs. So use those opportunities and don’t be shy to ask for help!
3. You Can Replace Your Meal Deal With A Full-blown Three Course Meal
Ever travelled to Spain and marvelled at the cheap prices of cocktails at the beach? Well, prepare yourself for an even greater feeling of privilege by suddenly being able to afford restaurant dinners on your student budget. Whether you are travelling to parts of Africa, South East Asia or Latin America, coming from a Western European country you will be surprised at the prices of food and basic maintenance, allowing you to radically cut costs while enjoying exciting exotic food.
Take China for instance, where a basic meal costs £0.60 and you can go out for a high-end three course meal for about £2.50. In Costa Rica you can get a main dish in a restaurant for roughly £3. So you will be finding yourself saving a lot of money on food whilst abroad even counting for those special occasions when you really want to treat yourself with a good meal out.
4. Travelling Becomes A Spontaneous Endeavour
Travelling can be the best part of an experience abroad. However, all too often when you plan a trip with your friends at home you can get hit by a sudden hike in flight prices, making you regret not having booked earlier. At train return prices of £30 from Shanghai to Beijing or a flight from Accra to Kumasi for £50, travel is not something you have to necessarily plan three months in advance but you can decide to do from one day to the next without a scary bank account balance awaiting you on your return. And if you’re thinking more locally, in contrast to the constantly rising prices of the London underground for instance, public transport is well within the realm of affordability. No need for painful Oyster top-ups, just hop on a Bangkok tut tuk for £0.60 if you’re late and like the wind blowing in your hair!
5. Swap Your Broom-Cupboard For A Palace
Although you put on a brave face describing your “well-sized single bedroom” to your family and friends, at the bottom of your heart you know that it is not worth the £170 per week you pay. Going abroad you will find that very often accommodation is covered by the organisation you are working for or else it is ridiculously cheap. Here are some of the average rent prices across the world compared to London:
Average weekly rent for a one bed flat
Mexico City (Mexico)
|Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)||£68|
|Puerto Barrios (Guatemala)||£37|
And here a little eye teaser. These are some properties you could afford to rent abroad on a usual student’s budget.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:
6. Make All Your Friends Jealous With Your (Possibly Fake) Designer Clothes
So usually you walk past high street shop windows staring in awe. After a quick reality check of your eternally flat purse you settle for the inevitable and turn the corner into Primark or M&S. If you go abroad, those days are over. With many markets and bazaars you will find many very cheap designer-like items. So while you need to look out for illegal forgeries, get ready to accessorise and finally earn those jealous looks from your friends!
7. And Finally, Just Think Of All The Things You Could Do With A Tenner…
If you find a tenner on the street in London, you might feel a slight sense of joy and achievement, right until you have to spend it as part of a gas bill, a Pret sandwich or a tube journey to Zone 5 when you are reminded by the harshness of the system you live in. But the story is a very different one if you go abroad. Here is a list of some of the things you could buy for £10 in different places around the world:
- A great date in Dar es Salaam
Get 2 tickets for the best seats in the theatre (and a haircut beforehand to make sure everything is in place) for an amazing night out with that special someone.
- A month of chemical experiments in Cambodia
Buy 30 bottles of coke with Mentos to drop into each of them and have a fun explosion every day for a month… or all at once!
Now for slightly weirder things you can buy for £10. But who can argue with five pets and some spare vinegar to stock up your kitchen?
- Buy five live crabs from a vending machine in Nanjing (with vinegar of course)
So, although the initial costs of a placement abroad can seem quite overwhelming at first, remember that the cost of living is immensely lower than in Western Europe. Indeed, you are in many ways lucky to be travelling in the right direction. You will find, quite contrarily to the common misconception of a placement abroad involving many additional expenses, that you will not only be able to live more at ease and afford things you would not usually do at home, but you might also actually be saving money by going abroad. Remember to think of initial costs as monthly costs. This will make them seem a lot more reasonable. Moreover, there will always be people involved in your placement who are more than happy to help. Do your research and you will probably find that whatever your financial situation, international internships are probably much more in your budgetary reach than doing similar placements closer to home… and much more exciting at the same time!
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Lily Parsey is a 3rd year Arts and Sciences student at UCL with a passion for travelling and exploring cultures around the world. In the coming year, she will be undertaking a placement abroad in Shanghai. Speaking five languages, she enjoys learning languages as the key to intercultural communication.