Studying Abroad on a Budget

In order 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 Seminar 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 was filled to maximum capacity with activity. No minute was spared sitting around in the hotel. 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.

Budget Beginnings 

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 I was certain that I wanted to attend the Winter Southeast Asia program, I set out to discover ways in which I can raise personal funds to cover the costs. To fully prepare myself financially, I had started to look into attending an International Business Seminar over a year in advanced. 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 fund raising. 

Is 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. There is a common saying, “Money saved is money earned.” This is where a majority of my funding came from. My monthly payments consisted of money saved from the following: not eating out and attending on-campus events or free events rather than going to events I had to pay for. 

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, but they accumulate into larger financial savings: 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, but 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, yet I still received educational value. I earned college credit simply by visiting six companies and spending anywhere from 2-5 hours with their representatives discussing their marketing tactics, their branding, the company structure, the state of the economy, and anything else that we, the students, wanted to ask about. 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.

Time to Explore the Cities! 

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, such as meeting local Vietnamese students while learning how to properly eat and prepare the dishes served by the street markets and food vendors. I floated in the rivers of Thailand to see the Damnoen Floating Market and in Vietnam to a remote location where I saw how local candy, Kẹo dừa, or coconut candy, was made from start to finish. I biked around the Ancient City in Thailand and walked around a 360⁰ view of the entire city of Ho Chi Minh from the 50th floor of the Saigon Sky deck. 

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 research knowledge and came back to America with the experience of engaging with the business hub and the local people of Thailand and Vietnam. Prior to this seminar, traveling to Asia was unobtainable for me. It was too much of a cultural gap for me to try and navigate these countries 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.

By: Karlee Cuddy