Money matters on the global scale

by Beacon Staff • October 31, 2007

In late September, the American dollar hit a record-breaking low in exchange rates. The current exchange rate for the European Union's Euro is about one dollar and fifty cents for every one euro. The dollar even fell below the Canadian dollar, or loonie, for the first time in over 30 years. While this does not seem like something to lose sleep over, it is rapidly becoming a problem for students trying to live it up in Kasteel Well.

According to the Office of International Study and External Programs, over 180 Emerson students attend the study-abroad programs in Kasteel Well, Taiwan and Prague each year. About 80 students are currently at Kasteel Well and another 80 are preparing to go in January for the spring semester. At Kasteel Well, students live in a 12th century renovated castle in the city of Well in the Netherlands. The program allows students to take classes, while gaining a unique and dynamic cross-cultural experience. Though international travel is usually expensive, the costs of studying abroad are generally comparable to that of staying in the United States to study.

"I have been planning to go to the Netherlands since I came to Emerson," said Jacob Barela, a sophomore political communications major who will go to Kasteel Well in the spring. "Financially planning [for] the Netherlands only begun this past summer."

The costs for attending this external program used to be comparable to the cost of attending Emerson classes in Boston, with the exception of travel. One semester in Boston is about $20,291. The most recent estimated cost for a semester at Kasteel Well with required traveling costs is about $23,759, according to the Emerson Web site.

However, spending money is not included in this cost; Emerson suggests around $4,000 to $4,500 for personal spending. The travel package included in the cost of Kasteel Well that students are required to purchase is $3,300, but this amount doesn't cover all transportation in Europe. As the American dollar loses value, the cost of living goes up and students are forced to spend more money on increasingly expensive necessities.

While Kasteel Well is in the Netherlands, students travel to countries all throughout Europe, including the United Kingdom and Prague.

"Once you set foot outside of our little town of Well, things get pricey," said current Kasteel Well student and sophomore political communications major Shaunagh McGoldrick in an e-mail interview. "I expected to spend quite a lot and I certainly am."

Students use Euros in the Netherlands and most of Europe, and Pounds Sterling in the United Kingdom. According to CNN Money, one American dollar is currently worth .70 Euro and .49 British pound. That means that a dinner that costs 20 Euro is actually over 28 dollars and in the United Kingdom, a five pound lunch is actually over 10 dollars. The seemingly small exchange rate quickly adds up, especially if a student isn't keeping a particularly careful eye on their spending.

"Don't let the value of the US dollar and how expensive Europe is make you panic," said McGoldrick. "Just be smart and budget your money."

Despite these reassurances, students preparing to go to Kasteel Well in January are still worried.

"I'm pulling together all my funds now so I can go," said Linnea Rodriguez, a sophomore theatre education major in an email to The Beacon.

Another sophomore, Marita Sarad, expressed concerns in an email to The Beacon. "I am worried about running out of money," the marketing communication major In addition to shopping for myself and gifts for people back home, I have to worry about travel expenses as well."

As far as money saving advice goes, Barela said, "Most of the advice says don't shop. The unnecessary shopping at all the malls and stores add up."

While some students may think that they will be able to save money by steering clear of malls, even food is expensive. "I didn't expect to spend so much on food, but that's not something I find myself willing to remain stingy on," said McGoldrick.

While Kasteel Well is the largest external program offered at Emerson, there is also a program at Shih Hsin University in Taipei, Taiwan. In Taiwan, the American dollar is still relatively strong, making it a more viable option. Students that attend the program at Shih Hsin University live at the university take a full course load and study Mandarin.

The four-week Prague summer program is also an option for film majors. This shorter program allows students to attend the Academy of Performing Arts for Film and Television. Since the program is shorter, it is also less expensive than spending an entire semester abroad.

Though money is often at the forefront of student's minds wherever they are going to school, it is an especially important issue while studying abroad.

"The experience is definitely worth the cost," she said. "I can't think of anything I would rather spend my money on than traveling through Europe for three and a half months."