Splurging the Right Way

Andrew Alcala is a student at Georgia State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. He is currently studying abroad with ISA in Heredia, Costa Rica.

Splurging Abroad the Right Way in Heredia, Costa Rica | ISA Student Blog

An ever-present concern in our society is money. It is no different while studying abroad. The excitement of being abroad, combined with a different currency and exchange rate, makes it very easy to get carried away with spending. Here are some strategies I use to stretch my dollar (or colón) as much as possible.


Important: If you don’t apply for scholarships, don’t expect to get any. There may be some exceptions to this rule, but many people view applying as a waste of time. “There’s no way I’ll get this scholarship, I bet a million people have applied.” That way of thinking prevents a large amount of people from applying to scholarships, so the competition isn’t usually as fierce as you might think. Spending one hour a week applying for scholarships can make a huge difference in the program cost. This is my third study abroad program that is completely paid for by scholarships; take my word that applying is worthwhile.


On my ISA program, breakfast and dinner are included. Every day for lunch, we have to fend for ourselves. Some of my colleagues like to frequent restaurants, but I don’t mind eating at the cafeteria. At the low price of $4USD, I get all of the delicious, traditional Costa Rican food I can eat.

A typical lunch at my university's cafeteria.
A typical lunch at my university’s cafeteria.


Weekend or day trips are a great way to experience a country. Depending on how you want to travel, the price can range from cheap to unaffordable. Traveling by bus or train instead of plane is the best way to both save your money, and to also watch the country pass by. Who knows, maybe you will even meet a local.

The Fun Part

All those times you chose to walk home instead of taking a taxi have finally paid off. Now that you have money to spend, you can focus on what’s important to you. If your passion is food, then go dine at that fancy restaurant. Everyone has different values, so make sure your spending matches your individual desires. For me, I enjoy saving my money for adventurous activities. In the past month and a half, I have done the tallest bungee jump and longest zip line in Latin America, rode a horse up a mountain, and spent the day on a sailboat. I also have visited Panamá, with trips to Nicaragua and Guatemala planned for the next couple of weeks.

While in Panamá, I went on a multi-island boat tour.
While in Panamá, I went on a multi-island boat tour.

Study abroad programs seem to fly by. We have an opportunity to create memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. By spending money on the right things, we can truly make the most out of our trips. All it takes is a little self-control, and a steady diet of rice and beans.

The World Awaits…Discover it.