First comes budgeting: If we broadly classify where most of the money is spent while studying abroad is accommodation and food. I won’t count money spent on fight as flights, if searched properly, can be really cheap. I was able to find a one way direct flight from New York to London for $220, just a month before my trip. But I chose to fly from another route, so didn’t buy that one. Flight expense is inevitable so I would suggest at the end you should keep $500 aside for the flight, that should buy you a ticket including return if searched properly and also that is if you are not looking for luxuries in a flight, just a normal economy seat. For accommodation, I’ll say look for something on campus first of all, and if it is in your budget, just get it. There is a big reason I am recommending on campus housing. Since you are at the university for a limited time, being an exchange student, you probably won’t get the chance to live again on the campus of the university and second you will be easily able to make so many friends by living on campus plus use all the amenities which are exclusively for people living on campus like the free wi-fi. The cost I mention from here on in Dollars is converted from British Pounds. I paid around $350 per month for an on campus flat shared by five people including me, a kitchen and shared bathrooms. Each person had their own room. This is the cheapest I could find on campus. It is called Maple bank apartments in the Vale village.
You can also go for off campus housing if you want something cheaper but what I have heard from the friends that live off campus, they pay a similar rate. The cheapest I heard was around $200 which went up to $250 per month when included the facility charges for wi-fi, electricity, etc. but then again it was far from campus, lots of walking.
For food, I did not take a meal plan, as I thought cooking will be cheaper. But buying a meal plan at UoB is done when you fill the contract for your housing, since I did not buy meal then, I couldn’t do it later. But meal roughly costs $50 per week, which is the same as the cost of buying groceries for the week. I felt I had the freedom of eating out whenever I want or try the specialities of Birmingham, which would somewhat get restricted if one gets a meal plan There is a fixed specific amount of money allotted per week from the total amount you payed for the meal plan and has to be used before the week ends otherwise it goes away.
This is the basic amount you will spend in Birmingham. Obviously you will spend more than this, when you go to parties, travel around, go shopping, etc. That amount depends upon the individual. I’ll mention a rough budget for travelling under travelling tips.
Next is travelling tips: There are two ways of travelling – solo or in a group. Both have their own advantages. It is not necessary you will save money if you go with a group. You could probably do a few activities which are meant for a group, but other than that all the other expenses will be almost the same if you go on solo trips. Obviously the fun factor increases by like a hundred times when travelling with a group, haha. Luckily I had company on all the places I went to except for Liverpool. I have enjoyed every trip but I think Liverpool remains special to me as I have mentioned earlier in one of my previous posts. It is probably because I saw everything in Liverpool with full concentration, felt the vibe and the history of the city. But at the other places, I had so much fun with groups that it can’t be compared with anything else.
When searching for transportation look for the cheapest options and in Europe a lot of times, flight could be cheaper than a bus or train. I got a flight ticket from Birmingham to Dublin for just 16 Pounds, which is $20, approximately. For accommodation just go for hostels or AirBnbs, you can’t find anything cheaper than those. For some people who have never lived in a hostel, they might find it uncomfortable to share the room with strangers. For them my advise is just take it as a dorm of your college, when you share your room with your roommate for the first time and in this case you don’t even need to talk to the people in your hostel room, if you don’t want to and also probably don’t need to because you will be there for just a night or so. Also don’t go for expensive hotels or even hotels in general because there is a logic I have come to realise so far after many trips and that is you will be spending the whole day or even most of the night, out in the city or wherever you are. Basically you need a place to sleep for a 6-8 hours, a nice and clean place with all basic facilities and I think hostels provide you with all of it.
Socialising at UoB: Go to all the events such as Global cafes organised by global buddies, where they provide you a free beverage and you get to talk with new people, mostly other international students. Once you know a few people, you’ll surely get invited to parties and make more friends. There are some mixing events organised by the university as well in the beginning of the semester. Just try new things, talk to people in your class and you’ll have lots of friends soon with whom you will go on lovely trips, haha.