Studying Abroad & Money Management

(Image description: A variety of bank notes from several different currencies. They all have a variety of colours.)

Hi all,

Today’s topics focuses on money management and how spending time abroad in Japan as a student has helped me mature and refine my priorities in relation to this. Living abroad is huge life change and for somebody like me is more significant due to being autistic and having limited experience due to my age.

Personally, I used to not be responsible with my money often spending it on things I didn’t need such as video games. One reason why is because I didn’t have many friends at university as I had found socialising difficult. Subsequently, I didn’t feel the need to save money to go on social excursions as I had nobody to go with.

Then I went to Japan in my third year on a study abroad year as part of my degree. I was halfway across the world and I would only have myself and the people I meet there for support. I managed to deal with this overall – even though there are major caveats that I will need to work on if I was to move away in the future like this.

When it comes to finances:

Some of the preparations I had to do include booking my flights as well as arrange insurance to ensure I am protected financially if things go wrong. I had to apply for and take advantage of any schemes I could find that would allow me to save money.

All exchange students at my university in Japan were advised to set up a  Japanese bank account. Furthermore, we all had to go to particular places in order to withdraw money from our international cards. We also had to pay for essentials like food and drink and even the bus to get to the cashpoint that would accept my foreign bank card.

Fortunately, the exchange uni had a canteen which greatly aided my ability to cope but it did cost more than had I cooked for myself with ingredients. The costs of living are higher in Japan than the UK so this was important to consider as well.

The consequences:

The worry of only having so much money is scary but is part and parcel of life for an ordinary person. Budgeting is something that I was vaguely taught when I was younger however is something I only truly began to understand recently. Do I have enough money for this? Can I afford to treat myself to that? All these questions that I have to answer at the time and then have to live with the consequences.

With more responsibilities and a shift in priorities comes less money to go on hobbies like games. I love games (I even occasionally write about them on my blog) and are one of my passions but essentially, they are a form of entertainment that I don’t need shelves of items for. I have ambitions. I have hopes and dreams. I also need to medically and socially transition which will cost a lot of money.

With these dreams comes the need to shift my priorities which includes changing how I deal with my money. So instead of having huge parcels with multiple games inside that I’m unlikely to play, that money could be saved for transitioning, a holiday abroad or for the future such as being able to move away for a good job.

Of course, for all I know it may not be possible for me to work till old age so I may only meet some of my goals. However, that is still only a possibility. Some important background info to remember is that as a disabled person the costs of living are more expensive and it is harder to obtain a fair income due to ableism (alongside the fact I’m queer), so the odds are stacked against me. For many disabled people (including autistics) money management and employment aren’t something they will ever be able to deal with by themselves. If that is the case they should be supported as much as possible by trusted allies.

But for me, my motivation has increased as well as my maturity with money. I have new goals to save for. I have places I want to go and eventually be. Learning how to deal with my finances better is a big part of that. That is one of the lessons I have learnt over the last couple of years.

That’s all for today.

Best wishes,

Milla x

(@subtlykawaii)

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University Education & Autistic Burnout

Hi all,

Today’s post will be breaking an unintended post drought as I am currently recovering from a burnout during my term at university and I’d like to talk about it in the hope that people will understand it a bit more. The following is written from the perspective of an autistic/ADHD student in the British university education system.

Firstly, I am going to give a brief summary of the UK university education system for the benefit of international readers. This system gives a lot of power to the student. For example, attendance isn’t monitored as strictly as lower down the education ladder. There are also less deadlines overall however the tasks are usually large and contribute larger percentages to your overall grade (ie. x2 2000 word assignment that are 25% of your total grade each, alongside an end of year exam). Exams are also longer and larger than lower down in the education system. Attendance and classroom participation generally is not factored into the overall mark towards modules whereas it is in other countries. In other words, it’s a very laissez-faire style of teaching.

Secondly, for those that don’t know, executive functioning is the ability for somebody to adequately function as a human, mainly revolving around organisation. From an autistic perspective, this mainly involves masking as a neurotypical which is very demanding for those on the spectrum. University is very demanding on executive functioning hence it can be quite difficult for autistic people. An autistic burnout is when this process fails and the autistic person starts regressing on their social skills and overall functioning as a person. This can be shown through tiredness, becoming disconnected from their surroundings and avoiding social interaction (even if it’s important). Other aspects include the deprioritisation of health & hygiene, social life, sleep, time for hobbies/passions or even the degree itself. Burnout also increases the chances of failing and having to drop out of university altogether. This is something that is not uncommon for autistic university students with the workload often overwhelming to the point where they have to drop out for the sake of their health.

In my case, it takes me forever to do my work. My attention span is all over the place as I am essentially learning to work by myself and concentrate which is something that is not often taught lower down in the education system. This especially applies if you go to sixth form rather than college. Social life being deprioritised is a double edged sword. On the bright side, this is a valid reason to avoid potentially overwhelming environments (parties). However, having to pass on attending society activities may mean missed opportunities to make memories/friends. Most of my fresher’s year was spent adjusting to doing assignments and not actually making many friends. This is only compounded by the other difficulties that occur by being autistic. Social skills can be built on in university as well as opens the potential for friendships with other autistic/neurodivergent students as well as international students or even future romantic partners (if interested!).

University is also a very important building block for learning independence skills. Learning to cook, wash, manage money etc. are all important and are also things that aren’t properly taught in school or even by parents/carers. Learning these skills are also demanding on executive functioning and may be more or less demanding than the academic side. There are possible solutions to help with this though – they include living at home and commuting to university daily as well as having preparation at home prior to going to university (even if that means delaying going to university in the first place!). Of course, this depends on the person. Others may wish to not go to uni at all and move straight into work or do something else.

Of course, this hasn’t doesn’t factor in support from universities. This varies widely around the country and the world. Things like mentoring and additional support from university services can literally make the difference between the student succeeding and failing. Mentoring can help with working out how to approach assignments or social situations. Getting the right accommodation for exams is also important which can include carrying them over from GCSE/A-levels. While I didn’t run into many issues, university services can and should aim to do better as not everyone will have a positive experience.

To conclude, burnout in autistic university students is something that exists and should not be underestimated. If you’re at university and you see an autistic student struggling with their degree then this is a possible reason why. This especially applies in the later years when the workload gets more demanding and they have to learn to adjust to this. In my experience I’ve managed to adapt as time has gone by but it is a constant battle. I have a couple of friends and am overall enjoying university.

That’s all for today. I hope to be back on a regular posting schedule soon.

Best wishes,

Subtle

(@subtle_writes)