A Week In South Tyrol, Italy, On An $18,000 Salary

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Today: a master's student/researcher working in software engineering who makes $18,000 per year and spends some of her paycheck this week on tortellini. Editor's note: All prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.
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Occupation: Master's Student/Researcher
Industry: Software Engineering
Age: 25
Location: South Tyrol, Italy
Income: $21,318. (Includes my yearly stipend plus $600-$900/month for my research job.)
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): ~$1,776
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $361. (Includes $12 for Internet. I live in a social housing unit that houses graduate students and unemployed/underemployed, elderly, and disabled people at a low cost. The unit is government-subsidized and includes a separate dorm and washroom. The kitchen is communal.)
Student Loan Payment: $0. (Undergrad was kindly paid for by my parents.)
Health Insurance: $0. (I get basic state health insurance included in my stipend.)
Transportation: $0. (My pass is funded by my scholarship.)
Spotify: $5.80. (I'm on a student plan.)
Phone Bill: $12
Donation To German Relief Organization: $24
Planned Parenthood Donation: $35

Day One

8 a.m. — I wake up and head to the library across the street from my house. I'm prepping for an exam later this week, so I'm trying to get earlier hours in! Grab a croissant from my kitchen on my way out and then grab a coffee from a machine downstairs! $1.18
1 p.m. — Finish up the preliminary notes and head to the grocery store. It's not the cheapest, but it has quite good weekend hours, which is tough to find in South Tyrol. I get a soup bag, salad makings, fancy cheese, bread, tofu, and Tupperware. I've been trying to go at least two to three times a week for groceries and get small portions, otherwise I tend to waste so much food. I have quite hungry eyes – Italy has the best cheeses! I run into a friend walking home, and he invites me to a BBQ tomorrow at the top of the mountain. I am amped! I love his group of friends and I am keen to meet more of them. $24.72
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3 p.m. — Since I share a communal kitchen with eight other people, I tend to prep meals at odd hours. I make a veggie soup with tofu and pasta that should last me the rest of the weekend.
9 p.m. — Go to an Austrian-style beer garden and meet up with three friends from school. Last week was my birthday, so a friend brings me a huge Kinder egg! Winning. It's delicious and has a white chocolate filling. I split it up and share with the crew.
1 a.m. — Get two beers and tip $1 since our server is a delight. (Tipping is not common here, and sometimes can be perceived as rude.) I chat with my friends about our respective travel plans. We're all in the same graduate program, so we're discussion our future plans. Two of my friends are definitely on the PhD track, but I'm still quite on the fence about it. It's a lovely night outside, and we take a walk following drinks. $11.49
Daily Total: $37.39

Day Two

8 a.m. — Library again in the morning. The library here is so relaxing – I really enjoy spending time here even if it's prepping for a killer exam. I purchase a cappuccino from the café and drink it with pane di stelle cookies I brought from home. I've adapted to the coffee lifestyle and have become quite addicted! $1.78
1 p.m. — I make a quick cheese sandwich with tuna at home and then walk to the store to grab wine to bring. I have no concept of nice wine, so I choose based on the bottle. I walk to the gondola half a mile from my house, which I take to the top of the mountain using my transportation pass, and meet up with my friends. I recently got into my Spotify-recommended playlist, and this time, it's on point! I jam on the walk. Once I arrive, I meet up with the PhD crew. One of my professors is here with her children, which is super nice. The sun is shining and it's looking like a great Sunday. $8.29
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8 p.m. — For dinner, I eat some of the soup I made yesterday. Then I catch up with my mom on the phone for an hour and a half. She gives me a pump up speech and encourages me since I'm starting to write my master's thesis, which can feel quite strenuous at times! I have to buy more Skype credit so I can reach her. $5.92
Daily Total: $15.99

Day Three

10 a.m. — Library again! Though I do get a bit of a later start this morning. I grab a granola bar and tea on my way. The organization I volunteer with in Berlin wants to build a new workspace for the members, so I make a donation for funding the website. It's an integration organization for newly arrived immigrants, and they do awesome work. Since I have not been able to be there IRL, I try to catch up with their going-ons via Facebook. $14
1 p.m. — I meet up with a new friend. We chat about where she's living, which is in the mountains! So cool. I treat her to coffee. She's such a free spirit and she reminds me that it's only an exam tomorrow. I enjoy her perspective, as she already finished her PhD. $4.03
1:45 p.m. — Run home and grab my salad lunch before going to my lab for two hours.
3 p.m. — When I head home, a friend from school joins me to study. As we go through the question, I make pasta with pesto. I add salad and tomatoes to the side. This exam will be quite rough, so we're cramming through the notes.
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10 p.m. — Down the wormhole of Quora. I end up on the strangest things, none of which include prep for tomorrow's exam. I'm asleep by 1 a.m.
Daily Total: $18.03

Day Four

7:40 a.m. — Wake up in a total panic since the exam is at 8:30. Grab a coffee from the machine and then run to the exam room across the street. The exam is fairly reasonable. I'm sure I passed, but not sure by how much. I rush out of class so that I don't hear the answers – I don't want to know what I got wrong! $1.18
12:45 p.m. — Go to the cafeteria and take a lunch. It's a mixed veggie stir-fry with salad and a drink. The cafeteria here is highly subsidized by the government, which makes the food much cheaper! And since I'm a grad student, there are further discounts! Yay, student life. I eat everything in five minutes. Exam day hunger! $3.43
1 p.m. — Rush out and buy cards for my boyfriend's mom, aunt, and sister. They took me on a ski trip last week in Switzerland and I want to thank them. $9.12
6 p.m. — I do a huge load of laundry. My boyfriend is arriving tonight and I need to clean my clothes before he gets here. The way the system works is you pay for a day's load and can do it throughout a 24-hour period. It's often booked, so I do it at odd times (not on weekends). I'm slightly afraid of the machines, as they shrank my clothes so intensely last time, so I hang/attempt to air dry them in my shower area (which sort of works). I pop down, back, and down again to get the finished load. I feel like the woman at reception is so tired of me! $7.11
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9 p.m. — My boyfriend arrives from Germany! To celebrate, I buy us two large pizzas. They are so delicious! The pizza crust is super thin and absolutely divine. I pick them up and bring them to my house. He arrives with two beers and we feast. The night is followed with Money Heist on Netflix. It is so captivating! I love the anti-hero/hero dynamic. I also love hearing Spanish! $17.41
Daily Total: $38.25

Day Five

10 a.m. — I wake up for my lab today. We're doing a systematic literature review. The topic is interesting, but sometimes the lack of standardization in the input can be a struggle. My boyfriend meets me after the lab and we do a grocery haul. We get pasta, soup makings, salad, and veggie burgers. He buys, since I got food last time in Berlin.
3 p.m. — We're going to visit my sister in Bologna today! I grab our train tickets and my boyfriend slides me $20! The trains out of Bozen are always on time, and we almost miss our transfer in Verona. We eat some of the snacks from the earlier haul and I pass out so hard. The exam stress really got me tired. $23.75
10 p.m. — My sister meets us at the Bologna station! We get orange spritzes for the road. She gets the first round and I get the second. We walk through the city with our plastic cups. I love Italy! She's just moved into a new place and it's beautiful! She used to live in a tiny flat, but now she has an awesome balcony. $9.48
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1 a.m. — After the drinks, we're all feeling quite hangry, so we grab pizzas. They're $2.50 each and huge, so I save part of mine for later. I buy the pizzas for everyone. $8.88
Daily Total: $42.11

Day Six

10 a.m. — My sister makes eggs, coffee, and salad for breakfast. She's an awesome cook.
1 p.m. — We go into Bologna proper and walk around. The city is so full of life. We stop for tortellini. I get mine with cheese and butter. It's delicious and also the only vegetarian option! $10.07
5 p.m. — After walking around for the better part of the day, we head to my sister's for a little siesta. She invited friends over for tonight, and my boyfriend is going to whip up Thai stir-fry for everyone, since he's a great cook. He decides to use black rice. It's wholemeal and so good! I sneak in a little studying before they arrive, and my boyfriend grabs the groceries. OMG peanut butter is insanely expensive here... Almost $10 for a tiny jar! #imports
8 p.m. — I buy rum for the guests, and we make mojitos and sit on the balcony. It really feels like summer. We blast Italian rock music and Falco (old school!). We eat the delicious food my BF made and even dance a bit! $16.58
2 a.m. — We walk downtown. The streets are insane! They are completely crowded and slightly overwhelming. I buy a beer since I am already feeling the mojitos quite hard. We continue bar-hopping until the friends need to catch their train. I'm so happy I met them. $3.55
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Daily Total: $30.20

Day Seven

11 a.m. — We have a later start today after the fun festivities last night. I make toast for everyone. I have a hangover from the sweet drinks and go back to bed for two hours after prepping breakfast.
3 p.m. — We finally leave the house and go to a farmer's market. Everything smells delicious! We each buy $1 scratch tickets and I win $7! Then we get gelato. I get lemon and strawberry, which slightly helps my hangover. $2.37
8 p.m. — Head back to my sister's and eat the leftovers from last night. I still feel so yucky! No more mojitos for me!
Daily Total: $2.37
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