Financial Freak Out (part 1 of approximately 4839753)

Probably the most daunting thing about this whole London adventure lies in the financial aspect. It’s scary moving to a new place and trying new things, but I’ve done that before (to varying degrees of success), and I know (parts of) London and some lovely people in the area, so that makes it easier. Visas and paperwork are stressful, but I’m sure if I actually sit and look everything over–instead of reading a few paragraphs, hyperventilating, and deciding to deal with it later–it’ll make some kind of sense.

But oh, the financial side. It has led me to some pretty fantastic rants, mostly heard by my sister. These rants take many turns and somehow always end up with me worried that I’ll fall down some stairs, go to the hospital, and be in medical debt forever. A nonsensical twist!

I am…careful with money. I won’t say I am good with it, because that isn’t necessarily the case. Just careful. I can’t budget to save my life, I don’t really understand what that means. But I’ve never been in a horrible oh no I have no money!!! kind of situation, I’ve never lived outside my means (aside from college, I guess?). I’ve always paid my undergrad student loans on time and have often paid extra. Though I have credit cards, I am terrified of carrying a balance on them and will not actually buy something using one unless I am positive I can pay it off immediately. Which I guess defeats the purpose of having a credit card? Whatever, my parents had me sign up for one before college so I could build my credit. But I admit I am crap at saving and understanding money.

Now it’s time for me to figure out my loan situation. My school can start certifying things, whatever that means, July 1. So I have to get everything ready. I know how much I need for tuition and my room, but I don’t know anything else. How do you figure out how much money you need?! The school puts out a table of estimated expenses, but how realistic is that, really? It seems like a lot. I don’t think I need that much money. But what if I get too little? I’m hoping I can find some kind of job to supplement, but what if that doesn’t happen? I realize, too, that I can go a little overboard this first year and take out less next year if it’s too much, but that involves planning and thinking about the future and not spending the excess money, not my strongest points.

But I think what bothers me more than any of this stressful thinking is the fact that there are so few funding options. It’s basically loans, personal wealth, or bust. Granted, this degree is not like, a NEEEEEEEEED and I am studying internationally, but wow, there’s just nothing out there, that I can find. My school has a list of all sorts of postgraduate scholarships and funding sources but most are only for UK/EU students, and the ones that are open to international students have eligibility requirements I don’t meet (only for one year programs, for courses I am not on, etc.). There are some funding sources specifically for my subject area, but only for UK students. There are no American sources for conservation (again, that I can find–it’s possible I’m just not good at searching?). There’s a large American organization for conservation, but their grants are for conference attendance or short courses, or I guess grants for libraries to pay for conservation work? But nothing for actual master’s programs. Yet the UK seems to have multiple organizations that will help fund conservation students. I know I’m going into a small, specialized field, but…really? Good job, America.

The financial stress, combined with all the articles I’ve been reading this week about NYU subsidizing professors’ vacation homes while students are now paying $63,000 a year (tuition + room and board), have gotten me down on the state of higher education around here. Why does it have to be so hard to go to school? It’s sort of amazing, looking at the cost of education in another country. Even at the international/overseas rate, two years of tuition and room/board at a British university (at least mine) costs FAR less than just one at NYU (perhaps it’s unfair to compare to one of the most expensive schools, but it is, sadly, my alma mater and MAYBE I have some regrets about that). And this is ART SCHOOL. The UK/EU rates for my school are insanely low–at least it seems that way to an American used to the ridiculous costs here–and there seem to be so many funding sources and ways to bring your cost down. It’s so strange to me, to see/hear Brits complain about how expensive education is (I’ve done some twitter trolling on this). You guys don’t know how great you have it!

Anyway, I’ll stop there before I veer off into weird healthcare cost territory (seriously, I think getting really sick and incurring horrifying medical debt has overtaken mummies as my greatest fear in life). I was good at being frugal when I was a student. I’m pretty sure I survived my entire semester in London eating solely toast, Cadbury, and the occasional £5 beer and burger combo at the local pub chain (which–gasp–has gone up in price since then). But it’s been so long! I’ve grown used to my luxurious lifestyle of…slightly less toast and expensive New York City drinks and buying more dresses and shoes than I’ll ever really need. I’m sure I can get back to my old ways once I need to, it’s just going to be a weird adjustment backwards.