Hardcore apologies for taking so long, but here we go, and today it’s all about mmmmoney. So for any future study-abroaders with questions about that, here’s what you need to know:
- It’s not cheap. Going through ACM, I’m automatically responsible for regular semester tuition payments, plus a program fee of $5000. Then, you add in airfare going both ways, the daily cost of lunch (breakfast and dinner are provided by the host family), four months of random living expenses, books and class supplies, and extra money for any souvenirs or side travel you want to do. And of course, one has to keep in mind that the dollar is currently very weak against the Euro, and that Italy — and especially a city such as Florence — is an expensive place to be anyway. (Also, in my own case, all living expenses are coming out of my savings, I’m paying my parents back for airfare as soon as I return, and I’ll eventually have to shoulder the tuition/fees in the form of student loans –all of which just goes to say that the expenses are not to be taken lightly and that this is one of the best times ever to avoid being an idiot with mah moolah.)
- That being said, it’s still perfectly manageable, especially if you’re in the habit of actually keeping an eye on your finances so you know how much is coming in (ha) and going out. So, create a budget: it’s an idea as obvious as an elephant in Kansas, but so many people don’t actually do it that it never hurts to say it again. ACM provides a loose reference to how much you can expect to pay for basic stuff over there, so you can use that to start with, and then just be prepared to go over and spend the first couple weeks figuring how much stuff actually costs and what you actually use. Adjust your budget accordingly, stick to it, and then you get to sit back and roll around in the feeling of being a responsible adult. (Oh, and just to throw out a loose total, ACM says students typically end up spending between $2000 and $4000 — obviously it’s better to overestimate your own expenses, so plan on using the higher number.)
- Up until the point you’re actually settled in the homestay, cash is not your friend. It’s good to think ahead and get some money in Euros before you go, just in case, but you shouldn’t be carrying around much in loose bills. The solution (and isn’t it always?) is to use plastic; I went with the Visa TravelMoney card, largely because I used it the last time I went to Europe and had no problems. You pre-load it (which helps with that whole budgeting thing), and you can add money to the account up to three times, which means that if any massive emergency occurs my beloved (and ever-so-generous — did you catch that, Mom?) parents can ride to the rescue and restock it from a distance. You also get the option of paying an extra 5-ish bucks to put a second card on the same account — most excellent to have stored away somewhere in case your first is lost, stolen, accidentally sat upon, purposefully sat upon by an enemy with malicious intent, etc etc.
- Apparently they have ATMs everywhere. So that’s cool.
And there we have it. I am now going to go try to well and truly finish packing — last time I checked I was 0.25 kilo over weight on the checked bag (*insert displeased scowl*), so I think I’ve fixed the problem but we’ll see. If nothing else, I suppose I will at least get to entertain myself with the spring scale this afternoon; it was cheap, easy to find (near the luggage in any supercenter), works flawlessly, and despite its practicality remains more fun than any Slinky ever. All hail the scale.
…See you tomorrow : )