My College Story: Budget Traveling and Programs Abroad


Patricia Shea holds a snake in Morocco; in her story she talks about traveling on a budget.

Patricia in Morocco (Patricia Shea)

Patricia Shea majored in neuroscience at the University of Vermont and studied abroad in Spain during her senior year. Like many students, after graduating, she had trouble finding a job in her field but soon realized there were things on her bucket list that needed crossing off before she could go back to school or step into a career. In the years after graduating college, Patricia has held jobs and volunteer positions while also dedicating her time to exploring the world. On a small budget, she hiked Machu Picchu, made friends at Oktoberfest, and most recently, worked on an organic farm (WWOOFing) in Hawaii. She recently finished her last day as a volunteer at a farm in Honaunau, where she picked coffee beans, papayas, and mangos for a month. Interested in her experiences traveling the world, we caught up with her to ask for some traveling tips and tricks.

Sunset view in Sweden

Sunset view in Sweden (Patricia Shea)

Q. Where have you traveled?

Studying abroad was the first time I traveled on my own. To make the most of my time in Europe, I planned a backpacking trip with my sister and visited multiple cities across six countries over the course of six weeks. While in my program, I took advantage of my allotted absences and booked weekend trips to cities around Spain and long weekends in Portugal, Germany, and Morocco. Since then I have revisited Western Europe a few times, spent a few weeks in Peru, and just finished up my work trade on a farm in Hawaii.

Q. You did a study abroad program in Leon, Spain, and a WWOOF program in Honaunau, Hawaii. How did you make money during that time?

While studying in Spain, I found flyers on campus advertising English tutor/nanny positions. I got in contact with a family that wanted help teaching their children English. Getting a TESOL certification helped me to get more competitive pay. While I wasn’t making a living by doing this, the extra income helped cover some expenses and gave me some pocket money while abroad.

In preparation for my time on the farm, I worked in the service industry, waiting tables and bartending to earn quick money and get my bills in order prior to leaving. The restaurant industry may not look the best on a résumé, but the skills you gain from it are universal. Because I had a background in this industry, I was offered positions helping vendors at various farmers’ markets.

Q. What advice would you give to other travelers looking for opportunities like yours?

Just do it.

Q. What were some ways that you saved money?

A view in Munich, Germany

A view in Munich, Germany (Patricia Shea)

When I was in Spain, I found an apartment independent of the university’s housing options and saved money on program housing fees. I used the money I earned teaching English on groceries and minimized my expenses eating out.

Farming in Hawaii was a unique experience. Living on such bountiful land allowed me to eat almost exclusively off the land. Also, [although it is illegal and not endorsed by Student Caffé] hitchhiking is a [socially] acceptable means of getting around, so long as you use good judgement. I was able to get around locally without having to pay for a rental car or chance unreliable public transportation.

Q. When you were home, what did you do?

When I finished my bachelor's degree, I was still unsure of the career I was pursuing but was always pretty certain that I would head into the medical field. With a relative idea that I wanted to go into a PA program, I enrolled at a community college to finish up some prerequisites that I had not yet taken, started to volunteer at a Stony Brook hospital, shadowed a PA, and became certified as an EMT. I also got a job working in a physical therapy office in order to accumulate patient care hours and always held a position serving or bartending to save money on the side.

Q. You just finished your last day working on the farm. Looking back, what were some of the most interesting things you learned there?

Working for a roof over my head and something to eat taught me a new appreciation for earning my keep. It was exposure to living sustainably, and I learned some really interesting techniques for coffee grafting and organic practices in managing pests and weeds.

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