Study abroad during a recession?

By Jennifer Wheeler

Ever since Jackie Waldman’s senior year of high school, when her student teacher talked about his experiences of studying abroad through the University at a college in Barcelona, she knew she wanted to go overseas.

Three years later, with careful budgeting skills and scholarship applications underway, Waldman hopes that her dream will come true and she will be accepted into the program for next year.

But with the economy in such in such a low state, students may be questioning whether they can afford to go overseas without feeling the financial burden that appears to be hitting everyone in the states.

“The economic problems we are facing here in the United States are also being faced abroad,” said Erika Ryser, associate director for the Study Abroad Office. “So, in terms of whether costs have risen or fallen, they have not risen to a degree that had made us take note across the board thus far.”

Ryser added that costs are determined by their partners abroad, which are usually set a year in advance. She said students should not focus solely on how the United States economy is doing, but rather the exchange rate between the nations.

“Actually, we noticed more changes two years ago and last year when the exchange rate of the Euro and the pound were so much above the dollar,” Ryser said. “Recently the pound has risen and fallen at a more moderate speed in relation to the dollar than it did a couple of years ago.”

But some are warning others that the price won’t always match up to the projected personal expenses amount added into the final cost.

Kendra Barnes, senior in ACES, studied abroad in Barcelona in fall 2007 and said expenses, such as ATM transaction fees, the cost of paying for meals her host family couldn’t provide due to busy class schedules and traveling added up quickly, forcing her to budget her money throughout the semester abroad.

Barnes said she felt students in the wealthier class will not struggle to pay for the costs during the economical recession. Instead, middle class students who have enough money to attend college but not enough to pay for everything may have trouble paying to study abroad since the economy has forced the Study Abroad Office to limit the amount of scholarships offered.

To help this problem, in the fall 2008 the Study Abroad Office gave away $150,000 to nearly 180 students, said Jessica Sheets, study abroad scholarship coordinator.

The Study Abroad Office has also held information sessions to teach students, who are in a financial pinch from the economy, how to study abroad for less.

Brandon Lanners, coordinator for programs in Spain, Latin America, Africa and sub-Sahara, advised potential study abroad students to keep track of their budgeting while attending at the University as a guide for budgeting abroad. He also advised students to explore and become enriched in the region they are studying abroad at, instead of traveling every weekend to save money.

“I believe if you have some creativity and have to study on a budget, you will have a much more rich time,” Lanners said.