Studying Abroad on a Budget
To achieve my goal of studying abroad, I had to find an option that accommodated my need for a shorter and financially attainable program. International Business Seminars was able to meet both of these needs. These seminars are brief experiences abroad in which you, as a student, get both the opportunity to tour companies and travel internationally for a reasonable cost.
The costs include all travel expenses, including flights if planned by IBS, and the only additional costs are lunches, dinners, souvenirs, and activities outside of the schedule. If properly budgeted and managed, this experience is worth the investment. Every day is full to maximum capacity with activity. Do not sit around the hotel, there is no minute to spare. If the group was not on a company visit, we all went out into the city to find local food, see local sights, and interact with the local vendors.
Before committing to a program, I attended several information sessions did some online research and spoke with coordinators from IBS. I wanted to accumulate as much information about the seminar and the costs involved before making a final decision.
Once certain I wanted to attend the Winter Southeast Asia program, I sought out to discover ways in which I can raise personal funds to cover the costs. To fully prepare me financially, I had started to look into attending an International Business Seminar over a year in advance. This was because I already knew looking into study abroad it was not inexpensive.
The process of accumulating funds started in January of 2019, giving me nearly a year to accumulate funds before the final payment deadline for the Winter programs (November 15th). With a timeline for financial planning established, I could strategically plan how to pay off my trip. I set regular goals for myself to track the progress I was making every month to ensure I stayed on track. IBS also sends a confirmation email with an updated invoice for the travel costs, which became my new benchmark for fundraising.
Are 100 Pennies Less Valuable than a Dollar?
I primarily relied on my monthly income to pay for my trip. You can make larger sums of money via jobs, such as I did, and make extra through work such as tutoring, babysitting, and more, but on the other side, a great deal of accumulating money is also penny-pinching.
Remember the common saying; “Money saved is money earned”? This is where the majority of my funding came from. My monthly payments consisted of money saved from not eating out and attending on-campus events or free events.
With this penny-pinching mindset, I made the conscious decision to shift my habits to reflect a more frugal attitude with spending throughout the year. Rather than spending money on items, I do not immediately need (items like a new phone case or that new pair of Nike Air Force Ones), I choose to invest the money into a savings account. These small adjustments both reduced spending, but also did not impact my overall satisfaction with my daily life. Small adjustments seem insignificant at first. However, they accumulate into larger financial savings overtime. If you collect enough pennies it eventually becomes a dollar.
Scrapping Up Scholarships
Additionally, through avidly applying, I accumulated funds through scholarships. On average, I submitted about 2-3 scholarships each month in hopes of receiving at least one. The third, and smallest, source of funding came from crowdfunding.
For my birthday, I established a GoFundMe. Instead of allocating money towards gift cards that may sit unused for months or buying me trinkets of some kind for my birthday, I reached out to family and friends and told them I’d rather the money go towards my seminars’ expenses.
Both of these means of funding are sporadic and require a lot of initiative and constant sharing. I lacked dedication in regards to the opportunity of crowdfunding, which I could have capitalized on to support a larger amount of payments. Additionally, scholarships and crowdfunding are not guaranteed. You can submit the scholarships and spread the word you are funding for the program. Remember, others have to be willing to contribute. However, it only takes one or two scholarships to make a difference financially and to make studying abroad a possibility.
What Happens to My Money??
If finances are a concern, but you still want to study abroad this is a great alternative because the programs are during the Summer and Winter terms. For most undergraduate programs, they typically occur during breaks, and for some graduate programs, they take place immediately after or before the start of the new term, depending on the program and university. Since the seminars do not require a full semester’s commitment, you do not have to take an extraordinary amount of time off from your job to attend the program either. Allowing you to save more before the financial pay-off deadline.
Being that I prepared well in advance for this program, I allocated enough time for myself to properly save up funds for the program; however, in the event that I was unable to afford the program, IBS has the policy that you can receive a refund until the second week of October, for the Winter programs. This was a “pre-deadline” so to speak for me. This date gave me more confidence in my ability to pay for this program because I knew that I could back out of the program before that date if I felt unsure about it. Then, with the funds I had already saved, I could wait a little longer and save enough to attend a different program that I liked at a later date!
Getting Paid Back With Educational Interest
A major appeal factor of this studying abroad program was the lack of a classroom. At no point on this trip did I sit in a classroom to listen to a lecture. I still received tremendous educational value.
I earned college credit simply by visiting six companies. For each company, we spent 2-5 hours with their representatives. We discussed marketing tactics, branding, the company structure, the state of the economy. We also got to ask anything else that we wanted to. This type of open-forum discussion with high-level directors and CEO’s would be challenging, if not impossible, to accomplish without the scheduling of tours and visits through organizations such as IBS. I finally had the opportunity to utilize the business theories and knowledge I learned in my lectures halls at California Lutheran in a real business setting.
Another highlight, as I mentioned, is that company visits were only 2-5 hours long.
What does this mean?
Time to explore the cities!
Think about your time budget too
The only other obligation you have is to arrive at the designated time for scheduled tours of the city and local sites. IBS programs have built-in city adventures. Like meeting local Vietnamese students, and learning how to properly eat and prepare the dishes served by street market vendors. I floated in the rivers of Thailand to see the Damnoen Floating Market. In Vietnam at a remote location, I saw how local candy was made from start to finish. Kẹo dừa, or coconut candy, is a delicious treat enjoyed by all ages. I biked around the Ancient City in Thailand. From the 50th floor of the Saigon Sky deck, we walked around a 360⁰ view of the entire city!
Combined, the balance of business and cultural discovery provided me with a well-rounded and unforgettable experience. I came to South East Asia with only book knowledge. I came back to America with the experience of engaging with the business and social culture of Thailand and Vietnam. Prior to this seminar, traveling to Asia was unobtainable for me. The cultural gap in these countries was difficult for me to try and navigate by my own means and planning. IBS made something that was challenging for me not only easy but enjoyable. I found myself loving the countries I never even imagined visiting.