By Seth Rainey
When Sophia Bonomi arrives in Taiwan this upcoming fall in her bid to broaden both her life experiences and linguistic horizons, she’ll be much more prepared than the version of herself who spent ten months submerged in French culture three years ago.
The gap year that Bonomi, a junior communication studies major at the University of Georgia, and lifelong best friend/traveling companion Olivia Dumas took following their high school graduation enabled the women to view the world through a much different scope than the one the Peach State has to offer.
The pair planted their roots in both Montpellier and Nimes, two cities just off the southern coast of France bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
An almost year-long staycation in the world’s number one destination for international tourists, according to 2018 figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization, turned out be more expensive than Bonomi planned.
“I wish I would’ve known more because it’s like I’m still kind of paying for France, which is crazy,” Bonomi said. “I just spent so much money because I was thinking of it more as an experience. You can spend $5 at a café and $3 on a pastry because you want to get the cultural experience. But that really adds up.”
When considering how to finance gap year, students should look at all available options and formulate a solid money management plan, said Samantha Meyer, director of experiential learning at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at UGA.
“I think planning is extremely important for a lot of reasons,” Meyer said. “Finances is a huge one. Do you have money saved up? Are you going to work throughout? Is it family support? How are you going to finance that? Whatever it is, there needs to be a plan for that. You want to be safe, healthy and happy, so finances are a huge piece of it.”
Meyer said, however, there are many ways to finance a gap year including financial aid, scholarships, grants and personal savings.
Dumas, a junior marketing major at Georgia College & State University, is a dual citizen of France and the United States, meaning she was eligible for student loans while attending Paul Valery University in Montpellier.
A $10,000 dollar loan Dumas received provided her with sufficient funds to stretch across the duration of her stay. From there, she made a monthly budget of $1,000, with $400 going to rent, $200 going to groceries and $100 for school. She said this left her with $300 for personal spending, combined with money she had saved up prior to the trip.
“I had cash for a lot of things,” she said. “I didn’t really use my card. I would budget pretty well. I just make sure that I’m not going crazy with my money so that when I do splurge, it’s balanced out with other things.”
Dumas’ spending plan enabled her to enjoy the experience without worrying about money every moment.
As for Bonomi, she vowed to be better prepared when she travels to Taiwan this fall.
“I definitely feel like I am going to be changing from past mistakes when I do this,” she said.
Seth Rainey is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.