Friday, June 24, 2011

How to earn more, spend less abroad

To secure admission in an institute abroad is a long-drawn process and needs diligence and patience. Starting from selecting the right programme, filling up what seems a million forms, tackling fierce competition to finally securing a scholarship or an education loan, the process can exhaust you if not dampen your spirit. But the struggle doesn’t end there. In fact, this is only the beginning.

Once abroad, you are on your own. And among the many challenges you would face, one of the most daunting would be to manage your finances. Often, scholarships or education loan are not enough to take you through your daily life abroad. To manage that, you may need to take a part-time job and also learn how to cut your corners. Here’s how to earn more and spend less when studying abroad.

How to spend less
Accommodation is one of the most expensive cost head in most countries.

US: In most universities in the US, it is mandatory for undergraduate students to stay on campus in the first year but post-graduate students usually prefer to stay off campus since they work out cheaper. The rates vary widely, depending on the location. Metropolitan urban setting such as New York City, Washington DC, Boston, San Francisco or Chicago would be expensive. "One can expect to pay, including utilities, above $750 (Rs. 33,697) per month for accommodation on campus. But if you’re in, say, a college in the mid-West, you may pay only $300 for a full one-bedroom apartment per month," says Renuka Rao, Country Coordinator, Education USA Advising Services, a part of United States-India Educational Foundation, Delhi.

In New York or New Jersey, depending on the proximity to New York City, costs are higher. "So for a one-bedroom apartment, one could end up paying $1,200 per month, exclusive of utilities, off campus," says Rao. You could also consider a single room in an apartment. "Costs for these in the New Jersey area could be as low as $400 per month, excluding utilities," says Rao.

Himanshu Bhamra, who completed his M.Sc from University of Michigan, Flint, last year had to pay around $700-800 per month (including food) on campus for a small personal room, when he had to share the living room, kitchen and bathroom with three students. But he paid only $550-770 per month for a separate apartment which he shared with three students. Such apartments generally have amenities such as a refrigerator, dishwasher, cooking stove and oven. Though more expensive, it may be safer to live on campus. "You can significantly cut costs by staying off campus but factors such as your location in the US, level of amenities, proximity to campus and safety will also play a role," adds Rao. If you happen to live in an area in the US that doesn’t have good public transport connectivity, it may become a problem.

Staying off campus and sharing a private accommodation has other benefits as well. "On-campus housing has restrictions such as you cannot invite friends over the night. You have to vacate the building during holidays, usually for 10-12 days around Christmas. Off campus accommodation offer you greater flexibility," adds Bhamra, who stayed off campus for two years.

UK: "On-campus accommodation is usually about 10-20% more expensive than accommodation available off campus in the UK," says Himanshu Chadha, who pursued M.Sc from Oxford University. "On-campus accommodation in the UK can cost £90-120 per week including utility bills while off-campus accommodation costs would generally be between £60 and £90, excluding the utility bills," says Naveen Chopra, Chairman, Delhi-based The Chopras, an overseas education consultancy company.

Sonali Sengupta, pursuing PhD from Birmingham University, opted for on-campus accommodation during her M.Sc in economics as she thought it would be safer, but moved out once she got into PhD. "In my first year I paid about £370 per month, including utilities. for food and other things, I had to spend another £100 per month. Off-campus, I now pay £200 per month, with utilities and food, the total cost comes to about £350 per month," says Sengupta. Shampa Das, who is going to New Castle for her master’s, has opted for an off-campus accommodation and will be paying £40-55 per week, on-campus charges are around £70-80.

Australia: On-campus charges would be around A$300-400 per week; off-campus cost will depend on the number of people sharing an apartment and the location. "On average, a two-bedroom unit is shared by four students and the cost can vary anywhere between A$80 and A$150 per week per person in Sydney. It’s a bit cheaper in Melbourne and even cheaper in Perth and Adelaide," says Robby Valecha, who pursued MBA from Australian Catholic University, Sydney, last year.

How to earn more?
Part-time jobs: You can subsidize your living expenses by working part time during the course and full time during vacations. Under the F-1 student visa regulations, undergraduate and graduate students are allowed to work on campus for up to 20 hours per week in the US. On-campus jobs could be in libraries, cafeterias, admissions offices, or any other office or department of the university or college. Graduates who get awarded teaching or research assistantships can get $1,200 or more per month.

Off-campus opportunities are possible under the curricular practical training (CPT) or optional practical training regulation. Under the CPT option, you can do a full-time job that is directly related to the programme’s curriculum during vacations, typically the long summer breaks. You can also take up teaching during your PhD programme. "In the US, teaching assistantships typically pay $12,000 per year and more, for an academic nine-month year. You can also work as an adjunct lecturer or instructor," says Rao.

In the UK, part-time jobs are one of the most popular ways of covering expenses. The national minimum wage in the UK is £5.93. You can take up a part-time job depending on how much free time you have outside your studies. Apart from on-campus jobs, you can take up a job in fast food chains and retail shops. There are call centres as well but mostly students choose food outlets or customer service jobs as they have flexible hours. There are plenty of jobs available during the Christmas season, Easter vacations and summer holidays.

Most students prefer on-campus jobs. "My tuition fee is covered but I have to pay for my living expenses from my pocket every month. Now to cover this cost, I teach in the department and I earn around £3,500-4,000 per year, which just about covers my expenses," says Sengupta.

Concession cards and discounts: Most countries offer discounts to students. You need to get into the habit of showing your student identity card at every shop, restaurant, and museum since not every student deal is advertised. There are international student identity cards that offer several discounts. The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) is available in various countries including India. Visit for specific locations and other details. You only need to give a proof of your student identity. The card offers various discounts on shopping and also travelling. It is valid for 16 months and is accepted in over 100 countries; it has over 40,000 discount offers.

But use the university card for local discounts as it would be more effective locally between the two. There are also a range of concession cards one can avail as a student in the US. "One popular option is the Student Advantage Card that can be used across a range of outlets in the US such as retail stores and for discounts on books. You might discover that for products, it’s generally cheaper to buy things online," says Rao. You can purchase the card online at use it across the US. You can save up to 50% on gadgets, travel and clothing, among other things, but you need to pay an annual fee of about $20.

Also, keep an eye on general discounts and sales. The most popular discount season in the US is after Thanksgiving Day in November, when you can save up to 50-70% on your purchases. Some universities also provide concession cards for metros, bus and food. "A lot of Internet vouchers are available which can be used within a specific time frame and provide excellent deals. Normal range for savings could be 10-50%," says Siddharth Baluja, who is pursuing his M.Sc from Strathclyde Business School, UK.

The UK is very student-friendly and most high-street stores offer discounts. "Students’ university cards show that each student is a part of the National Union of Students. The card gives students around 20% discount in most retail shops over the country. You can also purchase an ‘NUS Extra’ card which can offer further discounts at a wider variety of shops and eating joints," says Exeter University’s official spokesperson. In the UK, you get concession cards known as Oyster cards for buses/train travel, which will reduce your travelling cost up to 30%.

With your college identity card, you can also get discounts of up to 10% at eating joints. "You should try to buy books online as they are cheaper than in the stores. I will recommend It offers excellent value and very competitive prices. You can also contact previous year graduates and buy second-hand from them," says Baluja. "You can get discounts with stationery, books, computers/laptops, air tickets with your valid student cards. You get discounts almost everywhere," says Chadha.

Though the basic cost of education overseas will remain high, you can pull it down to fit it into your budget. A dollar saved, in any part of the world, is always a dollar earned.

Source: Mint, June 24, 2011

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