If, at any time in the six months before I left to study abroad, someone asked me if I was nervous, I replied, yes, of course (because hello, everything about this is anxiety-producing, but not always bad nerves). And then, when they inevitably asked, “What’re you most nervous about?”, nine out of ten times I probably said, “Money.”
Because studying abroad is not inexpensive. There are ways to ease the financial strain and make it as manageable as possible, yes, but the nature of the entire endeavor costs money. Flights cost money. School costs money. Groceries for a new apartment and transportation for a new city cost money.
First off - I am so, so lucky. Privileged, to have a family (and mother - my mom is the MVP in all of this) who support my efforts as much as possible, and to have a school that works to make studying abroad as relatively painless as I can. I am also thankful for the gratitude of family friends, strangers, past-teachers - everyone who helped support my time abroad.
Even with all of that, I worked really, really hard to make this possible. I worked two pretty-much fulltime jobs this summer, gave up holidays with my family, and was the person who declined invites out to dinner because I didn’t want to spend the money on so-so Chinese. There were times, with certain circumstances, that I thought it wasn't going to happen. Where I came out of a meeting with the business office of my school and cried, because I felt defeated and frustrated. I am a first generation college student - the first person in my family to go to college, let alone to study abroad. Navigating all of the forms and deadlines and prices was a stressful process.
And now, almost done with my time here, I would do it all again, because it was completely worth it.
I worried about the money constantly, and in the end, it didn’t matter nearly as much as I thought it would. Because the experiences were worth it, because the places I have been are amazing, because, as one of my professors told us, when someone lamented the price of a flight: “That’s what money’s for, isn’t it?”
There are ways to cut costs to make the strain easier, too. Before even getting to Dublin, I applied for multiple study abroad grants, both those through my school and those unaffiliated. Now that I'm here, I’m a sworn Lidl-convert shopper, because I can get a week’s worth of groceries for under 20 euro (and it also doesn’t hurt that Lidl is literally underneath my apartment building). I’ve pledged to walk anywhere that is under an hour, because even though the 2,50 bus fare doesn’t seem significant, it adds up. All of the Dublin museums worth visiting are free.
There are still times, of course, when the stress (and sometimes even shame) attached with financial strain get to me. Recently, many of my classmates have had their family and friends visit in Dublin, and there’s definitely envy that I’ve had to deal with. Getting me to Dublin was hard enough, let alone considering my family travelling as well.
Regardless, all of this boils down to: it all works out; eventually, somehow. I wish I could tell my December self to stop worrying so much, that the money problems would fade away in the backdrop that is the rest of this city. I can’t, but I can tell any prospective study abroad students. If we are in the same boat, if the money is tight and just keeps getting tighter, if you are working long hours and squirreling away every dollar you can: I am so proud of you, and it is going to be so worth it.
I have cried (overwhelming, happy cries) in corners all around Europe, and my bank account is shrinking, and the past two years of savings are gone, but I’m not worried about it.
It’s worth it.