Monday, May 13, 2013


Let's face it, a majority of the world has these dreaded burdens. Whether you are getting ready to go to college, are already in college, have just graduated from college or are a working adult who has student loan debt and sees no end to these monthly horrors, this post is for you.

Usually in your third or fourth year of high-school, you begin planning the next step in life. Some of us have/had big dreams of attending a specific college and then joining a certain fraternity/sorority or other club on campus, as well as getting a dream internship sometime in the four years. Some of us decide to go to community college for 2 years and then to another state or out-of-state school for the last 2 years. Some of us decide to take off for a few years and either work or travel the world. Some of us just do not attend college and go on with our lives.
Now, the most stressful part of it all is how to pay for it. In the States, some schools are outrageously expensive (especially if they are public institutions) while others are pretty cheap for the in-state price. Still, it's a big bill that needs to be paid upfront or down the road...and for years to come. Even schools in other countries throughout the world have high tuition prices and a price of living that is associated with university life.

So, unless you are lucky enough to have a family that can afford paying it all upfront or if you manage to get a full-ride to a certain school, you are stuck in this limbo or deciding whether or not to pay with loans or not pursue higher education. Students who are beyond their years (in terms of intelligence) are not being given the opportunity to study and prosper in their prospective fields of study because they simply cannot pay for the high tuition and living prices that are a part of the whole package.

Let me tell you my story:

As you may have read in the first few posts or if you watched the Traveling with Wanderlust video, you know that my decision to study in Prague was extremely spontaneously and, financially/academically, the best decision I could have ever made.
For the better half of high-school and my senior year for that matter, I was set on going to either New York University (NYU), some random college in California, the University of Colorado: Boulder (my first choice and I even applied early) or the University of Washington: Seattle. If you know about colleges in the U.S., then you know that these are NOT cheap schools. In terms of dollars, the yearly cost is about $50-60,000 USD;  by the time I walked across the stage with a Bachelor's degree, the grand total would be between $200-250,000 USD.
My parents did not have an account set up on the side with money for my schooling and I was not a contender for a large grant or any type of scholarship. I worked throughout high-school but the money that I made (after paying my car bills, monthly gas money and going out with friends expenses) was nowhere enough for even one year of college. Even the state schools where I lived were quite expensive and I did not receive any financial aid or scholarships from those schools.
Basically, I was trapped in corner with various loan options taunting me into taking on extreme debt with high interest rates after I graduate. I was ready to take the loans head-on and worry about the repayment once I was done.
However, I just couldn't keep calm during that time and heck, I couldn't imagine for the next four years how much I would have stressed about it. I was constantly thinking about how the loans would haunt me after college and how long I would be paying them for after college. "What if I didn't get a job right after college? What if I had to have a Master's degree as well for my future career? What if I could never pay it all back? What if I failed out of college and was stuck with these loans? What if, what if, what if?"

We all know that those "what if's" are no good to constantly think about.

I wasn't the only one going through this. My friends and a good majority of my graduating class also faced this dilemma. I decided, in about March 2012, that I did not want to be one of the many college students who would face enormous amounts of debt from student loans after college.
This is why my spontaneous decision to study in Europe (Prague) was the best decision I have ever made. 
In the Czech Republic, state universities are actually free but are quite hard to get into and the exams are are a b*tch (from what I have heard). The university I currently go to is not free but in comparison to the tuition prices in the States', it is dirt cheap (even cheaper than my community college). Because of this, my parents were able to pay for my education out of pocket.
What exactly does this mean?
It means that I am going to graduate from a private university, in 3 years (it's shorter here) and with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and Communications, with no debt whatsoever. I could not be more grateful for this and the fact that my parents were able to pay for my college out of pocket. During the semester, I work to support myself and I also fully intend on paying back my parents with a fully paid trip to their dream destinations after I land myself a full-time job (hopefully at a travel magazine or a fashion magazine).

All the time I have people asking me about this decision. Especially the financial aspect of it and say "wow, you are so lucky!" Why don't you do it too?! I always want to ask why they don't do it but stop myself because I tend to get worked up in conversations having to do with the hideous figures in college tuition prices.

With all the above being said, my best piece of advice when it comes to higher education: do NOT go to a school that you CANNOT afford.
Yes, you can "afford" it with a loan but could you afford it after college?
If you have a low-paying first job?
If you get fired?
If you drop out of school early?
Probably not...I urge all of the high-school students who might read this to wisely think about your decision if you are in the position I was in before my final decision or the position that most kids your age are in throughout the world.

There are TONS of options for students with little money or no money and no scholarships coming their way. 
Here are some: 
1. Berea College (Kentucky, USA)
2. Alice Lloyd College (Kentucky, USA)
3. Webb Institute (Glen Cove, New York, USA)
4. College of Ozarks (Missouri, USA)
5. Curtis Institute of Music (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
6. CUNY Teacher Academy (New York, USA) 
7. U.S. Academies (Military, Air Force, Marine, Naval, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine)
8. State  universities of Washington (for those who live in the state and meet the requirements)
9. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (Needham, Massachusetts) 
10. University of the People (online)
11. As an international student in Norway, no tuition is required but a fee of $50-100 USD is required each semester.
12. For non-EU students studying in Austria, a fee of about $400-$450 USD is required each semester. 
13. In Germany, only 4 of the 16 state schools charged a tuition fee of about $600 USD a semester.
14. In Sweden, international students have tuition fees waived while Swedish students are given either full or partial scholarships.
15. Some colleges in Australia also offer free tuition to international students, but again, that's only some. 

I hope you all got something out of this and if you have student loan debt horror stories, share below!

Travel on wanderlusters!

P.S. I just came across an article about a guy hitch-hiking around the world...without paying a penny for transportation! I am going to somehow find a way to contact him and see if I can get a guest post/interview with him for you guys! More on that soon! 

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