So you’ve heard about the exchange program and you’ve already listed all the cities you want to visit. You’re daydreaming about the incredible sights you’ll see, flavorful foods you’ll try and inspirational people you’ll meet until the thought of the associated expenses tramples you back into the reality of a student budget.
As exciting as going on exchange is, you still have to be a responsible adult (sigh) and plan your expenses, but you shouldn’t let financial fears stop you from studying abroad. Managing and budgeting your expenses (especially in a different currency) is a valuable skill that might give you a new outlook on your spending habits, even upon returning to Canada.
Don’t know where to start?
Check out the budget sheet we’ve made for you! The Exchange Budget Sheet from Ryerson International was specifically created for exchange students. It breaks down the monthly expenses of living abroad in combination with associated fixed costs.
Further below, we elaborate on the steps to planning your budget in preparation for studying abroad and explain specific components of the excel sheet, with a few tips on how to minimize costs.
Looking for a more detailed, guided approach? Attend a free Financial Basics Workshop with the Chang School.
STEP 1 – RESEARCH
The first step to creating a budget should be to calculate the approximate expenses you will incur while living abroad. Living costs vary greatly country to country, so we recommend researching the living costs specific to your host city. Make sure to take note of the currency used and its rate relative to the Canadian Dollar (it may change while you are abroad).
Most universities list the estimated living expenses on their websites. You can find a list of partners with links to their resources on Ryerson Global Opportunities. Start by selecting your faculty, then clicking on the name of the institution.
Let’s say you are looking to go Curtin University for one semester. Curtin International outlines suggested weekly expenses of living in Australia. They also have a very handy “Cost of Living Calculator” you should refer to if you are planning to study in Australia. Resources are useful aid when estimating the costs of your exchange.
STEP 2 – LIST OF EXPENSES
1 term tuition at Ryerson
Even though you are studying abroad at another university, you are still considered a Ryerson student and required to pay tuition to Ryerson for a full course load. The tuition expense does NOT cover any expenses you will incur abroad. Visit Ryerson Fees Page for more program specific information on tuition fees at Ryerson .
Airfare will account for a considerable portion of your expenses, especially when flying to the other end of the world (Australia, New Zealand). Some things to consider:
♦ Book in advance; flights become more expensive close to the departure date.
♦ Purchase a return ticket that is suitable for you. A one way ticket will allow for flexibility with the return day, but 2 separate tickets may add up to be more expensive.
Tip: if you have the availability to travel earlier/later, avoid departure dates that fall on Friday, Saturday or Sunday since they are typically associated with higher costs.
We highly recommend you purchase travel insurance that complies with the length of your trip and time spent abroad. Travel Insurance can cover flight cancellations, lost luggage and provide emergency medical coverage.
Depending on the size of the city and its affordability, accommodation usually ranks number one on the expense list. If available, apply for accommodation at a student residence. Most times it is cheaper and in an accessible location to the university. If you have any more specific questions, contact the international office at your host institution.
Again, this expense will fluctuate greatly depending on the location of your exchange. Research average food prices in the country/city you will be living in. Some countries, especially in Europe, will have budget grocery stores where prices are lower than in regular stores.
This is a priority. You will not be permitted to go on exchange if you don’t have health insurance. Health insurance can cost over $100 (CAN) a month depending on the prices of your host university. Not all institutions provide health insurance, so you may have to purchase your own. If you feel confused, or struggling to find reliable insurance, you can reach out to Ryerson International at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Student visa (if applicable)
Depending on the duration of your stay, you may have to get a visa. Double check the requirements based on your host country. Get in contact with the host institution and consulate-general office of the host country as soon as possible to find out about whether you require a visa, and if so, what the application process is. We recommend you do this as early as possible – visas can take up to 8 weeks to process! Visas can also be an additional cost, so make sure you have all the information you need. Ensure that you have all necessary documentation for studying abroad prior to departure.
Tourist travel and expenses
You’re going to want to explore and visit new and exciting places. Your travel expenses depend on your travelling preferences and the affordability of the destination. Calculate approximate costs for transportation, hotels, food and entertainment for each trip.
If you’re looking to save, book in advance, use budget routes, consider staying at hostels. Instead of public transport, walk and explore (reasonably). Maybe make dinner in the hostel kitchen with groceries from a local supermarket?
Depending on the university, you may or may not have to pay for textbooks. Find out if borrowing books from the university library is a feasible option.
You will want (or need) to buy hygiene products, clothes, souvenirs etc. Some products may be cheaper than others, but don’t underestimate how much you are going to spend on these things. If your host city has budget grocery stores, you may find certain products (smaller necessities) to be cheaper there.
Your return to Toronto
Account for your return to Toronto. Budget enough to ensure that you can pay 2 months of rent when you come back to Canada. If you’re leaving in the Winter semester, consider searching for future summer employment while you are abroad . Although it may seem far from now, setting yourself up for success upon your return is an important aspect to the exchange experience.
There will be other costs that are different based on each person. It is a good idea to budget extra finances for an unforeseen situation or emergency. Expect currency levels to fluctuate-sometimes not in your favor.
STEP 3 – TRACKING
After breaking down all your expenses, make sure you have a strategy in place to follow your budget. Get into the habit of noting your spending habits before your departure. It will help ensure that you don’t blow through your savings in the first few weeks of exchange. Compare your planned expenses and actual costs with the Exchange Budget Sheet from Ryerson International.
Alternatively, an easy and convenient way to budget is through designated apps, such as:
At the end of the day, planning out a budget for studying abroad should be completed before your departure. The earlier you become aware of exchange associated expenses, the sooner you can find sources to fund your experiences and have the time of your life overseas.