STUDENT DEBT. As a student, every time I looked at posters around campus advertising various study abroad programs I thought about my debt. How can a student on a strict budget even think about travelling abroad to study? I did not think it was possible until I was in my last year of studies. Here are some ways you can make your dream come true without dipping hard into your wallet.
1) SCHOLARSHIPS AND BURSARIES. Institutions and external sources such as BC Study Abroad encourage students to head off and gain solid life experience. They offer a wide variety of scholarships and bursaries for students leaving the country to study. Personally, I heard stories of students paying their entire way through scholarships so I worked hard and applied to everything in sight. I asked for letters of reference, did some volunteering and gathered all the information needed to fit the requirements. Honestly, I didn’t think I would get any of them but to my surprise I got them all; totaling $3000.00. Strangers believed in my passion and dream of going to the Colombian Amazon. Believe in your journey and apply. This can be possible for you too.
2) FUNDRAISING. Fundraising can be done as a group or independently in various different ways. I have seen students selling chocolates, baked goods and hotdogs. My friend held a burger and beer event at a local pub for me and invited all my closest friends and family. This was a great way to talk to everyone about my intentions for the Colombia trip. If this sounds like a good idea for you, call around. Each pub has a different rate for fundraising and you can find one that isn’t prohibitively expensive for your guests and still gives you a high percentage of the ticket sale. I raised $400.00 at this event towards my flight expenses.
3) TRAVEL MILES. Do you, your family or your friends have a bank account or credit card that allows you to collect Air Miles, Aeroplan, Avion or other travel miles? This is a great way to reduce the cost of your flight. I have been collecting Aeroplan miles for years and my accrued miles allowed me to fly round trip to Colombia for next to nothing. Total cost amounted to around $350.00; airport and tax fees.
4) BIRTHDAYS AND HOLIDAYS. If you are thinking about studying abroad, it is good to start planning early. Commit to the trip and tell everyone about it. If any special occasions such as your birthday pass through the planning months, ask people to please refrain from gifts and donate towards your trip instead. This is a great way to get a float of spending money. Remember, even after your tuition, program fee and flight have been paid for you still need some money for your daily personal spending.
STUDY ABROAD. I encourage everyone to study abroad at least once in his or her academic career. Whether it’s for a semester, a month or even two weeks, studying abroad opens you up to cultures and new experiences that you would never get at home or even while travelling privately. Immersing yourself in a foreign place is exciting and pushes you both mentally and physically. I hope you take the leap and come back with the same fire I did to spread the word and help others experience the wonders of studying abroad.
By: Lisa King, a member of BCSA Writers in Residence team and former stories abroad scholarship recipient. Lisa is currently working as a photojournalist and is one of the most recent graduates of Kwantlen Polytechnic University in the Bachelor of Arts General Studies program. Her study focuses were in Fine Art, Creative Writing, Geography and Sociology.