Across the Pond

Across the Pond

So you’re getting ready to go to Kasteel Well. As exciting as a European semester is, it can cost you. By taking a small amount of time to keep up with your expenses you’ll get more experiences — and lucky for you, there are ways to stretch your cash and have a perfect European experience without closing out your savings account. 

Money, Money, Money: According to “A Handy Document Filled With Information You Will Need While Participating In The Castle Program” — don’t worry you’ll get one — the average Kasteel Well student spends $4,100 in a semester (so a summer student would probably spend less). As of last night, $4,100 will give you €3,041. Always keep the exchange rate in mind when making purchases.That colorful €20 note is not $20 — it’s $27. Also be aware that most American debit cards charge a flat rate of $5 plus 1% of whatever you took out when using an ATM abroad. It sucks, but you can save by taking out larger amounts. Trust me, you’ll use it, especially since a lot of places in Europe don’t take American credit or debit cards: They don’t have an international “chip” that a lot of places require. So don’t feel ridiculous taking out €600 at a time and hiding it in your room —  everyone should do it. 

Travel Expenses:  Two words: book early. If there are people you know you will want to travel with or certain places you want to go, try to gather a group before you get to the castle and book the plane ticket a few months in advance. Stick to European travel sites, because American travel sites’ prices double when booking airfare in Europe, due to taxes and fees. I’ve found that Ryanair, easyJet, Skyscanner.net, and momondo.com are the best bets for cheap airfare—cheap as in €40 round trip. Some students choose to purchase Eurail Passes, but according to “The Handy Document,” most students who purchase them don’t use the passes enough to make them worth the $475 they dish out for them. And on average, the students who don’t purchase Eurail Passes only spend around $157 on train tickets, since it’s usually cheaper to fly anyway. I’ve personally only used a train twice, and I’ve never had a train ticket I bought day of travel cost more than €25. But I was traveling short distances, like from Amsterdam back to the castle. If you want to go to Berlin or Paris via train, I’d advise buying those tickets in advance (but flying, may be easier on the wallet). 

 How You Travel: It’s not a sin to stay in the Netherlands for a weekend or two—not to mention the cushioning it adds to your wallet. There are a lot of cool towns and cities nearby that are accessible by bus, and a ticket for unlimited travel for the day only costs €4.50. When traveling, plan your meals so you have one large meal instead of wasting Euros on overpriced baguette sandwiches throughout the day. Grab something small when you wake up or pack some fruit from the dining hall, then eat a late lunch/early supper — lupper, if you will — to hold you over until the next morning.

 Keep An Expense Log: The best trick I’ve found is actually seeing what I’m spending. It will really make you stand back and question your purchases. Whether you’re booking a hostel, purchasing a plane ticket, or just buying a beer,  record it. When you spend a euro, immediately convert it to dollars — the exchange rate fluctuates daily, so you need to keep track of conversions daily. It sounds like a lot, but by taking two seconds to jot down what you’re spending, it will give you peace of mind and help you keep track of your funds.