Whether going on Erasmus is already a confirmed event in your near future or you are only thinking about an exchange, budget is one of the most important questions. How do you plan your budget, how much money will you need? I decided to take a look at the accounts of two exchange students to see how much they earn, spend and what all that money goes on.
The first student is Kate, originally from Moscow, Russia. She spent a semester in Jena University in Germany and here’s how she describes her monthly budget:
Income: My income was 800 euro/month that came from the Erasmus scholarship. If you want to make more, you can easily take up some part-time job as a tutor, waiter etc. Don’t worry about documents: with a student visa you automatically have work permission.
Living space: I lived in a university dorm for 210 euro/month. It was a separate room in a shared 5-room flat with a kitchen and 2 bathrooms. The dorm itself was a 20-minute walk from Jena University. If you want to rent a place, you could find a flat for around 300 euro but note that it can be either far from the university or in a loud neighborhood.
Transportation: Upon arrival you pay 270 euro as a semester fee. It covers all local public transport in Jena and in Central Thuringia, as well as local trains throughout Thuringia for the entire semester. So once you’ve bought it, you are covered for your entire stay in Jena.
Food: If you mostly cook, your budget will be approximately 150-200 euro/month for groceries, at least mine was. But, if you prefer to buy lunch on the spot, you can go to the “Mensa” which is a local word for a university canteen. With a student ID your lunch will cost around 3-5 euro.
Going out: In Jena you can really use some “Student Tuesdays and Thursdays” when entrance to bars and clubs is free. A common drink is of course a beer: a pint (0,5 litres) costs approximately 2 euro. I usually spent around 10 euro during one night out. If you want to go out for dinner, it would be around 10 euro as well. Coffee and some pastry – around 5 euro.
Travelling: Your most secure choice is Flixbus. In Jena students prefer it to trains, as trains are much more expensive. Remember that your student fee covers travelling around Central Thuringia, so it might be worth looking into that option! The general cost to reach every big German city is from 10 to 20 euro per one-way ticket. The most common destination for exchange students is Prague, as it is 4 hours from Jena (Berlin is also 4 hours, for example), and you can find а Flixbus ticket for approximately 20 euro as well. You may also try using BlaBlaCar, but it’s not as popular as it used to be.
Sport and culture: I used to play volleyball and football at Jena University sections for 40 euro per semester. If you are more of a gym person, be ready to spend 80 euro per semester. Also take a look at the ESNcard, that offers a lot of discounts, such as Hörssalkino Jena, where you can get 1 free ticket for a movie of your choice.
The second student is Theofano from Cyprus, University of Cyprus. She got an internship to play for Barcelona volleyball team and currently lives there. Here’s her budget breakdown:
Income: My income is 750 euro a month from my scholarship and 150 euro from my host organization. Just like in Germany, you can take up a part-time job for extra income if you feel like you need one.
Living space: I pay 410 euro per month for a 3-room shared flat with common areas, living room, kitchen and one bathroom. Though my flat is outside the city center, it has everything one may need: a bed, a window, a desk, a lamp, and a wardrobe. For other exchange students the most common type of accommodation is a room in a shared apartment for the same price of 400-550 euro per month.
Transportation: I mostly use buses and the metro. A monthly ticket for the metro, bus and train costs me 54 euro. Compared to Jena, where you pay 270 euro per semester, it ends up a bit more expensive and it covers transportation in Barcelona only. There are also public bicycles to rent, they cost 40-50 euro per year, it is called “Bicing”.
Food: I usually spend 120-160 euro per month on groceries and cook at home. Unlike Jena, in Barcelona there are no such things as “Mensas” that stand for all the canteens, so you should look up student discounts at your own university.
Going out: The main option for going out are tapas, of course. They are really cheap and you can eat and drink for just 5 euro. For tapas you should visit “100 montatidos”. It is a really famous place and on Wednesdays and Sundays everything costs 1-2 euro! Beer is 3-4 euro for a big one or 1.50 for a half pint. Cocktails are obviously quite expensive: 7-9 euro. We have our favourite place: Calma Bar. Cocktails there cost 5 euro and are very good! Coffee and a croissant will be around 2 euro. For that you can check “365”: it is quite popular and you can find it almost everywhere.
Travelling: I have a super busy schedule, so I don't travel much. But you should already know all the main attractions: Madrid, Malaga and other big cities. If I travel, I take Flixbus instead of Blablacar or the train. To Madrid it costs around 50-60 euros. Low-cost companies such as Ryanair are also a great option. Tickets to Malaga start from 20 euro but during sales you can find even cheaper ones.
Sport and culture: I'm a beach volleyball fan so I don’t go to gym. And outside activities can really save you some money: all you need are good friends, a net and a ball. If you are a cinema fan, good news for you: in Barcelona it’s pretty cheap, 5 euro for a film. And don’t forget to check your ESNcard for available discounts!
So, how much is your Erasmus?
Here's a rough comparison of two budgets. For traveling I counted one trip a month, for sport and culture - monthly spending on sports and 1 movie ticket. I didn't include such points as insurance, taxes etc that are not applicable to both countries.
You can see that Barcelona is obviously more expensive in terms of living, but as every big city, its food, culture and activities can really make up for it! If you are, on the contrary, willing to focus on studying, a cozy small town like Jena is a solid choice for you! And you are not getting cut off from Germany’s main attractions: they are available for you whenever you decide to visit them!
So, if you are thinking of where to go on an exchange and planning your budget, I hope that this article was helpful for you :)