RU Debt Free? Tips on Saving and Budgeting for Exchange

Studying abroad at one of Ryerson’s exchange partner universities is a great opportunity to gain international experience, learn a new language, meet new friends, and immerse yourself in a different culture. One of the most important aspects of going abroad is to start planning and saving money well before your journey begins. Not sure where to begin? This post will get you started!

Doug Furchner, Program Coordinator of Ryerson’s free financial literary course, RU Debt Free, explains that all the lessons covered in the course syllabus are applicable well beyond the borders of Canada. The course covers the basics: budgeting, banking, bank accounts and saving, credit basics, paying for school, and life after school. In preparing to study abroad, using simple financial planning tools can make a huge difference. Doug recommends that if possible, take this FREE course before going on exchange.


Doug Furchner (right) and the RU Debt Free Team

In an interview with Doug, he outlined the fundamentals for proper financial planning to avoid stress before, during and after your exchange experience. His key tips and tricks are detailed below.

When to start planning?
According to Doug, you should start planning the moment you are accepted into the program. You need to know how much money you have, how much money you will need, and what your plan is for getting there. You need to research the cost of living in the particular place you are going, and create a basic budget in Canadian dollars.

Budgeting:
Doug explains that proper budgeting is the key to everything! There are a variety of basic templates for college and university students in Microsoft Excel.

Step 1: Create a budget based on where you are now. Incorporate a line with a monthly savings schedule to bridge the difference between how much you currently have and what you will need to go on exchange.

Step 2: Create a monthly budget to follow while you are abroad. Estimate your fixed expenses such as rent, tuition and transportation. Account for fluctuating costs as well, such as food, grooming, and entertainment.  At this stage, it’s helpful to create two budgets side by side: one in Canadian dollars and one in the local currency of where you are going. Be sure to use a currency converter!

Step 3: While abroad, be sure to manage your budget on a monthly basis. Reconcile your bank account with your budget at the beginning of the month, reevaluate your spending and expenses, and consider what needs to be amended going forward.

Tips for saving while abroad:
Doug warns not to use your Canadian credit card, unless it’s an emergency. Cash and debit only! Avoiding the use of credit will help you resist the temptation to go over budget. Instead, load a prepaid credit card and lock it up upon arrival. Only use it in the event of an emergency.

Tips for Banking Abroad:
Doug cautions all exchange students to be aware of banking fees on both ends of every transaction. The bank here and the bank there will make money off of you every time you use your Canadian debit card.

As a smart alternative, he recommends opening a local bank account upon arrival. You can transfer a lump sum from your Canadian bank account, or you can bring a bank draft with you and deposit it right away. Then, you budget, budget, budget!   

Life After Exchange
Doug recommends carrying your now developed good habits into your everyday life. Keep budgeting, keep saving, and if you can, start putting 10% of your total income into a savings account or an RRSP.

For more information on exchange opportunities at Ryerson, please visit: http://www.ryerson.ca/ri/

Article written by Dylani Shea
Student Mobility Assistant | Ryerson International
Editor, Ryerson International Blog
Ryerson University

¡Que Viva Madrid!

Meet Joshua H!

As a Business Management student at Ryerson, Joshua participated in our Outbound Exchange program, living and studying in Madrid, Spain for the Winter of 2016.

*Below are excerpts from Joshua’s reflection piece about this life changing experience.

“Last January I embarked on the biggest adventure of my life; studying abroad in Madrid, Spain. Up until then, I had never even left North America, nor was I anything close to fluent in Spanish [. . .],  so needless to say I was a little bit nervous before my flight. As one might expect, my flight from Toronto was delayed by an hour and a half, however it so happens that this delay would forever alter my exchange experience. During the delay, I met one of the many lifelong friends I made while in Europe. It turned out that not only were we on the same flight, but we were both going to the same school in Madrid, and would also be living only a 5 minute walk from each other while we were there. This was just the beginning of what I can easily call the best 5 months of my life.”

“Within days of landing in Madrid, I realized just how easy it was going to be to travel around Europe. A quick search on Sky Scanner (Trust me this will be your new favorite website) showed I could get virtually anywhere in Europe for under $100… seriously, $100, that’s not a typo. So even before school started, I had already visited Portugal, and hung out with some monkeys on a giant rock overlooking Morocco.”

Monkeys on The Rock of Gibraltar in Spain. The mountain in the back is Africa

“Shortly after classes had started, we had assembled a group made up of Canadians, Americans, an Italian, New Zealander, and a couple Brits who all had 1 goal in common; to travel somewhere different every weekend. We soon discovered that Spain was a great country for this as it is a hub for travel which made flights a lot cheaper, and plane rides a lot shorter. Within just a couple of months we had already visited most of Western Europe and even hopped the pond to ride some camels in Africa. I cannot begin to explain the bond that was created between us as we travelled around the world. Not only were we all learning and experiencing the different cultures of the countries we visited, but we would also share knowledge from our respective countries as well, which allowed me to learn something new about a different country virtually everyday”

Riding into the Sahara Desert in Morocco, Africa

“Ever since I arrived home to Toronto, I’ve been itching to head back to Europe and continue exploring. However, I know nothing will ever compare to the time I had studying abroad with all of the friends I made. Whether it was learning new slang from countries around the world, or finding out that most people didn’t know that Canada had its own dollar, each day spent with my friends abroad was more entertaining than the other.”

“Without a doubt going on exchange to study in Spain was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I was able to travel around Europe at an alarmingly low cost, with friends from all over the world, while at the same time I was obtaining 5 credits for school. While my Spanish may not have improved nearly as much as I thought it would, I still could not have possibly imagined my experience abroad being as incredible as it was.”

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For more information on exchange opportunities at Ryerson, please visit: http://www.ryerson.ca/ri/

For tips and tricks on financial planning for exchange, click here.

The 2017 Ryerson International Photo Contest has officially begun!


Photo by Kangyi (Collin) Shen – 2015 Contest Winner
Title: Aurora

*The contest is open to all 2016/2017 participants of the Ryerson International Exchange Program, 2016/2017 recipients of RIWEF and ICRSF, as well as students who have participated in academic placements and internships

To enter the contest, please follow the instructions below.

  1. Select 1-3 photos from your international learning experience and write a caption for each. We encourage photos of your global learning experience, as well as landscape and architectural photos.
  2. Write a short description (approximately 100-200 words) about a memorable experience from your time abroad.
  3. Send photo(s) with captions and write up to rihelp@ryerson.ca by MONDAY APRIL 24th, 2017 with the subject line: Photo Contest 2017.

The winner will be announced on MONDAY MAY 8th, 2017!

The winner will receive a prize, and their photos will be featured on this blog.

We look forward to receiving your submissions!

Learning how to be jolly good: Living life the British way

By Lauren Gellatly, Undergraduate Student in the RTA Production Program, Faculty of Communication and Design

Did you know that, in England, you have to pull the door handle up before you can lock it? My awesome fellow Canadian housemate and I did not. We tried for half an hour to lock our door and, when we gave up, we locked it from the inside and broke out of our own backyard like any intelligent, resourceful, and independent young women would do when faced with this problem.

I didn’t find there was a lot more than this level of culture shock in England. As a people, they’re pretty similar to us – a little more sarcastic and way cooler in terms of accents, but they also say sorry excessively and love talking about the weather.

I had been dreaming of going on an exchange for a very long time – since I was thirteen. I started putting away my babysitting money for my big trip around the world. I was going to live in a new place I’d never been to before. I was going to see famous places and eat lots of delicious food. I worked non-stop and saved as much as I could to go. As I got older, and started looking at universities, I highlighted three things in each university’s booklet – what program they had, what scholarships I could get, and where I could go on exchange.

Waiting at the airport felt surreal. The thing I had been dreaming about for years was finally happening! I’ll admit I was a bit nervous in the weeks leading up to leaving. Was I really not going to see my family or sleep in my own bed for months? But the loudest voice in my head was my thirteen-year-old self telling me to go for it.

And she was right. My six months in England were the best six months of my life. It was everything I ever dreamed of and more. Looking back on it, there was one small period where I was a little stressed – but not once did I wish I was home. I know that I am the luckiest person in the world to have had this experience. I got to visit nine different countries with both new friends and old. I lived in a place I’d never been to before, and it felt like a second home in a very short time. I saw famous places and not-so-famous places, and was blown away by both. I ate so much good food, especially in places like France, Italy, and Spain, I thought I’d have to be rolled onto the plane home.

My advice to anyone who is just starting their exchange, or who is going next semester – remember to make the most out of your experience, whatever that means for you. Make friends from around the world, including your host country. TRAVEL, especially if you’re in Europe. Their discount airlines will become your favourite guilty pleasure websites. You’ve gone this far, so see all of the places you want to see! Don’t fail, and don’t waste your learning experience at a new school. But, don’t bury yourself in schoolwork and forget to experience your exchange.

And, if you’re in England, don’t forget about those doorknobs – pull up, then lock.

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For more information on exchange opportunities at Ryerson, please visit: http://www.ryerson.ca/ri/

For tips and tricks on financial planning for exchange, click here.