How a Broke College Student Afforded a Trip to SE Asia

I saved enough money for the trip!

I saved enough money for the trip!While growing up, I was always terrible at saving my money. I was constantly going out to buy the “next big thing”, whether it be a new iPod, outfit, gaming system, etc. Never in a million years would I think I could afford a two-week trip to Southeast Asia! While working full-time to pay for my classes at NIU, I’ve had to live off a tight budget. Eating Ramen noodles every night, scraping change for gas money, I think we all know what it’s like being a broke college student…Studying abroad was always something I’ve wanted to do but I never thought it would be possible for me. Luckily, I proved myself wrong and saved up more than enough money to fund my trip.

Apply for as Many Scholarships as You Can

Make sure to find out about all of the scholarship opportunities from your school and check out the IBS website to apply to the scholarships they offer as well. Once I found out about all the scholarships from either my school or IBS, I realized that I could have the majority of the trip funded for me (70% of it, actually). So, I buckled down, wrote all my scholarship essays in one night, and received every scholarship I applied for! Most people do not want to apply for scholarships because of all the essay writing, but I can tell you it is definitely worth it. None of the scholarship requirements took me more than one hour to complete. My next hurdle was coming up with the rest of the money and some extra spending money for while I was on the trip. I had three months to save up and create a decent budget. I put aside 20% of each paycheck I received, plus told my family and friends I was going and asked if anyone could help support my trip financially. I ended up saving more money than I needed for the trip and had leftover money after I got home

Your Dollar is Worth Much More in Southeast Asia

If you’re considering traveling to Southeast Asia, remember how much your dollar is worth. 1 USD is equivalent to around 29 TBH and 26,000 VND. That means you can eat an entire meal for under $5! Not to mention, you’ll be eating like royalty. Sushi, pad Thai, Vietnamese spring rolls, mango sticky rice, and so many other dishes that you won’t be able to resist once you get there. Everything is much cheaper than in the United States, making money less of a burden while you’re on the trip. But make sure you don’t spend too much money at the airport or on public transportation. There are many places you can walk to and from without having to pay for an expensive taxi or bus ride. Also, on any international flight, you will be fed for free so no need to purchase a $10 snack while waiting for your flights. My biggest fear was that I would run out of money while I was out of the country. (Luckily that didn’t happen). You will be pleasantly surprised when you add up how much you spent on the trip versus what you expected you’d be spending.

The Value of Your Experience Will Be Priceless

All money aside, what you get out of this trip will by far exceed the amount of money you put into it. Traveling, immersing yourself in other cultures, and experiencing the most that you can truly change you. You will grow overall as a person and be much more knowledgeable than others who have not hsd this opportunity. Who knows, maybe you will end up working abroad one day. Networking with the executives at the company visits will come in handy if you’re thinking about living in another country. You will learn the “do’s” and “don’t’s” of intercultural etiquette and maybe even pick up a few greetings in another language. Studying abroad is something that you are not going to want to pass up. The trip to Thailand and Vietnam was an amazing, eye-opening experience and was worth every penny. Looking back, I am so glad that I decided to go. Apply for the scholarships. Create a GoFundMe page. Save your money. Go see the world!

Allison Marshall

School: Northern Illinois University

"Traveling makes you modest; you see what a small place you occupy in the world.”

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