The Dream of Travel Made Reality Through Study Abroad
How to raise funds and prepare for study abroad
Ever since I was a child all I remember is that I’ve wanted to go to Australia. My mom says my passion for the land down under is thanks to my 3rd grade teachers, Mr. & Mrs. Stevens. According to me, it’s just always been in my heart.
Spoiler alert: My dream is coming true as I’m leaving for Australia about three weeks at the time of writing!
I never imagined my passion taking place through study abroad. When I was in the looking phase for continuing my college education, one thing I came upon was that my degree program offered a study abroad to none other than Australia. *ka-ching* SOLD! If you’re considering a study abroad, I sincerely recommend it if you have a specific desire for a location, or simply to travel.
My goal has always been to learn my field and be incredibly well-rounded in event management so that I have some kind of knowledge for whatever happens. Further down the road I also found that I firmly believe that study abroad adds a wealth of additional skills and in some ways, a leg up in my value as a candidate for employment. Adding the experience of international culture and being acquainted with events outside of the US provides a little something extra I can bring to the table in my resume and interviews. Lastly, I like to say I “plateau-ed” at home and needed to get out of my comfort zone to keep growing. Taking a study abroad will continue this personal growth and getting outside my comfort zone. Don’t let this scare you though. It will stretch you, but it is the most rewarding thing!
Choices and Options
In the year between my “sold” moment and actually arriving at school, I had sort of thrown study abroad on the back burner. Once I started looking into study abroad more, I found that my school had a few options.
• First, there is what I thought of as the traditional study abroad: going with a group of classmates during the summer for a few weeks
• Second, my school offered term long exchange
Now the extra fortunate item here: Australia was listed in my major for both.
The more I read about study abroad the more I felt that the exchange was the better deal. Going during the summer was a shorter time and rather expensive. Looking back, I also think of it as more tourist like. The exchange option could be used as my elective credits which meant that I paid regular school tuition but took classes in another country! After the process started I found that even though I’m paying tuition like normal to my US university, it’s still expensive. I’ve had to renew my passport which expired right after I was officially accepted to the program, pay for my own housing, get a visa, pay my own airfare, and that’s all just the “getting to” stage. Once there, I’m hoping to find a part time job (my student visa only allows 20 hours a week) to keep an income. Not to mention I have yet to purchase airfare to return to the US.
So how does one afford study abroad as a student?
If you’re lucky, you have parents who will pay for it. However, I actually believe you appreciate things more when you do the work for them. My application was submitted 9 months before the listed deadline, and I was waitlisted as I found out this exchange is incredibly limited (3 students per school year from any of our 4 campuses). Even though I was waitlisted, I still started saving money. I took more than half of my tax return and then set money aside from each paycheck. Also, while I was on Christmas break I researched online about study abroad scholarships (they exist) and anything else I could find. The one thing I have been using is a website called gofundme.com, which is crowd-funding. Here I created an account, gave my story for what I was raising funds, imported my email contacts, set a monetary goal, and linked my Facebook & Twitter. Voila! Now people in my life (and strangers) could make donations for my trip!
Other things I did to earn funds:
• held a bowling event fundraiser
• had a raffle drawing
• sold desserts at said fundraiser
• partnered with a couple different direct sales products that shared their profit with me
• looked for opportunities to be an ambassador for a product (or in the case of my blogging, write about my experience for a stipend – thanks College Tourist!)
• asked friends if they had odd jobs I could help with
• asked that Christmas gifts be relevant to my travel
• saved gift cards from special occasions/birthdays to use to buy things for my trip
My most expensive item for this trip has been housing. For my program I have to secure my own place to live. I considered a few different options 1) live on campus, 2) find an apartment and live on my own, 3) find a host family to live with. In weighing the pros and cons of each, while I really wanted to continue to live on my own as I have stateside, I ultimately chose to live on campus. First, this was tough because I pride myself in never living in a dorm in the US. However, by choosing to live on campus:
• my meals are included (don’t have to have money for groceries)
• I have greater interaction with other students/activities/culture
• I feel considerably safer since I’m going alone to a place I’ve never been
• I don’t have to worry about transportation
• I have fewer things I need to take overseas with me or purchase once I arrive ie: kitchen and living goods
Granted, if I lived with a host family many of those same points would be taken care of, but I really enjoy branching out, discovering things on my own and not being limited to a host’s schedule.
Even if my dream country of Australia hadn’t worked out, I’d still be heading off to another for study abroad. So do it. Fill out that application. The rewards are far greater than the sacrifices.