How I saved hundreds of dollars in the cost of living in the US as an International student.

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For the last one year, I did not pay a dime for heat, electric, garbage pick-up, laundry and gas without any roommates. I am successfully graduating from GCC this fall and I managed to do it by saving hundreds of dollars in the cost of living. Most Americans and International students alike, stare at me in disbelief when I tell them that I pay nothing for utilities and I managed to do so without a roommate. Do I sound too good to be true? I certainly do. Let me show you how I made frugal living a reality in this outrageously exorbitant economy. According to a news report by the national low-income housing coalition, a full-time minimum wage job won’t get you a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in America. A lot of one bedroom apartments in Batavia range between $500-650 plus you will have to pay for heat, electric, Internet, phone bill and fuel separately.

I have spent the first one year at GCC building friendships. I have spoken with everyone and I got to know everyone around me. I am a keen observer of people around me and I am a pretty decent judge of character. It did not take me long to figure out people who would be genuinely helpful to me. I like helping people as well and I am usually extra kind and respectful to elderly folks. I live away from my parents and whenever I come across an elderly person I suddenly miss my parents. South Asian children like me usually live with their parents until their parents pass away. South Asian culture also emphasizes a lot on family values. Very quickly, I got to know a lot of elderly folks with empty houses in Batavia and Oakfield because their children moved out. Many of these elderly, soon to be retired folks were impressed by me and offered me to live in the basement of their large, empty houses to pay off their mortgage. It did not take me long to figure out that it is way cheaper for me to lease one bedroom and bathroom space in a large empty house, instead of, leasing a whole apartment. I pay only $500 for rent without any roommates. Electric, heat, laundry, garbage pick-up and everything else is included with it. I do not deal with electric or fuel companies at all.

I know a lot of International students who pay $300-400 for off-campus housing but they are forced to put up with roommates and additionally need to pay for heat, electric and other necessities separately. On-campus housing is extremely expensive and if you are like me who is not at all interested in dealing with roommates, residential assistants then, yes, off-campus housing is for you. Some International students almost get free on-campus housing if they choose to be a residential assistant on campus. However, all students do not get the job of being a residential assistant. International students also do not get financial aid from the US government to live on-campus. Personally, the job of being a residential assistant and dealing with on-campus drama never appealed to me. Never mind, how much you dangle the offer of a free on-campus housing to me. I simply refuse to have roommates. Hence, I never considered applying for a residential assistant job.

Leasing a basement or a separate unit in a large, empty house with no children is the best way to save money on the cost of living, instead of, renting a separate house or one bedroom apartment all by yourself and being responsible for your own heat and electric. I live in a basement of a large house with my own kitchen, bathroom, study room, and bedroom. I have a nice backyard and parking space as well. I almost never see my landlord who lives upstairs. I have my own separate entrance. There is no way I would be charged a separate electric or heat bill as there is usually only one meter per house. However, be respectful. Try to conserve energy and heat. Do not abuse anybody’s generosity and trust. I keep all my lights off when I do not need it and I use as little water as possible. Do not tamper or raise the thermostat. You certainly do not want to upset a landlord who is willing to pay for your heat, electric, garbage pick-up, and laundry.

Thus, the moral of the story is to be nice to people in general. Do not pretend to be nice to people just because you have an ulterior motive. People will quickly realize your motive and turn away from you. If you want to successfully live in a place for a year or two like me, then focus on building a good relationship with your landlord. Good behavior will take you a long way in life. Do a background check and make sure you really know the person you are living with. You will definitely come across good-hearted people who will offer you almost free-housing or housing at a lower cost. I am graduating this fall from GCC and I am moving to another state. I will be a house-aide at an elderly person’s house and I will be paying nothing for rent, electric, heat, garbage- pick up and other expenses. Now, I have decreased my cost of living from $500 to zero dollar. I repeat again, “Be nice to elderly people!”

Part-2 How International Students can save money while being at GCC

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Earn money and/or gift cards just by watching videos online and by taking quick surveys:

I wasted thousands of dollars during my Freshman year at college because I knew nothing about coupons or how to rack up points and free gift cards. Sign up for MyPoints accounts. You can earn points just by completing daily activities which includes taking a survey, voting on a poll, watching videos, checking out deals, printing coupons etc. Whenever, I need to shop or sign up for a subscription like Hulu, Sephora and others I usually do it through MyPoints accounts. I always keep MyPoints tab open in my browser and I rack up points all day. It is very easy to rack up thousands of points very quickly by taking advantage of deals from popular stores like Amazon, Kohl’s where you would shop for basic necessities anyway. Other great legitimate sites for taking surveys are I-psos, Inbox Dollars, Survey Junkie, YouGov and I-Polls. College textbooks are very expensive in the USA. Last semester I brought books worth $1000 for free using Amazon gift card balance. You can easily knock off a thousand dollar  bill by using these sites religiously every day. Next time, whenever you are waiting for an appointment try taking a survey or two.

Earn Amazon gift cards just by walking:

Just think how many flights of stairs do you use every day? How many miles do you walk every day when you are rushing from one classroom to another in huge college campuses?  GCC has a pretty huge campus with a college dorm. I keep Steps Cash apps always activated on my I-Phone and I rack up points for Amazon gift cards just by walking to and from one class to another and from one campus building to another building. This is a great app to make sure you exercise by walking every day and you also earn Amazon gifts just by walking. Stay fit and happy walking!

Download FreeBird to get discount Uber rides and to earn cashbacks:

You will probably have to use a lot of Uber rides if you are an International student without a car. Uber rides are very expensive. FreeBird  gives discounts and cashback for Uber rides and restaurants.

Get a secured credit card:

You better start building up your credit history if you are going to live in the USA for the next five or more years to earn a US degree. Credit score is used to analyze everything in the US. You cannot even rent your desired apartment unless you have a good credit score. I knew nothing about credit history when I came to the US.  I wasted one and a half year without building my credit history even though I was paying all my bills on time. I remember asking a bank employee how to get a credit card. The bank employee smirked at me and told me that I cannot get a credit card because I am not a US citizen. The bank employee did not even bother to suggest me to apply for a secured credit card. You do not have to be a US citizen to apply for a secured credit card. You only need a social security number or tax identification number (TIN). So, apply for a secured credit card as soon as you land in the US. Start looking for on-campus jobs as well as soon as you start your semester. It takes several months to get a social security number. You cannot work on campus without a social security number. It is extremely difficult to apply for online credit/debit card with higher cashback value without a social security number.

When I first came to the USA I did not have access to these survival tips. I hope these tips will help you to make the most of your time and money in the US.

 

 

 

 

 

Part-1 How International Students can save money while being at GCC by Zerin Firoze

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I was born and raised in a developing country, Bangladesh, and it was my dream from a very young age to study in the US. A lot of youths like me from developing countries also aspire to study in the US. It is extra challenging for poor students from developing countries to be able to afford to study in the US. Students from developing countries cannot remit money to a foreign country. The US government is also notorious for imposing sanctions in certain countries. Exchange rates plus foreign transaction fees by banks also add up. For example, 1 US dollar is 84 takas in my country Bangladesh. There is no legal way to remit money and corrupt middlemen charge high fees. I am a student from a developing country and here are the following things I have learned after coming in the US. I hope these tips will help you to save both time and money.

Choosing the right college

I would encourage all students to start at a community college first. You can literally save thousands of dollars and still get the same degree and classes at a cheaper price. Many community colleges like GCC do not even charge admission fees. It is completely free to apply for admission. You just need to apply online. So, apply to as many colleges as you want.

Learn to drive in your home country

Many cheaper colleges in the US are located in rural areas with little to no public transportation. You can save a lot of money by choosing a rural location. The cost of living in large cities is extremely expensive. It is not possible for students to pay out of state tuition fees and still afford thousands of dollars per month for rent, food, and other basic necessities. According to American Infrastructure Report Card, the US infrastructure is crumbling and has a rating of D+. Driving schools in America are very expensive. Private one-hour driving lessons are also very expensive and are not available in all rural US counties. So, try to get some driving time before coming to the US. Ask your family members or relatives in your home country to teach you driving for free.

Try to learn about car maintenance and repair before you come to the US. Then, attend a defensive driving course and Driver’s Education course in the US to get your license. You will be very busy being a full-time student once you come to the US. So, try to learn basic life skills while waiting for your acceptance letter from US colleges or for your visa interview.

Learn how to cook and preserve food before coming in the US

I lost thousands of dollars in wasted food. I had no idea how to preserve food. I had no experience in estimating the shelf life of certain food items. I cried when I had to throw away tons of fruits, frozen meat, and cartons of milk. I have been in the US for two and a half years now and I still did not find the time to read all the articles or watch all the videos that I always wanted to watch about food preservation. You can save a lot of money by learning to preserve food. Cooking skills are also important. Next time, hit the grocery store with your mom and learn about basic spices and ingredients if you are not a cooking pro.

Learn how to use coupons and rebate apps

I remember how overwhelmed I was when I first landed at JFK airport and very quickly I became busy with campus life. I had no time to read blogs about saving money in the US as a full-time student. I had no leisure reading time outside college textbooks. Hence, do yourself a favor. Read blogs and website articles about saving money in the US while you are waiting for a decision from US colleges or for your visa interview.

Coupons and rebate apps are not used in my country at all. I became familiar with coupons and rebate apps after coming in the US. It took me two years to learn to use coupons and rebate apps. Now, I am the ultimate coupon queen. I received $54 cashback from Ebates and $55 from Ibotta just for buying groceries and other necessary items. Groupon is also a great website to save money. Learn to use coupons and rebate apps before you even come in the US. Read articles about rebate apps and coupons on the Internet.

I will share more secrets and life hack in part-2 of the same article next week!

 

 

 

 

Come one, come all! Housing Survey!

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housing batavia

Hey y’all! It’s time to participate in something. Let your voice be heard in this online survey. Basically, it’s a survey given by Genesee County and they’re trying to decide what type of housing and additions to add to Batavia!

If you or someone you know would like to participate in helping the town of Batavia develop and grow, please fill out this short 11 answer questionnaire given in the link below. It has to be in by the 17th of November.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XZBVSXP

Thanks and have a great day!

How to Travel on a Budget

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Everyone wants to get out and about every now and then. There’s nothing wrong with that! Somehow, getting out of your humble home to travel and experience new things makes you feel more at home when you finally get back. Stronger social skills, feeling more at peace, and becoming more creative are all linked to people who travel. With that being said, if you have the time, do it! Go see some stuff and come back feeling fresh and rejuvenated.

If money is an issue, take my blog as a survival guide to traveling on a budget. Lodging, food, and transportation can all be calculated to make an affordable trip.

First – Place to stay…

Try www.airbnb.com to find someone who is renting out their home for the duration of your trip! It’s definitely better than staying in a hotel and cheaper too! Since it’s someone’s home, you’ll be able to use their kitchen! – which goes into my next topic.

airbnb

Food – what to eat and how

Since you’re getting to live in a home you found on Airbnb, try cooking most nights! To learn how to cook like the people of the place you’re visiting, consider taking a local cooking class to buff up your skills.

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Transportation

This is a little tricky. If you’re in the US, try either renting a car, bringing your own, or taking the public transit! When I lived in Vegas, I didn’t have a car, so I used the bus. It was only $5 to ride all day! Many cities have this option, you just have to do a little research.

public transit

Shopping

When you’re out on the town shopping, I suggest buying goods from stores that you don’t have back home. The point of traveling is to see new places, so the material you accumulate should reflect the uniqueness of the place you visited.

shopping

If you’re ready to get out and about, you should! There’s no reason you can’t do something like travel. Our planet is home to all of us, so we should feel like we can visit it whenever we want!

Exciting new Public Speaking workshop on Wednesdays!

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Do you or someone you know have trouble speaking in front of an audience? I know I do! We are now in luck! Come get over your public speaking anxiety in the Student Success Center (G200) and finally get a handle on presenting. 

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What to bring :

  • Bring your presentations/notes in electronic or paper based projects.

 

What to expect :

  • Expect to share your presentation as a group or talk one-on-one.
  • Get free and friendly feedback
  • Polish your public speaking, interview skills, “elevator speeches”, and project presentations
  • No sign ups needed!
  • Open dialogue format

 

DSC_8402[1]When :

  • Wednesdays (3-5PM)
  • October 18, 25
  • November 8, 22, 29

 

 

 

 

If you have further questions please feel free to contact the lady in charge. 

  • Kate Trombley
  • Email: kbtrombley@genesee.edu
  • Phone: 585-343-0055 ext 6285

 

With this workshop available, there’s no reason you should have trouble presenting in front of your class. Take advantage of the resources given to you and watch your own garden begin to flourish!

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Everyone Has A Hidden Agenda. Except Me!

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If you’ve read my previous blog posts on the GCC site, then you know that I thoroughly enjoy sharing my tips with you to be successful academically and otherwise. You also know that I love organizing my school materials, especially in such a way that helps catalyze academic success. My planner is basically my life written down! Everything about my school, work, and social life goes in this little book that follows me everywhere, and it is amazing!

I used a planner throughout high school, but I kept it quite simple. I just wrote down homework and anything school related I didn’t want to forget. However, when I entered college I really needed to step up my planner game.

Not only do I recommend that you have and use a planner, but I’m also going to share some tips to use it the most effective way!

To start I’ll share with you what planner I use, mine is by the brand Ban.do. This is the second “agenda” I’ve purchased through this ‘girl boss’ company and I love it! There are stickers and illustrations among other things that make organizing fun and aesthetically pleasing to look at. If you aren’t about the glitz and glam, or the higher price there are tons of options that can suit anyone! Agendas can be found at any store that carries school supplies or online.

Note: I recommend an agenda with weekly layouts, and a monthly calendar view.

Daily Organization: 

As for daily organization, I recommend highlighters and pens in multiple colors. I personally write everything down in black pen, but another technique that would prove extremely helpful would be to get an assortment of pens, and dedicate a color to each class; then write each classes assignments in that respective color. Another extremely useful technique I use is to use highlighters for due dates. On the day that an assignment is due or I have an exam, I write on the top of that day what is due or exam is scheduled and highlight it bright yellow. This allows easy scanning to see what is coming up.

weekly view

A peak inside my agenda! This is a old weekly layout.

As I mentioned before, I recommend writing down all of your homework or reminders for classes in the weekly spread, and to keep track of what has been done, what you didn’t get to, and what you partially completed. I use a checkmark (finished), an ‘X’ (still needs to be done), and a check mark with a dash through it (partially finished). I then carry whatever I didn’t get to or didn’t finish to the next day’s box to be completed.

Monthly Organization:

The monthly view in my agenda wasn’t something I used at all throughout high school or even my freshman year of college, but as my life has gotten crazier so has my agenda. I have far more to write down and keep track off, so the monthly view has proven extremely useful.

monthly view

Another look at my agenda! This is my monthly view that I had set up for August.

This is another section of your agenda that I would recommend an assortment of highlighters or colored pens for. Similar to the weekly spread you dedicate a color to each event, and again this will make it super easy to know what you have going on throughout the month or on a particular week.

My monthly spread usually tracks appointments, my work schedule, and any social events. I would also recommend crossing off days that have already passed in the monthly view so when you give it a quick glance there is no confusion from extra data on the page.

Overall, my agenda has become my sidekick and my life would most likely be in shambles if I were not so extremely organized which is why I highly recommend you take the time to purchase and set up an agenda using these tips to help use it to its fullest capability.

There are tons of different ways to help organize your thoughts in agenda, but these are just some of the ways I’ve found most effective!

Being organized is being in control, so take control of your life now.

-Danielle