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Passport to Studying Abroad by Nicholas Apelquist

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Passport to Studying Abroad

Hello Parents! Welcome to Roanoke College! I know some of you just arrived but have you thought of sending your student away to study abroad? If not, you should! If so, this is a weekly article getting them and you ready for their big adventure studying abroad. This week’s article is of particular import for you because it’s about the hidden costs! Students, you should read this too!

As with everything one does, it normally costs money. Study abroad is no different. There are costs that most people, including myself, overlook or do not calculate into their savings when planning to travel abroad.

The first and most important thing I did not think about when saving money to go abroad was the exchange rate. Exchange rates can kill one’s personal finances. I’m currently living in the UK and the exchange rate is about 1 USD equaling 1.66 British Pounds. That does not seem as bad as it could be, but if you take 2000 USD you lose about 700 USD to the exchange rate.  That is a lot of spending money that I could have used! So when looking to study abroad and planning your finances, look at the exchange rates and find the best place to get money. Most of the time it’s not a currency exchange place, but rather an ATM or a credit card that could have a better rate. Also look at the trends of the exchange rate, rates are not constant they go up and down. Try to exchange money on days that seem to be more in your favor; it could end up saving you a lot of money in the long run.

Some of the other expenses one does not normally think about include, cell phones and cell phone plans, costs of traveling in the city, books and school supplies, bedding, and laundry. A lot of my friends and I studying in the UK want to be able to communicate meeting times and find our way around the city, so I ended up getting a data plan for my phone.  (Some people will also need to buy a phone. This data plan was an extra 20 USD a month that I had not planned on spending). Traveling to local places in some countries will be easy and free, but in big cities like London, it costs to use the public buses and the tube. That’s another 35 USD every two weeks that I had not planned for. Amazon works in Europe but often at a higher price and longer shipping times, which is not ideal for a student. This means buying books and supplies locally, which was not as expensive as most people realized. Also keep in mind that you cannot bring all the stuff you normally bring to college with you when studying abroad. Another expense I had not totally prepared for was laundry and bedding. Laundry at Roanoke is free, but in most other places it’s not. My laundry expense went from zero to 6 USD a week. That’s 6 USD a week for 15 weeks which totals 90 USD that I had not anticipated. Buying new bedding or an extra pillow and blanket also adds up.

As you can see by this short list of examples, I have spent 415 USD extra. That takes my 2000 USD saved now equal to 900 USD. That’s a big difference! The biggest surprise expense that I left out is FOOD! I’m on a meal plan that allows for 11 British Pounds for each day of meals, however, each meal cost between 5 to 7 British Pounds. That leaves me covering the cost of some food. This is not only a meal plan issue, since going out with friends happens as well. A night out with friends can cost anywhere from 10 Pounds to 40 pounds. Based on my meal plan, I am forced to go out at least once a week for 15 weeks, which is 300 to 400 Pounds ($480) extra I spend on food.  This takes my remaining 900 USD down to about 500 USD. 500 USD is a lot less than the 2000 USD I have planned on using for traveling, events, exploring, attractions, and fun around the city.

Now I know that this all sounds very scary and even confusing, but fear not! If you plan ahead, are wise with your money, and keep an eye on your bank accounts, you can do it. I just wanted to give you a more realistic point of view on unexpected expenses that I did not have while preparing to study abroad. Hopefully this hasn’t scared you. Just make sure you plan ahead, because the last thing you want is a call home asking for more money on the 4th week into semester abroad.

Like always, I’ll be back next issue of Brackety-Ack with insider’s info on how the process really works when getting everything ready to study abroad. If you have anything you want to see covered in future articles please feel free to contact me at ncapelquist@mail.roanoke.edu.