Financial Aid. Because I travel through my University, all of my financial aid applies as normal. I’m getting regular credits, so the travel part is really an extra.
Scholarships. NU gave me enough money that it would cost me about the same to go there as to UMass (without full scholarship tuition.) I’ve also been looking into the additional, overlooked scholarships both at NU and elsewhere, and I’ve been coming up with some serious dough. A thousand here and there doesn’t sound like much, but for me $1,000 is round-trip airfare to Costa Rica and at least two weeks of accommodations and food. If your travel is for legitimate, educational purposes, you can find a lot of people/institutions willing to fund it.
Loans. Luckily, my loans are all some sort of less-scary student loan. But I will have debt when I graduate, so that will limit my options a bit. While I know I can live on $100 a week in some random place, I still need to make enough to pay off my loans.
Because my travel is educational and embedded in my college costs, and my parents are helping me pay for college, they’re also helping pay the cost of travel. As an aside, I honestly have no idea how much they are or are not helping, which is part of why there’s no dollar-for-dollar breakdown.
I go to cheap places. I love the developing world for oh so many reasons, but that one I always jokingly tell people is that it’s cheap. A three-course lunch with a beer for $1? Isn’t Cuba sounding nice? You can also make some places cheaper by staying in hostels, going to the local market and being careful about when you splurge. I definitely had a couple amazing expensive nights in Egypt, but in the end they cost like 50 bucks each for a pretty five-star evening. In downtown Boston, 50 bucks won’t get you very far. In some places, thats the cover and a couple of drinks.
I work and save. NU has the coop program, which means I alternate six months of work for six months of class. I have made it a priority to only take paying jobs, which is sometimes rather difficult in my major. But this is a necessity for me, and I’ve still been able to have interesting, fulfilling work in my field, though some people (usually those who do not get the paying jobs) claim that is impossible. I also work during the semesters when I’m in class. Most importantly, I’m frugal. I didn’t pick up my paychecks for my current job until 3-4 months in. I only spend money on the weekends. My downfalls? Concerts, clothing, and you guessed it: travel.
Northeastern is Awesome About Travel. A lot of the programs I do have been great bargains. I recently calculated that I spent $11,000 less than I would have if I had been on NU’s campus the whole time. In Cuba, we paid a stud abroad fee on top of tuition (under $4,000) but that included flights, 2 meals a day, 4 side-trips, museums and the Cuban license. If I had been at NU, a meal plan and on-campus housing would have been significantly more, with much less pizzaz. For Egypt and Benin, I paid regular summer tuition (remember, NU students go to school year-round!) and in exchange got the credits, airfare, occasional meals, cultural activities and lodging. In Egypt there were even more extras, like swanky hotels with floating swimming pools and all-you-can-eat buffets. Again, housing and a meal plan of some sort would have cost me much more, and even if I just bought my own groceries and cooked it would have cost more than what I spent in Egypt, which was less than $100/week on top of tuition. And that $100/week is not just food–it was booze, gifts, camel rides, and Nile cruises.
The moral of the story is that even if you ignore the value of the extras attached to my travels, I still saved money. Make sure you investigate all of your school’s opportunities for travel and additional money. Look at Fullbrights if you’re graduated, or free travel based on your profession, like the Boston Public School Teacher opportunity.
Travel is like anything else: if you want it bad enough, you will make it happen. And it was certainly easier for me than it would be to buy a car or something. Travel isn’t for the wealthy–it just depends on length of stay (longer is better), area of the world (developing and non-resort is better) and your priorities. If it isn’t a priority for your savings, it will always be too expensive.
I know it’s been said before, and it’ll be said again, but come conference I’m always reminded of the importance of appearances. How is it that we can spend months on research, carefully choosing every point, motion and agenda item, focusing on even the strategic implications of introductions, and yet still find so many in our number who look like slobs?
I go to a co-op school. We work in real, professional environments, and even have a class where they have us come in with sample outfits. How are we not better than this? Even basic stuff, like running a brush through the hair and slapping on a smile can make a huge difference. Everyone, whether they’re chairing or a delegate, is being watched constantly. Perhaps we should occasionally look like it.
I get that being smart is what matters. But if you’re a good enough delegate to be around the table at Nationals, you know that how you couch somehting, the window dressing, the rhetoric, matters. And in the Arab League, it matters in a very big way. So why doesn’t the same principal apply to our bodies as to our national policies?
It just reflects poorly on you. It distracts from your message; it detracts from your credibility. You wouldn’t swear in committee, so why are you so disheveled that it’s vulgar? Bust out the good vocabulary as well as an iron, and you’ll make a better impression. Wear comfortable shoes on the long days and more fanciful things on the shorter ones. Cover all the bits your grandmother or boss should never see, and treat your body like it’s more than just a vessel to carry your massive brain and/or ego.
Buy clothing that fits. Don’t wear a backpack over your suit–it’s really just killing the image. Take even a small fraction of the time you used to prepare your research or your team, and use it to make yourself look as good as you will sound. And for crying out loud, don’t be the millionth person in identical navy or black clothing.
Here’s a few things I’ve noticed after talking with some people who are confused by or hate on twitter, as well as some mistakes I’ve seen made by new people who follow me. These are written to be understood by my mom, a budding technology user who has never been on twitter before in her life. That means that even if you still type with hunt and peck, or don’t know how to set your facebook privacy settings, you’ll still be able to create an account and use twitter. Not that my mom should do that. Oh no…
If you’re terrified of it or don’t understand it, don’t worry. It’s like facebook status updates but without all the farmville junk getting in the way. Well really, facebook stole twitter’s format because it’s so popular, but ya know.
Don’t worry too much about your username–you can change it later! Try not to make it too long or people won’t retweet you.
Fill out some of the profile information and make a bio. It doesn’t have to be great and you can change it later. But people with similar interests are more likely to follow you if you look less spammy and show these interests right away (when they get an email saying you follow them, it will show your username, picture and bio. So you should have all three.) Continue reading 10 Twitter Tips to Get You Started→
Some blogs and travelers will have you thinking that only agoraphobic lepers have trouble makeing friends on the road, but it’s not always so easy. I find that for the most part, people who are good at making friends at home are also good at it abroad. But if you have a hard tme, it can often be even more difficult in a totally new situation, where nothing is familiar.
Talk to children. I know it sounds goofy or weird, depending on how creepy your mindset is, but children are much more willing to engage with strangers. This is also great if you want to practice a foreign language. Obviously they won’t go out drinking with you, but befriending the neighborhood kids can be a great way to break up the loneliness. It also can ingratiate you to the rest of the neighborhood, if you’re staying someone for more than a few days.
Look for other travelers. Hostels, museums, cafes and bars. They’ll be easy to pick out, even in local spots. Promise.
Find college students. No matter what age YOU are, college students around the world are open and willing to meet new people.
Source your network for an introduction, even if it’s a thin connection.
Try not to seem closed off. Make eye contact (unless that’s a no-no in the local culture), don’t cross your arms, and smile at strangers. When you do meet new people,
Say “YES!” this is one of the biggest tips, especially at the beginning. You should obviously maintain common sense (my rule? no boat parties with strangers–no escape route), but saying yes to things you normally wouldn’t do will open you up to new experiences and people. Once you become more friendly you can suggest times or activities that are more suitable to your tastes.
Sign up for something. A day tour, cooking class, whatever. It will give you routine and expose you to new people in a condensed setting, where it’s normal and easy to make new friends.
Have a conversation piece. A good book, a funny story, an interesting piece of clothing. Something to catch a stranger’s eye or to fall back on when conversation lags.
Learn some canned phrases. When in doubt, just ask them about themselves. Family, hometown, career, travel. If it’s a local, you’ve got it made: just ask everything you wish you knew about the country. But make sure you stay polite.
Remember: Taking the plunge will get easier with time.
Every night after dinner the Malecón and its adjacent parqueos come alive with street performers. Conga, guitares, bongos, maracas y guerras can be heard from a few streets away, so the crowds gather.
Everyone sings because the entire country knows the same songs. If you don’t know it you quickly learn the beat, one that American music would never think to use.
Cubans are always dancing, I think they’re born dancing, and if you don’t know how there are always a dozen or so cubanos ready to teach you. Coming home from a club during our first week, a new friend offered to teach me, rather than bearing the sight of my flailing. He was a good and patient teacher, unlike a lot of the other guys here, and not at all presumptuous about how I would repay him for the lesson.
So we started with the beat and the basic step, standing next to each other. He would add in a new step every so often, and wait until I had recovered sufficiently to augment it encore. Eventually, he was confident enough in my ability to not trip us both to start dancing facing each other, and by the end of the night there was even some turning and hand-fanciness involved.
And that’s how, at 3 am en a plaza on the Malecón in Havana, I learned to salsa.
Since everyone seems to be interested, here’s your quick and easy guide to finding a novio cubano:
Be a Westerner or Gringa. You really don’t have to be both, one or the other will do. Just anything non-Cuban really.
Come to Cuba
Alright, you’re pretty much done. The Cubanos take over from there.
It’s very strange to realize how many women come here looking exclusively for a fling, for a little Latin flavor. Meanwhile, the guys get not only a little lovin’, but some food, booze and admission to clubs out of the mix.
While I’m sure there are plenty of guys out there not trying to run this game, and we have met some of them (I think), it’s still a bizarre, nagging part of all our interactions. Do we pay for them? Are we being taken advantage of? I’m referring of course to our interactions with a group of our Cuban friends. Anyone who knows me (sorry Nana!) knows this novio cubano thing would not fly with me even if I didn’t have Brady.
But how do you say no, when they clearly have so much less, and money that means very little to us means a whole lot to them? Where do you draw the line? And how, as a young, independent American female, do you assert yourself within any sort of relationship so contingent on inequality? Good luck wrangling a relationship with someone whose country yours represses, and whose monthly salary is fixed at something like 200 pesos, or about 8 USD. When I hear women caterwauling about making more than their husbands, I will now think damn, you ain’t seen nothing yet.