By Beibei Liu

It’s not common for an international student to take time off from school because every minute of studying abroad costs money. Even if we don’t go to school, the living expenses and housing fees add to our financial burden.

Luckily, I managed to go back to my home country to spend my gap year, but it still cost an expected amount of money without my awareness.

I’m not the only one choosing time off from college. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s December 2020 report, postsecondary enrollment dropped 2.5% in fall 2021, nearly twice the rate of decline from a year earlier. Another survey done by Simpson Scarborough shows that nearly 40% of students were seriously considering taking a gap year in 2020.

Although it’s less expensive to take time off than taking online courses, we still have to know how much a gap year costs, to navigate our future plan.

I came back home in May 2020 and didn’t leave for school until August 2021. During that time, I did four different internships, but three of them were unpaid work. Also, two of them are in Beijing and one in Shanghai, which were far from my hometown in Southwestern China, so I lived in different cities for over five months.

Housing fees, living expenses, transportation fees, and flight tickets burned out my salary, so I still relied heavily on my parents for financial support.

Let’s not forget the re-admission fee, as well as the travel expenses to go back to the U.S. Because of the travel ban, very few flights were offered to us in August. Considering the safety issues, I decided to fly directly to the U.S instead of transferring to other countries. The result was that I spent over $6,000 on my flight from Shanghai to Dallas, not including other travel fees and hotel fees.

How to make up for a COVID-gap-year cost?

It’s unavoidable to lose some money, but we could learn to save much and spend less. The most important thing is important to make full use of the gap year because it could bring potential benefits to career development.

First, getting a part-time job or full-time job remotely or in your city saves money. It became a norm that people work at home in the post-pandemic era, and this could help you to minimize living expenses. For example, you don’t have to live in another city and worry about the housing fees. This is also very important because it helps navigate your passion and goal since you could reach out to social sources in the real world earlier than others. Don’t overlook this, it might do you a big favor when starting your real career.

Second, it might be a chance to make money by starting to operate social media. According to Statista, there was 63.7% more use of Youtube and 43.1% more use of Instagram. The market needs more creators during and after the pandemic, and people need more entertainment when they’re living a more isolated life.

Thirdly, you could apply for student loans and scholarships. The federal government issued more than 18 billion in emergency aid to colleges, and many colleges provide student aids. Reach out to your school or browse through related websites of your school to get financial help. Here are some guides for it.

It is hard to go through the pandemic year and navigate the post-pandemic life, but planning out your schedule will always make you more prepared. The most important thing is to appreciate every decision you made and make the best use of them. 

Beibei is a senior at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.