Serbian Alum Gives Practical Tips for Life in the U.S.

Djordje Vidojevic, California State University- Monterey Bay, Serbia, UGRAD 2014-2015

To go somewhere for a year is an amazing thing. To get a full scholarship from the Department of State and be part of the UGRAD program with World Learning is probably one of the best things that can ever happen to you. I know it was for me.

But then comes the part where you have to watch how you spend your money while trying to get as much as you can from your study abroad experience. Not to worry, everything is possible. And with that, so is having the most memorable time in the USA and going to all those great places you read about and meeting some of the most interesting people out there.

There are some tips that, If I knew, would have helped me find my way around when I got to the USA, to California State University Monterey Bay to be precise. So I decided to make a list for all future UGRADs and all of us who plan to continue exploring this magnificent planet earth. While still being on a tight(er) budget.

TRAVEL: To get around the city where your university is, you probably can use your local transportation bus system, for free! So no excuses for not getting to know your local community. In my case that meant that I could get to Big Sur, Santa Cruz and San Jose for free! It does take more time, but hey, at least it’s free.

For your winter/spring break you probably want to see a bit more of America. That means flying. Use to find the cheapest flights. I tried several websites and found that kayak fit my needs the most. Southwest is the biggest low-cost company, so they, too, will have more to offer. I flew with Spirit airlines from Oakland to Chicago for only $81 dollars. But you have to take in consideration how much luggage you’re carrying. Most of the low-cost companies allow only one carry on.

Trains are, in my experience, not that cheap. But if you’re in California, then CalTrain is actually a pretty good choice. To get from San Jose to San Francisco is only $9 dollars.

RIDE SHARES: Ok, mind the excitement. Gas is really cheap here (compared to Europe at least). So if you can find a few people, your best bet is to drive, that is to get someone to drive the car and share the gas money.

If the place where you are allows you, definitely get a bike. Walmart bikes are around $80 dollars – not the greatest but will do the trick.

HOME: As I see it, you can make your dorm room feel like home in no time. The first thing you do when you get to your university is that they take you to the nearest supermarket to buy sheets and stuff you need. I say, just buy what you need for the first night and then google where nearest ROSS or MARSHALLS store is. I found some great stuff at ROSS for cheap or at least much cheaper then what you would find in Target, especially stuff like pillows, towels and etc. You just need to know where to look.

It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but I loved THRIFT SHOPS. Another great thing about the US is that they have tons of thrift shops that have the most amazing things for very little money. Goodwill is also an amazing resource, you just need to explore the shops and you’ll find some awesome books for a dollar or an awesome suitcase for five (that’s what I found a day before my winter break travels).

Of course let’s not forget stuff like AMAZON (with your student email address you can get PRIME for free for the first six months which includes free shipping and you get the stuff the day after tomorrow). I bought a scratch map of the world for $8 dollars and it looked great on the wall of my student dorm room. In general with your .edu email address you get a lot of cool stuff for free. Ask around at your university, you can get Microsoft Office and Adobe programs for free.

Enjoy your time in the US!

All the best,

Djordje Vidojevic



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