One of the biggest inhibitors that bars most from traveling and experiencing their world is money. Money makes the world go round, quite literally. In this blog post, I will attempt to provide you with a clear cut, frank synopsis on financing your study abroad. For the purposes of keeping this post at a desirable length to the reader I will focus on funding the trip once you have arrived in your new country. Of course I am in Australia, so we will zone in on what is necessary to survive here.
My CAPA program as a whole was USD $8,000. I was able to satisfy half of the fee with my own cash. However, I was in need of assistance and was directed by my CAPA advisor (Ms. Anne) to apply for the need-based scholarship wherein I had to submit an essay or two and fill out the application. Thankfully, I received the scholarship which satisfied the rest of the program fee! I know CAPA has several other scholarships available for students and not all are based on financial need. In addition to the Need-Based scholarship, I applied for and was selected to be an official blogger for CAPA. This position helped add to my cash reserves during the trip as I received $300 at the beginning of the semester and $150 when I arrived in Sydney.
So once everything is paid for and the trip is fully funded, how much cash should you bring with you? Well, the answer is that CAPA recommends bringing at least USD $5,000 in order to not worry about running out of cash. This might seem like a lot of money for a 6-week program, but this is Sydney. Already one of the most expensive cities in the world, because of Australia’s geographic location many goods are imported thus more expensive in general. To add, all Aussies enjoy a minimum wage of $19 AUD plus 25% of the hourly wage, so in reality everyone here is making at least $23 AUD an hour. So from the transport cost and inflation in general, you will find yourself “droppin' Benjamins” weekend after weekend despite any budget you’ve made.
The worst run-in I’ve had with the ridiculous prices here was when I innocently walked into a beauty supply store in Broadway, the local shopping center, with the mission of purchasing some chapstick. I walked up to the clerk, gave her a smile and asked “Hi, I was wondering if you guys carried any chapstick?” She replied in the affirmative and pointed at a stand behind me. I walked over, selected my desired flavor and went back to the clerk to check out. She scanned the minuscule object and in an upbeat perky voice said, “four dollars please!” I exclaimed, “Four dollars? That’s ridiculous.” She replied, “Yeah, you guys have it good over there in the States; things are expensive here.” I agreed with her and grudgingly handed over the cash. (Note: AUD $4 is approximately USD $2.93.)
AUD $5 for this, $8 for that; it is here where your budget will be impacted the most: having to spend money on essentials and food to feed yourself during the week. To combat this great expense, I would suggest limiting the amount of times you eat out. Cooking at the lovely apartment CAPA will house you in can and will save you a ton. If you don’t know how to cook or, like me, are limited in your entree specialties, ask one of your roommates for tips or use the Internet. I was blessed to have Anthony, who’s half Italian, as one of my roommates and every week he’d be whipping up a new dish and was glad to show me the ingredients and cooking steps.
Not only will you be spending money on essentials and food, you will also need to budget for admission to museums, zoos, or other interesting venues you might want to investigate. These executions alone could set you back $100-$200, so make sure to add these to your budget.
Last, but surely not least, you’ll need to account for the expensive nightlife here in Sydney. Many clubs and bars also have cover charges where you’ll need to pay at the door. Cover charges can run from a minimum of $20 to about $40.
Despite the exchange rate (about USD $0.73 = $1 AUD as I write), expect high prices. Earlier I mentioned that USD $1,000 is needed to sufficiently fund your stay in Sydney. USD $1,500 to $2,000 would be ideal, however. It’s always better to bring more than less and you can always save what you don’t spend. My biggest mistake was not accounting for the sheer inflation of prices. Although some commodities seem overtly cheap, many are not and I would encourage you to do your research before you travel!
Mathew Ramsay was an official CAPA blogger/vlogger for summer 2016, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World, sometimes including short video snippets. A political science major and economics minor at Morehouse College, he studied abroad in Sydney.