Life in university involves a lot of fun, new experiences, hard work and a transition into adult life. For many students, it is the first time away from home, meaning we have to learn how to cook, do household tasks and, of course, budget.
Managing finances can be even more challenging for international students due to the extra fees involved in living and studying abroad, but I always felt motivated to get over it in the best way.
A good start is sitting down with a piece of paper and calculator (or an Excel file) and writing down the expenses and bills you control or deal with personally such as groceries, telephone/internet, clothing, entertainment, etc. Add them up and compare it to what is available for you, always trying to be as realistic as possible. This is very important! If you consider a month like October, where there is reading week, Thanksgiving and Halloween, it may motivate many students to go out with friends more often and spend more than usual. If you know there is money is available, great! If not, you need to think about saving more in advance to make up for the extra activities.
Looking to find more money to fund your out of class experiences? What about finding a job? With recent modifications in the study permit, full-time international students are allowed to work up to 20-hours per week during the school year without the need of a work permit. We’re are also allowed to work full-time during the summer with no extra bureaucracy.
Don’t think you will be alone in this, as a large number of students, domestic or international, work during the school year and in the summer, as well. There are plenty of opportunities in St. Catharines, on and off campus, waiting for students to apply. This is a win-win situation: students make some money, learn and are introduced to the workplace, while employers have an affordable chance to train young people who can be tied to them for a long time. You can make a reasonable amount of money that can be saved for the school year and, of course, to travel and enjoy the summer here. Moreover, working helps you improve important skills such as networking, which can be very helpful to find a permanent job after graduating.
Lastly, it is important to mention that there are many scholarships available, whether you are from here or not. They can be based on leadership, academic performance or other criteria. I believe working towards getting one (or more) is a big plus for anyone. It motivates you to be outstanding in your field, get recognition that brightens your resume and continues to fund your student life. Isn’t that perfect?
Budgeting may require a lot of effort at first, but it is just another big step in life. You make mistakes, might go over a bit once in a while but when you learn, not only you can help your parents with your expenses, but also save for a bigger plan – like a trip across Canada. It is the kind of lesson you will never forget!