Frank: Is Abroad Really That Cheap?

You’ve heard the tale. “A semester abroad is cheaper than one at BU.” I heard it on my first tour of COM. I’ve heard fellow COM Ambassadors say it on their tours. I’ve even said it on my tours and now that I’m abroad in London, I’ve gotta say the rumors are true. A semester abroad is definitely cheaper than one at BU. Well, um, it’s technically cheaper. 

It’s true that when the semester bill came I did end up paying less, but I failed to account for a few things when I applied for my abroad semester. The first one being maybe the most obvious: airfare. I’m from Puerto Rico. I’ve been hoping on planes all the time to get back and forth between home and BU, but for some reason the fact that I’d have to pay for an even more expensive plane ticket to Europe completely slipped my mind during the whole process. Imagine my surprise when the modest $160 plane tickets I usually bought so far off in advance had become almost $800 ones. Buying these tickets also proved to be a terrifying endeavor. Like, I know Boston and I know Puerto Rico. They each have like one airport and a half. London has three airports. Three full airports. Can you even imagine how terrible the headaches me and my mom had while trying to buy these tickets? Thankfully BU offered a group flight, or else I really would have not figured it out… Like really? Three airports? Do you really need three airports?

Another thing I just fully blanked on was the fact that both the UK and Europe have their own currency. “What? They don’t use American dollars?” Yeah, they don’t. I know. Crazy. A non-american country that won’t take American dollars? It’s honestly preposterous. The thing that stings most about it though is that you essentially have to become an economist while you’re abroad. Every single day, you wake up, brush your teeth, check the updated conversion rates, and cry because you’re not living in the parallel world without borders and a shared currency. Oh and also: did you know that banks have a thing called “international transaction fees”? It’s as terrifying as it sounds. Essentially every time you pay for something with your American card the higher ups at your bank go “hmm, this poor fool seems to be out of the States, how about we make them pay for the mere attempt to use their money, won’t that be a hoot!,” and then they have a big ol’ laugh as they strip between 25 to 50 cents from your bank account. Yeah, well I’d like to see you laugh when I decide to start Venmo-ing all my friends for groceries. You’ll get these 25 to 50 cents from my cold dead hands. 

You might think I’m having a miserable time abroad. That honestly couldn’t be farther away from the truth! I’m truly enjoying my time here in London! London is a great city that I honestly wouldn’t have been able to visit were it not for BU. I’ve gone to Spain and Ireland, I’ve met some really cool people here in the abroad program and in the general London area, and I’ve taken some of the most fun and interesting classes in my entire college experience. I can’t really put into words how much of a great time I’m having. Honestly, I think every BU student should go abroad AT LEAST once! But only if they can afford it. What I’m trying to say with all this is that you should really think beforehand if you should go abroad. As much fun as I’m having, if I didn’t have a job during the summer I would probably be struggling really hard to get by. Going abroad is actually a bit of a strain on your wallet and like every big financial decision you make, you should really think it over. If I started saving up money for abroad earlier than this past summer, I would honestly be less stressed about the whole experience. So before you pay that $55 non-refundable application fee remember that when COM Ambassadors say it’s cheaper to go one semester abroad, they only mean it technically. Really think about if you want to go abroad before actually going. Or go to DC or LA. Those might be actually cheap. I hear they take US dollars.

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