Submitted by: Samantha Plater (splater)
on Oct 8, 2012
No one ever wants to make a budget. I confess that I really didn’t do one until about 2 days before I signed my line of credit. However, I really do think it is important to do and I did do a mental tally of the costs that I will incur while I was researching my options. Anyway, the point of this blog was to provide some things to consider when making a budget and tell you some of the things I forgot to include in my budget. But so this isn’t a boring lecture on budgeting I will tell you a bit of what I learned about free tours in the UK and cheap travel opportunities.
So some major things to consider:
-travel to your country, not only plane but the bus or train to get to your city and the possibility that you may need to stay and extra day or two in the city before move-in (I had to because flying in a day earlier was cheaper than the next day)
-living fees (residence, extras like heating)
-food costs (meal plan or cooking, higher/lower food prices)
-health insurance, travel insurance
-any school-specific fees (like the student fees at Guelph)
-school supplies (bring or buy? I spent less than £10 to get everything I will need -- Go Poundland!)
-extra luggage fees (consider both to and from your country)
-visa and passport fees
KNOW the exchange rate!! The current UK exchange rate is about 1.6 CAD = 1 GBP (pound)
But there are other, smaller things to consider, some of which I didn’t realize:
-bus costs for travel into/around town (not all uni’s have a bus pass)
-phone (unlock your phone or buy one? All phones in the UK use sim cards)
-clubs and sports (not all universities have free clubs)
-gym memberships (may need to buy to be part of a sports club)
-photography stuff (encase you want to buy a new camera)
-computer stuff (if you need any upgrades or antivirus, etc)
On a side note, unless you are away for a year, it is possible to live out of one suitcase and the extra $100 to have a second checked is not worth it, laundry is not that expensive. I know a few people who brought enough cloths that they don’t need to do laundry for 4 months. Remember, you will buy stuff and you will need to bring everything back plus the new stuff you bought.
Plan for higher costs in the first week you arrive and plan for that. You likely won’t want to cook the first week.
Travellors cheques are useless in the UK. Banks won’t cash them. Post offices will but charge 1.5% of the price to cash them. I opened a bank account in the UK, I’m not sure if it was worth it or not, I’ll maybe talk about the process later and any thoughts that may have developed later.
Anyway, time for more exciting money stuff. Sorry but most of this is UK-specific, but google is your friend J
www.the hairycoo.com offers a free one-day tour to the highlands where you will meet hairy coos and feed them. The tour is tips-based so you pay what you think is reasonable for the tour, which is similar to many other tours that cost between £37 and £47. Plus I think they try more because you pay afterwards and they want to impress you, if you pay first they don’t have to try as much.
Free Edinburgh walking tour: http://www.newedinburghtours.com/daily-tours/new-edinburgh-free-tour.html
Many major cities should have similar sorts of things.
If you are a castles buff, than check-out the Historic Scotland pass. For £37 (or 32 each if you sign up with a partner) you get a year’s worth of entrance to all castles in Scotland, and discounts on England and Wales castles as well as at the gift shops there. There may even be a more expensive pass that gets you in to all castles in the UK. The two most expensive castles, Edinburgh and Stirling, cost ~ £16 and £13. Most other castles in Scotland are between £3 and £6. Since I’m in Stirling, I will be going more than once and I love castles so it will be worth it for me.
Consider rail passes as well. ScotRail has a £28 pass that gives you 33% off all rail tickets.
Also there is Ryanair and Easyjet which have cheap flights all over Europe (but many things are extra like checked luggage so watch that).
Some universities (Like Stirling) may have a travel agency on campus that by booking tours through them you save money. Also booking in groups may save you money.
Lastly inform you bank(s) you are leaving so you don’t get locked out. Even if you don’t plan on using you card abroad, as you may need it in a pinch.
Now because some of you may have actually read all the way down to this point I will some links to UK photos I’ve taken so far, as the website here does not want to upload any of my photos.
Submitted by: Samantha Plater (splater)
on Sep 18, 2012
So a “wee” confession. My last blog post, though mostly written before I left, was posted once I got to Scotland. Anyway, a short funny story before I get into some technical stuff.
I flew into Glasgow at 7 am their time (2 am our time) after leaving at 9 am to drive to Toronto. I got to Stirling at about 9 am and was proud to find the train station and my B&B quiet easily on such little sleep. My B&B, Munro Guesthouse, had such a nice proprietor, she let me shower and store my luggage even though I got there before all the guests had left for the day! Anyway the funny story involves the shower. I could tell it was different from what I am used to in Canada as it was hooked up to a plastic case thing with a dial for temperature control and a start/stop button. However when I pressed the button nothing happened! I tried multiple time thinking I wasn’t hitting it hard enough, and embarrassed to go ask Ena, the proprietor, how to work it. I took me about 10 minutes to find the pulley that turns the water system on. I did not expect to have such interesting/embarrassing issues in a place like the UK and in the first 2 hours of arriving into the country! On a side note, somewhere in my research I had come across a description of toilets that have 2 different flush buttons on the top if the water reservoir. I actually didn’t read beyond that but this place had one of those toilets. On one hand I wasn’t really confused when I saw it, on the other I wish I had read about the different between the function of the buttons! (Basically the amount of water used in flushing, ladies will tend to use the larger side and gents the smaller one, in case you’re curious).
Anyway, more technical stuff. First visas. I will cover what I know about the UK and what the rules were when I was looking to apply, but this things change so make sure you look everything up for your country, including the UK. Plus do it as soon as you know as for the UK it could take up to 3 months or longer and you need to hand in your Passport with your application, so you can’t just leave if it doesn’t come through.
For Canadian citizens without any immigration issues or boarder issues (specifically with the UK) and if you are studying in the UK for less than 6 months, you don’t need a visa** (** this type of thing changes, I’m just reporting my experience here). IF you want to work and even volunteer you WILL need a visa (a Tier 4 student visa). Volunteering is not really and same as working in Canada, but in the UK it is a bit different and even unpaid volunteering can get you deported if you don’t have a visa. I have to be careful about that. I didn’t plan on working and I’m not going to be here for 6 months so I opted out of a visa. Tier 4 visa runs at about $450 plus a bunch of paperwork. There is another type of visa, Student Visitor, that is cheaper (less than $200), which is recommended for people who have had the issues mentioned above or are from some countries (Canada is not one of them). I also opted out of this.
Instead I put together all my paperwork as suggested by the excellence UK boarder website as if I was going to apply and brought it with me to the boarder and asked to be classified as a Student visitor, basically a special stamps that allows me to stay longer than the 3 month visitor stamp, but less than 6 months and I’m not allowed to work. If I didn’t have that stamp I would have needed to leave the country and return before the 3 months were done or risk getting deported (basically take a trip to France and come back). Thankfully the University of Stirling has a great webpage explaining this stuff and an international student advisor that I talked to as well.
Make sure at the bare minimum no matter what country you are going to or whether you have a visa or not, bring a copy of your acceptance letter. I heard a story about a few girls who didn’t have that on them and lucky where not asked for it on the border, but if asked and you don’t have that, you can be rejected. They got lucky because there was another student in front of them who have the form and the border guard assumed that they were travelling as a group and who all have a copy of the letter. They got really lucky. Also have a copy in your luggage as well. Now I got to the border guard and asked to be classified as a student visitor. I had all my paperwork with me in my hand, about half an inch thick, showing my finances, where I’m staying, proof I will be leaving, etc, they the UK border website said to bring. All the man asked for was my acceptance letter and what I’m studying. I think he saw that I was prepared to show whatever he asked for, so he didn’t ask for anything else. I was a little annoyed because I spent a lot of time to prepare my documents and selecting what I would need, but I may be asked for them when I travel to Europe and am being re-admitted back to the UK, so it may not have been a complete waste.
Anyway, this is approaching 2 pages in length so I will end it now, more later!
P.S. The program selector tool on the CIP website is really helpful if you don’t know where you want to go, what Universities have your program, etc. Though don’t limit yourself to the results. With microbiology, I can take biochem and genetics courses as they relate to my major and any university with biology tended to have at least one microbiology class!See More...
Submitted by: Lynne Mitchell (lmitchel)
on Sep 17, 2012
If you are on twitter let me know so I can follow you. You can find me on twitter at GuelphILO.
Lynne See More...
Submitted by: Lynne Mitchell (lmitchel)
on Sep 17, 2012
Hi Bloggers. Just wanted to let you know that I appreciate you sharing your experience with those of us back in Guelph. Your tips and advice can really help others who plan to go in the future. Looking forward to reading of your adventures.
Safe and Happy travels.
Director, CIP See More...
Submitted by: Samantha Plater (splater)
on Sep 14, 2012
Hello, I’m Samantha and I am leaving tomorrow for my study abroad to the University of Stirling in Scotland J I’m really excited as it has been a long time coming, but more on that in a sec. I’m a microbiology, co-op student (yes co-op students and students in smaller majors can go on exchange too!)
First a warning: I’m a science major and tend to be short and to the point without fancy language, so don’t expect a piece of literary work from me.
I love to travel and have wanted to do an exchange since high school (my school did exchanges where you receive and live with a student your age for a few months and then go live with their family for a few months). But that didn’t work out for me. I knew the University of Guelph did exchanges when I applied and tried to keep that in mind, but I forgot about it going on an exchange for about 2 years. As a co-op student things are fairly rigid in the first part of the degree (take this here, do that class then, etc) and working abroad wasn’t really something I considered too much. Than one day I, for whatever reason, walked through the UC (I normally walk around the UC during nice weather, which it was this day, to enjoy the weather) and there was a booth advertising CIP. I was like “I wanted to do an exchange!!” That was two years ago and I did A LOT of research to find a place that fit my busy co-op schedule and allowed me to graduate (I also had a minor at that point). Long story short, F’12 was the best semester for me (my last one undergrad semester!) and I had to wait another year before I could start the process of applying to the program.
More on the process in another post I think, for now, know that once you hear where you are going, you should start organizing as soon as possible. For some of you that may be difficult because you go in January and don’t get your exchange partner acceptance immediately. I took a full course load in the summer and so I was trying to pack, do paperwork and money stuff, arrange travel, grad school stuff and study all at once! It was busy and there wasn’t much time to be excited. Then boom! It was time to start packing and do all the last minute details because my flight leaves soon.
I think that will be all for the first post, then next one I plan to talk about some more technical things like visas and maybe share a story or two about my exchange so far.
Submitted by: Zoe Lazaris-Brunner (zlazaris)
on Mar 14, 2011
As of tomorrow, I will have been here for 6.5 months, and will have only 3 months left of this absolutely wonderful journey. It's hard to believe! The time has flown by faster than I ever possibly could have imagined.
In my time here in France, I've really warmed up to the French way of life. At first I found it frustrating, the lack of organization, the laid back attitudes that made anything and everything impossible to get done. But there are advantages to this attitude as well. This, combined with not too much school hours/homework has left me very relaxed. I rarely have any stress!
I won't ruin the experience for you by telling everything that's great/not so great here, but I will just share with you some tips:
1- don't stress. it may not seem like it, but it WILL work out!
2- TRAVEL. Whenever you can. One of the greatest blessings of being here is the easy access to other countries. Take advantage of this as much as possible. It will, of course, make a serious dent in your pocketbook, don't forget how much more expensive it would be to come all the way from Canada to do it another time. Useful sites are ryanair.com [horrible customer service but sometimes really good deals], easyjet.com, hostelworld.com and hostelbookers.com. HIHOSTELS IS NOT WORTH THE PRICE FOR THE MEMBERSHIP!!!
3- Immerse yourself. It's REALLY easy to fall into just hanging out with other canadians or english speakers, especially since the French aren't particularly warm to strangers&it's hard to make friends with them. If you really want to practice your French, find activities that force you to be surrounded by them (for instance I was part of a Rotary club first semester).
4- Don't be shy! go out to events, sit beside a stranger in class, walk up to someone and say hi at the bar or in a hostel. there are tons of international students around, and you could meet some really cool people this way.
5- stay positive! There are tons of aspects of the exchange and french culture specifically that can and will frustrate you. Stay positive and recognize that this is their way of life. It will help carry you through the rough patches.
That's about all I have to say for now, but if you have any specific questions feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org See More...
Submitted by: Robyn Nicholson (nicholsr)
on Mar 11, 2011
It has been 3 months since I returned from my semester abroad in London, England. It feels like a dream now, looking back, but I will never forget the amazing experiences I had. I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to go abroad, and it was honestly the best time of my life.
I chronicled the entire experience as thoroughly as I could, and hopefully reading my experience will inspire you to pursue your own. I highly HIGHLY recommend it. It will change your life.
CHECK ME OUT AT: ABSOLUTELYROBYN.WORDPRESS.COM See More...
Submitted by: Erika Schnerdereit (erika)
on Mar 2, 2011
So I'm writing this from my residence flat in Aberdeen and am still amazed at the sunshine pouring in on me. The one thing people kept telling me on coming to Scotland was how much it would be raining. Now, to be fair, there is usually some form of drizzle/rain at some point every day, often in the morning. But the last week has been sunny and 8-12 degrees every single day. Did I mention it's March 2?
Scotland is INCREDIBLE. I think the thing that amazes me the most is how quickly I settled in and felt comfortable here. Maybe this has something to do with the people I live with or the friends I've made so far, but I've found it remarkably easy to settle in. I hate to generalize on people, as I think every exchange student's experience will be different, but the warmth and welcome of the people living here has really blown me away.
TRAVEL! Ok, so probably my foremost concern coming here...how could I travel as much as possible? The one downside -- unlike some students here, my schedule goes right to Friday afternoon and starts again Monday morning, making weekend journeys tricky. But day trips from Aberdeen are super easy and can take you to some truly spectacular places! Our second weekend here we took the train up to Stonehaven, about a 15-20 minute train ride and a £5.80 return ticket if you go on the weekend. Stonehaven's a cute little coastal town, and it's big claim to fame is Dunnottar Castle, about a 20 minute walk from the town, along stunning cliffs and gorgeous green fields. The views from the castle are unrivalled, and the grounds are large and easy to explore.
This past weekend, we went to a ceilidh in town (they played a Canadian barn dance!!). Don't worry if you don't know the moves, the band will teach you the steps before each song. Even if you still don't get it, half the fun is in seeing how much you can mess it up! Saturday afternoon we ventured to the Aberdeen Farmer's Market where local vendors sell jewelry, food, and other assorted goods.
Favourite part of the last weekend, however, was a day trip to the town of St. Andrew's (famous for having the university of choice for Prince William). Word to the wise -- book train tickets in advance. Not really a price difference , but you get to reserve seats. In our case, this would have been handy, as there was a Scotland vs. Ireland rugby game on in Edinburgh Sunday afternoon and the train was PACKED. Meaning, we had to stand in the vestibule between two train cars for the entire hour and a half trip. An experience if nothing else! In any case, St. Andrew's was beautiful, I would definitely recommend it. A friend we made in Aberdeen lives in the region so they offered to play tour guide for the day - if you go, hit up the ruins of the cathedral, the castle, the University grounds, and the CUPCAKE SHOP. You'll know it when you see it. The town's not big, so just take your time and explore.
Alright, post is getting long so I'll cut it off here. Cheerio for now! See More...
Submitted by: Holly McGill (hmcgill)
on Feb 12, 2011
Well, I have now been in Aberdeen for a little over two weeks and I am loving it! There have certainly been some ups and downs, but the ups far outweigh the downs, and they have been spectacular ups indeed!
The first night was tough. After a day's worth of travels, mostly on my own, the only thing I could think about was how lonely I felt. My flatmates were sweet, but they weren't my roommates from home. I chatted with my parents on Skype, and I think I remember asking, "How long am I allowed to be miserable before I can come home!?" It was a lot of change in a very short period of time, and the adjustment was tough!
But a good night's sleep and I was good to go, and I'm happy to say I've been good to go since! It's a very different feeling of independence being here; back home in Guelph, I'm independent, but everything that I am familiar with is still close by in case I need someone or something to lean on. Here, there is nothing and no one who is familiar. You are very much self sufficient, and I won't lie, it's kind of cool! I feel so proud of myself for achieving the things I have so far.
This is going to be a short and sweet blog post for now, but I thought I should put this out there for anyone who is considering going on exchange, who is currently on exchange and nervous, etc. The tough times pass. I'm sure I will still have difficult days ahead of me, but I'm ready for them. I already know that the friends I've made are friends for life. It's the experience of a lifetime! See More...
Submitted by: Liz Hammond (ehammond)
on Feb 10, 2011
Hope all is well back in Guelph! Here is a link to a blog I have been updating while on exchange in the Netherlands.
Hope you enjoy! See More...