Spending $$ in a new country – API Blog

Today’s blog post comes to us from Loyola University Chicago student & API blogger Lily Pappanikou! She’s a Criminal Justice major studying abroad with us in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Lily Pappanikou Wow, I haven’t blogged in a little while!

Juggling school and travel is no easy feat, especially at the University of Edinburgh. Despite having short classes and many days with only one or two classes per day, I feel very academically challenged here. These past few weeks we have travelled to Glasgow and have walked to Leith as well as Portobello (neighboring towns with a beautiful coastline). In addition, my API friends and I are gearing up to go to Berlin, Copenhagen, and Geneva next week during our “Revision Week” break in our semester.

API students in Glasgow

Having so much free time in the day, as well as the relatively cheap opportunity to travel, has made budgeting really difficult while I am here.

If you are going abroad for one semester, at least to the UK, you are probably going to get a “Short-Term Student Visa”, which does not allow you to work and make an income, as your only purpose for being in the country is to study. Picking up odd jobs such as babysitting or pet-sitting is certainly possible, but living here under these circumstances means spending much more than your non-existent income provides. Especially with the unfavorable exchange rate of USD to GPB right now, it has been financially challenging to balance everyday fun, necessity, and more bigger travel to Europe and other places.

Some words of advice for people coming to the UK for an extended period of time:

1. Grocery shopping is so much cheaper than eating out!

A meal from a restaurant can cost as much, (or be even more expensive), than a week’s worth of groceries from Tesco. Learning to cook a few simple things has been rewarding as well as frugal.

2. The Scottish drinking culture gets expensive.

Get ready to ask every bartender about student discounts, price-check bars you want to go to on Google, check if the place has a day-of-the-week discount, etc. Scottish people love to socially drink, and if you aren’t wanting to drink, but still want to hang out with your friends, it can be tough to get into an establishment without eventually getting glared at for not being a paying customer.

3. Edinburgh is a city full of live music

That means handing over a few pounds, even if it was meant for something else, almost always turns out to be a good decision. Scottish folk bars, more modern venues, and everything in-between are a great time. People-watching in pubs on a night of a rugby or football game will never disappoint.

4. Use ATM’s!

Many international credit or debit cards have hidden fees that will accumulate much faster than you realize, so using cash is the way to go. Edinburgh is a safe city, and I never feel uncomfortable carrying cash on me.

5. Live and die by a weekly spending limit!

I made the mistake of ignoring my budget the first few weeks I was here, excited to set up my new life and in need of many things I left at home. (Don’t expect to have a cute room or a super comfy bed or anything very luxurious, you won’t even be in there that much).

6. The UK has charity shops!

They are amazing second-hand clothing stores and the profit of the sale goes to the charity it supports (there is one for the British Heart Foundation, a cat rescue, and more just on the street that I live!). Everything is super cheap, and their clothing is actually really cute and often in-style. If I had known about these shops before coming, I wouldn’t have packed half of what I did. And they are handed down from Scottish people, so you will be in style! (Trust me, they can tell the second they see you that you’re American when you are decked out in your clothes from home. They have a very different style here and one that has been fun to play around with!

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