Socioeconomic StatusWhat does that even mean?! According to the American Psychological Association (APA), "Socioeconomic status is the social standing or class of an individual or group. It is often measured as a combination of education, income and occupation."
Studying abroad can expose you to many new ways of thinking. Depending on where you decide to study abroad, your socioeconomic status may change.
How do you Identify?If you identify as low to middle class, you may find your new host country (or even among your U.S. peers) classifies you in an upper class. You may be saying, "that's crazy," however, they see you having an international experience, which often equates to being wealthy. What they may not know is that you received scholarships, financial aid, worked three jobs, etc. to get where you are. It is important to understand that your new (and old) friends may not understand your financial hardships and you may have to address some misconceptions.
Before you go abroad, it is important to ask yourself these questions:
- Which socioeconomic status do you feel you belong to?
- What is the socioeconomic status of the majority of people in your host country?
- How do you want to present yourself? How would you respond if someone assumes you are wealthy?
Keeping Up + FOMOWhile studying abroad, you will meet other students from all over the world who have a wide variety of socioeconomic statuses. This can often be the hardest part as you may feel you need to keep up with everyone or else you'll have FOMO (fear of missing out).
The CIE encourages students to create a list of what you want to see/do when abroad and prioritize them. Assume you won't be working while abroad, so know how you'll cover costs. The more you plan and research costs, the better prepared and equipped you will feel when you are being pulled 100 directions.
When you first get abroad, you will hear students planning weekend trips immediately. This may be what you want and have budgeted to do, but if this makes your head spin (and your wallet scream), you aren't alone! Take some time, breathe, and pull out that list of top things! You don't have to plan all of your travel the first weekend! If someone asks you to join them on a trip to Barcelona, but that was never on the list/budget, don't go! Barcelona will always be there for next time. Stick to your list and budget. You will encounter students who will travel every weekend and brag about their experiences - those aren't your people.
The last thing we want for you is to run out of money while still abroad (and this has happened to students who go big at the beginning). That can put you in a very challenging situation. FOMO is real. It will happen at some point(s) of your experience. However, if you stick with your original intentions and budget, you will feel much more satisfied (and not run out of money).
How to Combat FOMOHere are some considerations to help save money and get the most out of your experience:
- Before you go, ask returnees what ended up being cheap and what was expensive, then plan accordingly
- Keep track of your spending (if you are saying "yes" all the time, are you sticking to your budget?)
- Watch the exchange rate
- Cook your own meals (if a meal plan isn't included in the program fees)
- Research which museums let students in for free (or reduced rate). Some museums have certain days or hours just for students!
- Connect with other international students/locals who are living on a budget - you won't be the only one!
- Explore your host country and surrounding cities!
- Get involved with on-campus/community organizations
- Join campus organizations that offer affordable day trips that can easily be squeezed in the budget
- Take advantage of planned excursions (especially if you already paid for them in the program fees!) and maximize that time
- If you meet local friends, take them up on activities they invite you to attend
- Try to continue eating healthy by shopping at the local markets
- Make sure you are using good, reliable transportation
- Research the places you want to stay at - if it seems sketchy, it might be worth the extra dollars to stay at a nicer place.
- Research the areas you want to explore - ask locals or university staff what they recommend/don't recommend