Amanda and I are crazy excited to be going to Spain and I’m sure it’s going to be an awesome semester, but today I thought I’d write about one of the drawbacks of studying abroad. It’s probably the single biggest reason more students don’t do it. That reason? ¡El dinero! It’s going to be expensive.
Amanda and I are both very fortunate to be at UCF on generous scholarships, but our time in Spain will work out to be roughly twice the cost of a normal semester here on campus in Orlando. Our scholarships, understandably, aren’t quite that generous. As Amanda has already written, our parents are so supportive of us, and it’s because of them that we have this opportunity. Still, we’re researching our trip as well as we can so that we can make it as affordable for us (and for our parents) as possible.
Some of the expenses are obvious: airfare, room and board, tuition. However, there are some that we hadn’t thought of…
Insurance: What happens if we get injured in Spain? Until I came to college, the only reason I’d ever needed to go a hospital were to visit my mom at work, since she’s a nurse. However, in the last two years, I’ve had two visits to the ER (hence the earlier reference to my being accident prone) and the resulting bills showed me just how much the insurance company covers when you’re injured. Since our families’ health insurance here would not cover incidents in Spain, Amanda and I are going to purchase insurance offered by the University in Alcalá. The policy is entirely in Spanish, and while we both read Spanish pretty well, we’re planning to have a Spanish-speaker go through it with us to make sure we understand all the details.
Visas: Since we’re staying longer than 60 days, we’ll need student visas. To get these, we need to go through a complicated process which will involve a trip to the Spanish consulate in Miami and lots of paperwork. The cost should be about $100.
Exchange rates: As of today, one Euro is worth $1.31 in U.S. dollars. This is actually quite a bit less than a year ago, when 1€ was worth $1.49. Beyond simple exchange rates, we’ve learned that there are fees that we will pay when we exchange our money. These will either be added on as a “conversion fee” or we will pay them through a higher exchange rate. These fees can be as high as 10% or more, so we will need to be aware of how and where we’re exchanging our money. Certain credit cards offer lower exchange rates than you can find for cash, so that’s an option we’re considering.
Amanda and I had ambitious ideas for an adventure across Europe either at the beginning or the end of our semester, but that’s not very financially practical. That said, we don’t have class on Fridays, so we will have lots of long weekends to travel around Spain and see as much as we can.