Abroad on a Budget

Written by Roxana Padilla (Cornell University) Student Correspondent CET Florence, Fall 2017

Economic status and financial ability are often major determining factors for a large portion of students looking to study abroad every semester, including myself. While I was first looking into programs, my first question was always whether or not I could afford it without adding an extra year’s worth of college debt to my bill. After numerous meetings with my university’s amazing study abroad office and countless hours scrounging the web for ideal programs, I was able to financially secure my semester’s tuition, which was a major relief! Once I knew I would be able to realize my heart’s desire of studying abroad, I started planning out ways for me to stretch out my dollar while still experiencing everything Florence, Italy, and Europe have to offer. Here are some of my tips and tricks that have helped me stay on track thus far. Some of these are specifically geared towards Florence, but with a little tweaking I think they can definitely be applied to any major city or program.

Make a budget!

Before even heading out across the Atlantic and stepping foot in Italy, one of the most important and helpful steps I took was outlining a budget for my expenses. To start, I set a concrete amount of money I wanted to spend for my entire semester and figured out how much I would be allowed per month. From there, I organized categories (travel, home goods, miscellaneous, etc) and allocated however much money I was willing to invest in them. I know, this sounds a little annoying, but I’ve found it extremely helpful these past three months to have an “official” written form that holds me accountable for my expenses, reminds me where my priorities lie in terms of spending, and makes me think twice about mindlessly splurging on some cactus candles from Tiger (more on that later).

Book in Advance!

Whether it’s plane tickets for your week long break away from CET classes or train tickets for a quick day trip in the Tuscan countryside, it’s crucial to book them in advance. Of course, spontaneity is sometimes inevitable (and encouraged!). But for those free weekends where you know you’ll want to travel outside of Florence, secure tickets sooner rather than later. Even booking a week in advance can mean the difference of enough euros that can go towards another trip, whether it be a day trip or one abroad. So, as soon as you figure out your class schedule along with quiz and exams days, start planning! Remember, Google Flights is your best friend.

Eating In and Out!

Being surrounded by some of the most amazing Italian food here in Florence is both a blessing and a curse. Blessing, because you never run out of new trattorias to go to or new dishes to try. Curse, because it can and will quickly burn a hole through your wallet. The solution? Eating in. Personally, I’m a huge fan of cooking and don’t eat out much in general, so I haven’t had too much of problem with this. There are some days, though, where I just want to go out and have a truly authentic Italian meal. After all, I am in Italy! Some of my favorite budget friendly hotspots that don’t sacrifice quality are Cafe Mario (1 euro freshly baked chocolate croissants), La Carraia (1 euro gelato), and Pizzeria Spera (HUGE pizzas for as little as 4 euro). You can thank me later.

Take Advantage of CET!

CET has been amazing at providing us the opportunity to not only discover Florence but Italy as well! Not only have their organized trips to Venice and Rome allowed me to cross off some amazing cites off my bucket list, but their classes have allowed me some amazing visits to the most sought after tourist destinations in the city. Between my Art and Architecture classes and Florence Sketchbook, I’ve been able to step inside the Hospital of the Innocents, San Marco, the Uffizi Gallery, Santa Croce, Galleria dell’Accademia, the Pitti Palace, Santa Maria Novella, and the Bargello, just to name a few! I continuously feel so lucky to be able to see priceless pieces of art by greats like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Botticelli, all at no cost to me.

Finally, my most important piece of advice…

Don’t Go to Tiger

Just don’t. This love child of IKEA and the dollar section at Target WILL make you go broke and is to be avoided at all costs. You have been warned.