DUBLIN — Studying abroad is a great opportunity, and no one would advocate for its many rewarding aspects more than me. I have been in Ireland for nearly three months now and I can honestly say that I have learned more about culture and varying lifestyles during my time here than any classroom could teach me.
That includes the dynamics of apartment life, the struggles of finances and the choices that adults have to make.
It’s no secret that studying in Dublin, or anywhere in the world for that matter, is going to be expensive. I knew this going into it, but I don’t think that anyone who goes on a program is really aware of all the little hidden costs and fees that get thrown your way.
Schools, we must remember, are also businesses, and they make their money just like everyone else: through you, the consumer.
If you have considered going abroad, I am sure that you are well-versed in the cost sheet — the piece of paper that outlines how much you have to pay for tuition, rent, transportation, visas and living expenses. Upon arrival, it seemed somewhat accurate, but I can now tell you that it lied to me.
Rent was only quoted until April 1, while the term goes till well into May … so they get to charge you for it. You don’t need a visa to study here, but you do need to register with immigration … so they get to charge you for it.
You live with three other people, and while you may clean up after yourself, they may not, and when the cleaning staff does its check near the end of term and your apartment isn’t up to snuff, you guessed it … they get to charge you for it.
Please don’t misunderstand me — going abroad for a semester is an extremely rewarding experience that doesn’t compare to anything else. I would not trade my time here for anything else. I’m just saying not to trust the institution to be totally upfront with you.
Had I realized that they were going to charge me over $1,000 extra in rent just to stay in my apartment for the third part of term, I would have definitely looked into alternative housing.
So here is my advice to those of you getting ready to embark on your own travels.
1. Do your homework. And I don’t just mean the information packet they send you in the mail. Actually talk to people who have done the program and ask them how much it cost them. It may seem rude, but trust me, you will be so much better off knowing exactly what kind of financial commitment you are making.
2. Get to know your flatmates and make sure that you are clear and direct when it comes to cleaning duties. Or else get ready for unhappy people and a big fee at the end of it all.
3. Have a great time anyway. Just because things are going to surprise you, cost more and sometimes drive you crazy, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get an amazing life experience along the way.
My time in Dublin has been some of the best time spent in my life. I am truly happy and grateful for the opportunities afforded me here. Of course, there are things that I would like to change, but that’s all part of the package. I just keep reminding myself that the problems I encounter are problems of privilege and that I am so lucky that I get to be here at all.