Last semester I studied abroad. The only thing I hear when I tell people about it is “You’re so lucky! I wish I could do that!” My question to these people: why can’t you?
I understand there are some circumstances that can’t be worked around. Some circumstances prevent prevent people from getting an education all together. This argument is geared toward my fellow classmates who are already in college.
Studying abroad in London was one of the best experiences of my life.
It had been a dream of mine for a long time. Ever since I was in high school I knew I wanted to travel. I had pictures of Big Ben taped up on my wall and a giant Union Jack flag in my bedroom. Something about London really spoke to me. I knew I had to go.
When entering college I still had this dream. Around this time in my life, I was quite shy. I always stayed in my comfort zone. It really seemed scary to actually do something like this.
I contacted the studied abroad office, ready for an uphill battle. The inner pessimist in me assumed it was going to be difficult. Dreams like this just never seem to work out. There will be some kind of catch. Some reason to axe the whole idea. But nothing came.
Everything started to work out. It seemed too good to be true. Before I knew it, it was actually happening. The summer flew by and suddenly, I was on a plane, ready to spend Fall, 2014 in another country.
The experience was amazing. I learned so much about other cultures and just grew as a person. There were definitely a few hiccups along the way but nothing major. I returned to the United States, eager for more. I began planning again and got accepted into another study abroad program. A summer internship back in London for this upcoming summer.
Now all I hear are words of congratulations but more commonly, words of envy. Most people treat me as if I’m incredibly privileged to have gotten the chance to study abroad, let alone do it twice. I’m incredibly grateful everything worked out the way it did but I have to argue, I’m not as privileged as they think. Studying abroad actually isn’t that hard.
Most people give me a laundry list of reasons they “can’t” go. The most common one is money. This is an incredibly important reason but being broke isn’t damning. Trust me, I would know.
I go to an expensive, private university. Between financial aid and my scholarships, I hardly pay any tuition. I have a couple small, federal loans that I don’t have to pay off until a few years after I graduate.
The school I chose to study abroad with is partnered with my home school. Most universities have partnerships like this. This means that all of my financial aid and scholarships transferred over. The only difference in price, including tuition and room and board, was an extra $400.
International flights can be expensive. But there are discount prices for students, such as StudentUniverse.com. I found a flight from New York to London for about $900.
The cost of my meal plan at my home school was actually more expensive than the amount I budgeted out for food abroad.
As long as you live within your means, other expenses, including transportation, clothing, laundry, extra traveling, special occasions, and souvenir shopping shouldn’t cost too much. I estimated around an extra $700.
So between the added tuition, the flight and other expenses I had about $2000 to pay for out of pocket. I worked at my minimum-wage job for the spring semester and the entire summer and saved up enough to cover the bulk of my costs.
The other remainder? The school I studied abroad with offered a magnitude of scholarships. I applied and got one for $1000 which was actually more than I needed at the time. I recently applied to the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship which awards up to $5000. That would cover all you would need to study abroad. Your home school has a lot of resources and options for you to consider.
So what’s actually stopping you?