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### Unveiling the True Expenses of Studying Abroad

In the spring semester of 2015, I participated in a study program in London, a city known for its high cost of living. Over the course of five months, I often grappled with the dilemma of balancing the expenses associated with various activities against the value of the rare experiences I would potentially miss out on. This internal conflict resonated with me deeply, especially considering the advice my mother gave me before my subsidized trip to California the previous summer. She emphasized that while the trip may strain our finances, the opportunity itself was priceless and should not be overlooked.

My sentiments towards the study abroad venture mirrored this sentiment. The chance to explore Europe at such a reasonable cost was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Without the financial assistance I received, which covered my rent in central London for five months and a portion of my international airfare, embarking on this journey would have been unattainable.

Undoubtedly, I was fortunate to have the means to study abroad. However, immersing myself in a new setting blurred the lines of social class once again. Among the American students in London, I encountered only one other individual who openly acknowledged receiving financial aid. In stark contrast, a peer at my host institution, University College London, described us as members of an exclusive group of privileged students from prestigious institutions who had the privilege of studying overseas. This characterization caught me off guard as I had never considered myself part of an “elite” circle before. The peer’s attempt to highlight his socioeconomic advantage to what he assumed was another affluent student underscored the lack of awareness regarding the presence and challenges faced by lower-income students in such environments.

Despite the enriching experiences, I couldn’t ignore the stark contrast between my life and the elite network referenced by my peer. Residing in the affluent neighborhood of Bloomsbury in London, exploring various parts of the United Kingdom and making multiple trips to continental Europe during my stay, it became evident that I was on a trajectory towards the upper-middle class. Initially, I believed that the study abroad program would bridge societal divides, but reality painted a different picture.

The experiences abroad often left me feeling disconnected from my roots and introduced new financial hurdles. Moments of joy intertwined with a sense of longing, knowing that my loved ones back home would appreciate the cultural richness I was experiencing. However, the distance made it impossible for them to visit me.

While Georgetown offered additional financial aid for studying abroad, practical challenges persisted. Booking reasonably priced flights required upfront payment before reimbursement, posing a financial strain on students. Additionally, obtaining a work visa in the UK incurred a significant fee, particularly daunting for individuals with limited employment prospects.

Navigating unforeseen challenges in a foreign land proved to be daunting. Simple tasks like postage and crucial matters such as medical expenses carried hefty price tags. When faced with a medical issue, accessing healthcare through the National Health Service proved inadequate, and Georgetown’s international insurance was not accepted at a private facility, forcing me to cover costs out of pocket. Such incidents highlighted the importance of financial preparedness in unfamiliar environments, an aspect often overlooked.

Despite the hurdles, I wholeheartedly endorse studying abroad for all, including those on financial aid. While the financial aspect may seem daunting, the intrinsic value of such experiences surpasses monetary concerns. It is essential to acknowledge the unique constraints and obstacles that may arise, aspects seldom discussed during promotional events like the Study Abroad Open House.

Laura Owsiany, a senior in the College, shares her reflections in Missing Class every other Friday.