By Tina Tan, University of Missouri

January and August are the two biggest months in a year for me and usually the most heartbreaking for my dad. That’s when my tuition bill comes due and the numbers will always show up on his account on time.

Studying abroad is usually a costly experience, whether you are a U.S. student studying in Europe or a Chinese student studying in the U.S.

I didn’t learn this until I came to the U.S. a year ago. I remember talking to my friend a few months ago, and she joked about how expensive it is to study aboard. “If I never came here and spent this much of money in another country, I wouldn’t have known that my family could actually afford it,” she said. And I nodded.

Like my friend, I wasn’t financially aware and wasn’t prepared to learn the cost of this two-year stay. The truth is, I was surprised by my family’s ability to pay off my tuition and other living expenses. Interesting enough, never did I think I was “rich.”

At many college around the world, international students pay more than in-state or in-country students. My tuition for the first semester at the University of Missouri, a public school, was $15,918. That figure included on-campus housing and dining expenses. That means about $32,000 per year – far lower than private schools like the University of Chicago which in 2019 charged about $80,000 in tuition.

Still, paying more than $800 per credit hour is not cheap, and international students have to enroll in at least 12 credit hours per semester to maintain the status of an F-1 student visa. It’s also tough for many international students to earn money from part-time jobs, and scholarships may be limited.

Apparently, my dad was well-prepared and saw this coming. He always asks about the tuition dates and makes plans ahead. Of course, he is a businessman.

I know my dad had started a financial plan at least five years ago to prepare for my stay in another country. He kept telling me that he was confidently prepared and I shouldn’t be worrying about it at all. And yes, I did listen to him and became very carefree and ignorant about my financial situation.

After coming to college, I finally started to pay attention to my own financial situation. I began looking at my bills every month and formed the habit of recording my spending. I started to notice the differences in price between similar items and became more sensitive about everything financial-related.

However, I am not financially independent and I will not be so in the following one or two years. I know it due to what I was told by my family, and I am anxious about it at the same time. I have to admit that it is nice to be taken care of by my family all the time, but looking at the downside, I was also not being taught enough about my own financial situation. I could ask my parents for money anytime and they always make the plan for me. I am worried about being financially independent in the foreseeable future but I am not sure if I would be prepared by then.

Overall, I’m glad that I’ve begun to make some changes and started to take steps to learn and manage my financial situation in my college life, but I do wish I could have learned more about it.

Tina Tan is a student at the University of Missouri.