Economic crisis might affect students who study abroad

Becky Olles

With study abroad application deadlines approaching this month, students will see if the global recession will impact their ability to pay for some of the more expensive programs Northwestern offers.

NU has more than 100 different study abroad programs that can cost as much as $27,500 for one semester, including a program at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The programs can cost $8,000 more than one quarter of studying in Evanston. Taking these extra costs and the weak economy into consideration, more students might find themselves unable to go abroad.

“This year I have heard a lot more students asking right up front about tuition costs for programs and cost of living,” said Michelle Gere, a study abroad adviser. “There is always a good percentage of students, but this fall it’s almost every other student.”

Weinberg sophomore Rachel Ferber was concerned about program costs when choosing between studying in Prague or Scotland.

“Originally I was considering going to Prague because it’s much less expensive,” Ferber said. However, the Scotland program better fit Ferber’s needs because of her double major in English and economics.

Even with these extra economic concerns, NU’s study abroad office has not yet noticed a decrease in the interest of students studying abroad. It’s too soon to see a change in the application rate because personal advising isn’t required until later in the process, Gere said.

“We haven’t seen a decrease in students,” she said. “It’s just that they’re asking more questions up front and thinking more about it.”

Colby Hastings, a McCormick junior, and Olympia Portale, a Communication junior, both studied in Florence, Italy through a program offered by Syracuse University. Both students paid more to study abroad compared to one quarter at NU because they paid a semester’s tuition to Syracuse.

Having paid for the program before the economic collapse, Hastings said she considers herself lucky to have gone to Florence.

“I would still have gone abroad, but I would have started my process earlier and found something more economical,” she said.

Airfare, shopping, trips and meals can increase expenses abroad, and students can find budgeting troublesome.

“You find out that you have to buy your lunch every day and buy your food on the weekend,” Hastings said. “I spent more than I planned on.”

NU’s Study Abroad Office understands the financial difficulties students may face and has increased the advising staff to focus on programming and services, Gere said.

“Right now we do have a budgeting worksheet that we do give to students so they can work through figuring out costs,” Gere said. “But we want to assemble more references and resources for scholarships and grants if they’re not getting financial aid through Northwestern or getting supplemental aid.”

NU’s Study Abroad Office has returning students fill out evaluations to suggest to outgoing students how to budget money, Gere said.

Sometimes, the best advice is from those who have lived it.

“If money is a major factor, it’s important to make sure you don’t run out,” Portale said. “Bring only as much money as you’re willing to spend.”

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