I don’t even want to say how much I’ve spent in these past two months.
It’s…a lot of money. And since I’m studying in Europe, every time I mentally convert Euros back to American dollars, it hurts just a little bit more.
The hardest part is that back at Northwestern, I constantly have some sort of steady income flowing in from a work-study job. But now, money is just pouring out of my bank account. I tried to mentally prepare myself when I decided to spend three months abroad in Europe, but even so, my projected spending and my actual spending are not parallel lines on the chart.
I’m in a predicament because I constantly reassure myself that this is Europe–this is studying abroad, I’m away from my reality. I get to splurge a little more. A gelato after dinner? Yes please. A gelato after dinner four times a week? Maybe…Ok, I could be convinced. In addition to spending within my study abroad city, Florence, I’m also doing quite a bit of traveling. All these factors are really hitting the bank hard. Of course, I tried to budget my spending my first few weeks here, but at one point, receipts and bank statements started to pile up and I couldn’t catch up. Now, I do my biweekly sweep of my bank account to see that nothing is out of place. Then I log off and refuse to look at my spending for another two weeks. Ignorance truly is bliss. And dangerous.
I know that if I were back in Evanston, I would be watching my money a lot more carefully. I wonder what is it about being away from my home campus that makes reality contorted for me. The temporality of being in Florence, I guess. I don’t know when the next time is that I’ll be back in Italy, so there’s a lot of firsts and lasts that need to be done.
For a lot of people who wish to study abroad, finances are an important consideration. Luckily, I am on financial aid. I think without aid, I would not have been able to make my decision to leave home so easily. Besides the school and homestay fees, there are a lot more areas to breakdown in the finances department that study abroad advisors don’t fill you in on because frankly, you don’t realize until you touch down. For example, a taxi from the Florence airport to the center cost a fixed rate of 22 euro. For a ten minute ride, that’s an absurd amount of money. Also, Uber doesn’t exist here–so that’s one less cheaper option. Incidentally, a night out with your friends will be expensive depending on what you do. Maybe a beer or a cocktail at a casual bar won’t break the bank, but if you decide to go all out and hit the club, have some drunk food, then take a taxi home–those nights really add up. Furthermore, lunch isn’t covered by the school fees, so I’m really missing the NU dining halls every day around 1pm. Having to purchase a lunch every day really hurts my heart. Of course, you can get a panini for less than 5 euros at a corner shop, but even then, that limits the budget for a dinner out with friends or a weekend trip.
However, I have come to the conclusion that there isn’t much I can do about this other than watch my spending more carefully over my last month. At the end of the day, my gratitude to be in Florence overcomes the smaller issues. I recommend, for every student weighing the pros and cons of studying abroad, for every student who thinks money is a major factor, there’s a way to work it out. My correspondence with Krista Bethel in the Financial Aid Office was of great help and reassurance.