Living and learning in a different environment can be rough. You shouldn’t have to worry about the cost of food when you already have to worry about the cost of tuition or accommodation. The first thing my friend’s mom told me before studying abroad was, “Make sure you pack lots of instant oatmeal packets and mac and cheese! You don’t want to waste all of your money on groceries! Living abroad is expensive!” It’s true that some groceries can be expensive; however, if you know what to buy and where to buy it, you’ll never have to decide between lunch or family souvenirs again.
Dublin, Ireland is known for a beer culture that exists for the tourists. Temple Bar serves traditional, heavy “Irish” food and pints of ale that may fill you up, but will leave your wallet dry and constantly starving for cash. Staying away from alcohol is one of the easiest ways to save money abroad. Not eating “tourist fodder” — food called ‘traditional’ to lure in tourists — also helps. The costs of living can be grossly exaggerated for students wishing to study abroad.
Last night, my total grocery count was €8.50. I had bought 8 pears, 11 small apples, 10 clementine oranges (or easy peelers, as the stores call them here), a 250g bag of almonds, a 375g bag of sultanas, .5L of skim milk, and 5 loose bananas. All that food for roughly $10 US dollars! When was the last time I had gotten that much at Wal-Mart, much less the local Hy-Vee or organic grocers in or around Iowa City?
I stare at my budget sheets shocked to type that it is less expensive for me to live in Dublin, Ireland than it is in Iowa City, Iowa. Most if not all grocery stores offer 3 packages of fruit/vegetables for €3. If the one you find yourself in doesn’t, find another one. There are at least six grocery stores within a five-block radius. If one is too expensive, it’s easy to find a cheaper deal somewhere else. In America, I’m locked into buying whatever I can find at Wal-Mart. In Ireland, I’m free to buy what I need a convenience store, a grocery store, or a fresh organic market.
To be fair, if you have an unhealthy lifestyle, it can be very expensive to live and eat abroad. There are so many quick food places around every corner. Even the campus convenience store has a hot bar much like Subway, only offering more options. A box of cereal can cost €3.25. A bag of pasta noodles and pasta sauce together can total over €5. For 25¢ more, you read the long list of what all I bought.
Don’t be scared by the prices of food to keep you from studying abroad. Eating healthier is more affordable than eating unhealthy. How good are cheap pasta noodles and cheaper sauce together anyway? Save your money and eat spectacular pasta instead at an Italian restaurant owned by Italians. You’ll enjoy the relaxing break from studying. Trust me, if you’re as over achieving as I am, you’ll need it.
Lauryn Ash is a third year senior at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, studying English, Creative Writng, and International Studies. A self-described Whovian who can’t stop watching Sherlock, she remains a devoted Slytherin and a passionate Writer. Whether or not you’re just as coffee-obsessed as she is, you’ll love reading her regular column “A Shot of Espresso,” at Niche Magazine or reading her travel experiences on her travel blog “Tumbleweed Words.” Want to know more about her? Check out her LinkedIn or slightly more personal blog, “Too Much Life.”