“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.”
– Ayn Rand
Alright, minions, so you want to live/go to school in a foreign country (or in my case a “foreign” country, emphasis on the air quotes)? Where to start? The answer, as it so often is: It’s About the Money, Stupid.
Know your numbers, research them exhaustively. Are you going to be able to work? Do you have to show any amount of money in order to get a visa? How do you plan on financing your jaunt abroad? Where will that financing come from? Living expenses, travel expenses, school expenses, and of course the all-important play money, all of this has to be taken into account.
If it seems daunting, good. Know exactly what you’re getting into. I’ve had friends who have bankrupted themselves with studying abroad and just-for-fun travel because they failed utterly to examine what they were undertaking financially. Even good, lovely, enriching, and personally fulfilling things cost money sometimes, kittens, and only a fool jumps in without a few honest conversations with themselves.
When J. and I were discussing whether or not to go to the UK for school, we had to take a lot of things into account, but the biggest factor was money. We ultimately decided that the prestige of the school, the benefits of international education in an increasingly globalized world, and the (we admit) awesomeness of the opportunity were worth the debt. We always knew we’d have to take out loans for grad school, but going abroad means we’ll be taking on nearly three times as much…and we did not do that lightly. J.’s program is only one year, if it had been more , in all likelihood we would have chosen a US school. Yes, I would have pouted for a few minutes, and then got to work financing that move instead. I’m a do-er.
- Do your research, find out exactly what financial requirements you will need to meet academically, for travel, for living, for personal expenses (like food. Food is important, do NOT forget to factor in food. I had a good friend do this and did she feel sheepish eating nothing but digestives for days at a time!), and play.
- Make sure, after you tally this number, that you account for a little extra. Murphy’s Law of Travel will mean that accidents and setbacks will occur occasionally, be prepared to meet them.
- Know the exchange rate! When Kiri, Marie, Eliza, AbFab, and I all joined forces living in London, we knew that everyone was more expensive than it looked (a £10 burger actually meant that we’d spent closer to $20 [USD] on our bank statements). Thus we ate out smartly. Some of our compatriots ran out of money by foolishly forgetting to convert currencies before impulse purchases. Learn from their fail, minions.
- Secure your finances and funding in good time, last minute scrambles could result in deportation, ending up on the wrong continent, or academic-induced starvation.
- Do not, under any circumstances, enter into debt without a game plan of how to get out of it quickly, intelligently, and without damage to your credit score!
Alright, turtledoves, sound off! What other tidbits can you offer for the would-be scholar/traveler abroad when it comes to financial planning?