By SuElen Rivera

I managed to remain debt free until my junior year of college and because I chose to be spontaneous and study abroad I am now planning out how I will pay off my student debt after graduation.

No longer unsure of how I feel joining all of the other students and parents paying off university tuition, there’s only a couple things I’d redo along my journey.

The deadline to apply to study abroad the following semester was in early March, so naturally that’s when I applied. Studying abroad was always more of a possibility that I was keen for, but applying alone meant $400. The program wasn’t something anyone simply applies to and can back out of just as easily as applying. My application was submitted without considering everything else that has to happen in order to make studying abroad possible.

All summer, I spent my time working two jobs, saving nearly all of the money I made as a server with the exception of bills and food. I had no car so I walked miles to work and the gym. Every penny I earned felt nice and rewarding, and it gave me comfort because I only had the summertime to save up for the next huge adventure in life and I actually did it…or so I thought.

I had to have not been thinking because I didn’t take into consideration the currency rate between the dollar and British pound. Being under 21, I’d never been to clubs in the city and never purchased alcohol in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Since most of us were under 21, legally being allowed to drink was fun and exciting. Plus, one day I woke up in a hot, dry state in the U.S., and the next day I was in London. The excitement took over me.

People told me to see what credit or debit card will charge me more for making international purchases, get a bank account in Europe, save your change and to not pick up any bad habits that’ll be too expensive for my own good. I listened to no one but not because I didn’t want to, rather because I thought I could do it on my own and prove them wrong.

But to no one’s surprise other than my own, I was wrong.

I went to the Sainsbury’s around the corner from my flat to purchase orange juice that was once as accessible as water but since then, has been seen as a luxury. I didn’t have enough money in my account to buy orange juice and I’ve been in London for two months out of the almost four months I’m expected to be here.

Plenty of things went wrong and I didn’t notice for some time. The international fees added up to almost $200 and the pound almost seemed great because a 21 oz. pint of Guinness was on average £4 ($6 but I wasn’t thinking of it that way on a girls night out). Luckily, I saved change and had groceries covered for almost two weeks. For two months, I lived off coffee, pasta, rice and chicken. Ironically enough, I kept the diet I had in London when I moved back, with a couple small additions (fruit, almond milk, oatmeal). Since my return, little things like orange juice and nail polish remover are seen as luxurious items I am fortunate to have.

SuElen Rivera is a student at Arizona State University.