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


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