How to Make Study Abroad Possible
I understand really well what it means to have to constantly worry about having enough money to support myself. As a low-income student and having to work part-time job in college to subsidize my study expenses, I used to long to study in another country, but I always dismissed the thought because it did not seem possible. It is too expensive for me. Yet, I have seen other students who are in similar situation as me made it possible. I was determined to study abroad after learning that my college will pay for the tuition if I study abroad and I will have to take care of housing and other miscellaneous expenses. Throughout my time abroad in the U.S, I realized how much I value the experience of meeting new people, and experiencing and learning about new cultures. After talking to some friends and having had days of contemplating, I decided to study abroad and applied to a program in China.
Talk to Off-Campus Office/ Apply for Scholarships
After my program in China got suspended, I applied to the program in Ireland. When I received my acceptance letter, I hesitated because for the first time, it hits me that I am going to Europe and it is going to be really expensive. I started to run through my head of all the possible ways I could find to help fund this study abroad. I have my tuition covered; I have some personal saving from working my part-time job in the library. However, it is barely enough to cover the remaining costs. I talked to Off-Campus Study Office at my college and found out about the IFSA program scholarship and through their financial aids/scholarship page, I learned about the First Generation Scholarship. I just wrote applications after applications for all of these scholarships in addition to seeking financial assistance from my school back home. I was beyond excited when I learned that I have been offered these scholarships. I knew then that my study abroad is possible. Summing up all the scholarships and financial assistance I could find, it is just enough to cover all my expenses abroad. However, this could only be possible with careful budgeting while abroad; otherwise I would run into financial crisis.
Before I arrived in Ireland, I have some senses as to how expensive things are here and what the average expenses I should expect. To make sure that I would not carelessly spend money and avoid running into money shortage, I created my own excel budget spreadsheet to track my expenses. You might want to budget for academic expenses like books, foods, and travels. I find creating a budget sheet on excel extremely helpful because I become more accountable. I know where my money is going and where I should spend less if need be. I have my whole semester budget then I have my weekly budget. I know how much money I have to spend for the semester and what my budget is for the week. This has help me not to go over my budget for most of the week. There are times when I didn’t reach my budget and it is the happiest thing because then I can reward myself with a little extra something. As expensive as Ireland might be, there are so many ways to save money. The city centre is within walking distance so I find it very easy to just walk and not having to spend money. I save money and I got my step counts. However, there are buses that go from campus to the city and we can apply for Leap Card and get discount on the bus fare. In addition, for long distance trip like to the Cliffs of Moher or to Aran Islands, there are always discount for students and I always take advantage of that. The cost of food can be expensive and the best strategies I find, other students would agree too, is to prepare your own meals. Stores like Dunnes and Aldi is a go-to for groceries shopping. The quality is good and the price is very student-friendly. I find that I can go groceries one time and spend around 15-20 euros and the groceries would last me the whole week while if you eat out you will spend around 15 euros for a single meal. When time is tight and energy is low, I would quickly run to Tesco where they always have meal deal and I can get cheap and good meal there.
These are just a few examples, tips, and strategies that I find very helpful for me so far. It has help made study abroad possible for me and it is a dream come true. I believe that knowing who to ask and where to go will take you a long way. Even without much financial support from family, I am still having such a great time in Ireland, doing things and going places that I want to with my friends!
Kimyan Moeun is a Business Major at Franklin & Marshall College. She is currently studying with IFSA at the National University of Ireland, Galway for the Fall of 2021. She is a recipient of the IFSA First Generation College Student Scholarship