Shared by Kenneth Ho, Singapore Management University, Year 3.
I am Kenneth and I would like to start by thanking the kind people at The Sharing Corner for inviting me to share my story. It has always been my dream to go on exchange because I want to see the world and I managed to save up for exchange from scratch. I really hope that my simple story can inspire others to not let go of their dream of going for exchange because of financial reasons.
I have never travelled much before due to financial reasons. My family would have holidays usually in Malaysia, certainly not in America, Europe or even most parts in Asia. However, I was always aware of how wonderful it is to travel from movies, photos and the fact that most of my peers have been to so many beautiful places.
Wanting the same experience, I told myself that going on exchange in university would be the best way for me to travel. Also, I knew I wanted to go to Europe because I’ve never been there before and it would be easy to travel to many other places within Europe. As such, I started saving up the moment I went to army – five years before exchange.
I started saving my army allowance every month, spending prudently and saving whatever I could. After I finished army, I gave tuition and took up both part-time and full-time jobs in order to save more. At one point in time, I even had two concurrent jobs – it was really tiring but I knew what I wanted. (On hindsight, I should have given more tuition instead)
In SMU, I continued to give tuition. I also tried to save money as much as possible by eating frugally. While my friends ate tea party or grabbed fast food, I would often eat economic rice and go home for dinner. I never really splurged by buying new clothes or shoes. Even going on OCSP (Overseas Community Service Project) was a big decision for me and I remember considering for very long before finally deciding that the experience would be worth it.
These little things add up and I was finally able to save up a decent amount to go to Europe for exchange on a modest budget. Right now, it still feels a little surreal that I am actually in Spain for exchange. I’ll be flying off to Morocco in a few hours and I can say that my time on exchange so far has been nothing short of amazing.
I know of friends who give up on going for exchange due to financial reasons. If you are reading this and you are one of them, please reconsider! This experience comes once in a lifetime and you most probably won’t get to travel as much when you start working or have a family. If you are unable to save the full amount, you can take an interest-free loan from SMU to cover part of your expenses, and then continue working hard to pay it off later.
In short, 1) do not give up on exchange if the reason is financial – trust me, it’s possible to overcome this constraint, and, 2) work hard towards saving up for exchange.
In fact, I believe this does not apply only to exchange. If you want something hard enough and you know that it is worth your effort, go the extra mile and make it happen. Do not be brought down even if odds are against you. Opportunities seldom come knocking twice.
Alright, I gotta go and catch my flight now. Hope this sharing has motivated at least a few of you to not give up on exchange. This experience is so valuable and I hope that more people are able to enjoy it as well. (:
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