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Studying abroad means…you’re broke?

Less than two months away from my exciting month-long venture to China, I’m beginning to feel the pinch of spending that $1,500 on airfare to and from the other side of the world! At least it was $100 less than the budgeted amount on the study abroad Web site.

In case I have not mentioned it here before, in a few short weeks I will be embarking on an exciting Maymaster study abroad experience in China with a group of about 15 graduate and undergraduate print, photo and multimedia journalism students. This apprenticeship-style course teaches us the ins and outs of being a foreign correspondent. Throughout our time in Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai, stopping at places like the Great Wall of China and the U.S. Embassy, we will be uploading our travel blogs, photo stories, news articles and videos onto our Web site,

So, how much does all of this amazingness cost, you ask? I could easily say something like “it’s priceless” in an attempt to make up for the heavy price tag, then explain how much I will grow as a student and journalist during those few weeks, not to mention build cherished friendships with fellow J-students in the fastest rising country in the world. But, I’ll cut to the chase: About $6,000.

What does that include? Well, the program fee (covers everything from housing to international insurance) is $4,300, while spending money for some meals and transportation will cost another $700, and as for airfare…you guessed it. An average of $1,500-$1,700, depending on how timely and savvy you are.

THANKFULLY, HOWEVER, I had the good fortune of landing a $4,000 scholarship from the Co-Op GOES fund, and with some of my leftover scholarship money for this semester plus funds from my paid internship at ABC News last semester, I was able to easily purchase my airfare and International Student ID card for the program.

But let’s get one thing straight. I am by no means a wealthy girl. I come from a rural town in South Texas where nearly 30 percent of the population is just at or below the poverty line. My household does not rake in enough “moolah” to pay my way through college and/or any study abroad excursion I find appealing. It’s up to me to make ends meet: to fill out the scholarship applications and financial aid forms, to apply for the part-time jobs, to be responsible with the way I spend my money, to not rely on family members to buy things for me. I’ve been doing it for a while.

A good example is during my junior year in high school when I paid for a summer concert tour to Europe with a national band and choir I auditioned for. The total price didn’t come out to much more than my China trip will cost, and yet I was able to make it happen by sending out letters, singing at meetings/events, holding two part-time jobs while going to school, and collecting any donation that came my way because scholarships weren’t available in this instance. I successfully participated in the program and came to find most of the participants had their parents book their flights, and pay for at least 50 percent or more of their trip.

In other words, studying abroad isn’t impossible for someone with limited finances. It doesn’t HAVE to make you broke, unless you choose to be irresponsible, in which case you probably shouldn’t be studying in a foreign country anyway. With $5,500/$6,000 of my trip total financed, I may feel a little pinch on my bank account, but it’s nothing I (or anyone else who is interested in international travel) can’t handle!

Until soon,

Hook ‘em!

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April 12, 2009 | | Comments are closed for this post
photo of Eva