By Mariam Ali, Simon Fraser University, winner of the 2017 Stories from Abroad Scholarship and a member of the BC Study Abroad Writer in Residence Team
One of my biggest concerns before my exchange in France was earning enough money to pay for it. My uncle recommended that I create a budget and find out in advance how much rent, transportation, food, entertainment and travel would all cost. By talking to other students who had already went on exchange in France, I learned that I would need roughly $15,000 to fund two semesters and live comfortably. Using the advice and the information I received, I set about making a plan to earn enough money for my exchange.
I applied for as many scholarships and bursaries as I could, working hard to boost my GPA above 3.5 out of 4.33 so that I could apply for SFU scholarships. I also kept track of all the due dates for scholarships and bursaries that were specifically targeted towards students going on exchange. SFU Study Abroad, the Irving K Barber British Columbia Scholarship Society and BC Study Abroad are some of the organisations that offer scholarships to B.C. students studying abroad. I also applied for loans and bursaries from BC Student Loans, which gave me extra money to pay for living costs. In addition, I applied for numerous co-ops until I got a position as an Administrative Assistant at the Native Ministries Consortium near UBC.
When I finally arrived in France, I created a monthly budget to keep track of my spending. I used an Excel sheet to keep track of all my purchases, using different symbols and colours depending on the type of item. I also benefited from student reductions on certain items, such as train and opera tickets. In addition, I could go to many museums for free since I was a European resident, and while travelling, I took free tours in the cities I visited. All that being said and done, I actually wish I had spent more money while I was abroad, particularly while travelling. In the end, going on exchange is a one in a lifetime experience, so don’t be afraid to splurge occasionally.