When I turned 15, I went on a school exchange programme. After having experienced a new culture, spoken a different language, tasted other flavours and, most of all, met such diverse friends, I realized a whole new world was opening its doors and I wanted to fully explore it. I am pretty sure I did not know, at that time, what an MBA was, but after talking to many people who had studied abroad, I discovered that such a holistic experience was the right for me, to complement and potentiate my professional background. Throughout my way, I found some obstacles that surrendered to patience and perseverance. Here are a few pieces of advice I can share as a result of my experiences:
Start saving as soon as possible
Once I finished undergrad, I started working part-time in one company, and full-time for another company, simultaneously, in order to make enough money to accomplish my dream of studying abroad. For almost three years I worked hard and managed to secure the funding required for my MBA abroad. But just when I was starting to do my research on schools, the government in my home country devaluated the currency. From one day to the other, the value of my savings was one fourth of what they used to be.
Secure your savings
That particular circumstance made me postpone my MBA for three more years. Meanwhile, I was promoted in my job and was able to keep earning towards my goal. I also did some external consulting projects that contributed to the “cause” of funding my studies. The domestic market in my country was depressed, so I used my savings to acquire assets that could then be used as collateral for a loan, or, eventually, I could sell when the market was starting to show improvements, and that way I could protect my savings from currency fluctuations this time.
Research all options for alternative funding, and have a contingency plan
Additionally, I endlessly looked for scholarships and sent tons of applications, with no luck, unfortunately. Also, I prepared for the GMAT, TOEFL and sent school applications. This process can also become quite onerous financially and in terms of dedication (at this point I was working, studying for the exams, sending scholarship applications, talking to alumni from different schools and the list goes on and on). But the fun was only about to start.
One afternoon in late March, I received my so longed acceptance letter to London Business School, and the school was offering a partial scholarship. I had my savings but still needed more money. Domestic loans were not available, and when I tried to get a loan in the UK, I was required a local co-signor/guarantor given the lack of credit record in the UK. To spice things up a bit more, two weeks before leaving my country to start my MBA, currency devaluated again but this time I was better prepared to take a risk and invest in my international education. Talking to the Financial Aid counsellors in my school, they suggested a couple of companies that specialize in financing international master students, and that is how I could get the last bit of money I needed to finish paying my MBA.
Financial planning and financial responsibility are really important when you decide to study internationally. Along the way, you may find many obstacles, however, discipline and hard work can take you closer. This life changing experience is totally worthwhile the effort.
Amelia Martinez is Prodigy Finance‘s Business Development Manager. Prior to coming to London to do her MBA at London Business School, she developed her career working in Argentina for the American Chamber of Commerce, promoting business between Argentina and US.
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