Letter from the Editor 0

Worth the Price

This week, Ball Bearings explores the cost of an international education.

“Welcome to our beautiful city! Where are you from?” A dark, Cuban man appeared beside me and my two classmates. I had only been in Cuba for three days, and many Cubans were still shocked to see Americans roaming the streets.

“Indiana,” we told him as he introduced us to his 20-year-old daughter Sheila — a girl with short black hair, lighter skin than the man, and a sad look in her eyes.

“You like music? Follow me.” He told us as we shrugged and followed. We had a free afternoon and we figured we would let him show us a different side of town.

Once we walking in, the whole restaurant was excited to welcome us. “These are the Americans!” He shouted. We sat down in front of a band and laughed and clapped as they performed. We felt so excited to meet Cubans willing to let us share an experience like this with them.

After clapping along with the band, clinking our mojitos and laughing with our new friends, he told us more about the girl with him he called his daughter and bought us all drinks.

We were halfway done with our drinks when he turned to us. “Would you girls be able to help my daughter?” He explained to us that she needed powdered milk to feed the baby. We looked across the street and saw a supermarket, so we thought we could get her 25-cent milk.

“You stay,” he told to Josh, the only male student with me and my female classmate. “Let the girls go.” Josh looked at us and continued to stand. As we followed Sheila out the cafe, Josh followed behind. After Sheila led us past the supermarket, I gave my two peers a look. Why did we pass the supermarket? She led us a few feet down where she pointed to some broken down red doors. “Just go in there,” she said to us.

Suddenly everything clicked and my heart started pounding. This wasn’t right. “We’re not going in there.”

Then, a woman came out with a bag full of two pouches of powder and Sheila gave her a nod, as if saying, this is them. “Twenty-five pesos.” she told us. Everything switched in my mind and I realized I was a few decisions away from a bad situation. It was far from my first time studying abroad, yet I realized how drastic different countries are.

Studying abroad comes with all sorts of experiences, some good, some that teach a lesson.

There are few instances where I felt unsafe like I did that moment in Cuba, but on every trip, I found the experience and opportunities I gained outweighed the price I paid. I’ve been on four short-term study abroad programs while at Ball State. Each one was around $3,000, amounting to around $12,000. That’s almost twice the price of a semester of in-state tuition at Ball State. But for experiences that opened my eyes to the world out side of the U.S., it was worth the price.

Fewer than 10 percent of American college students study abroad while in college. Twice that percentage–around twenty percent of Ball State’s population–studies abroad. During my four years at Ball State, I have been everywhere from Italy to Budapest to London. Additionally, my time at Ball State has been enhanced by the international students I have met in my own classes as well.

Studying abroad can be expensive – around $17,785 for a semester and around $3,000 for a week-long program. For students coming to the U.S, the price is even higher. The U.S. is the third most expensive country to study, yet international students are still drawn to study here.

Some argue that international students should not be able to take jobs in the U.S. Even with visas, the process for working in the U.S. can be difficult for international students. This makes it even more difficult for international students to support themselves.

In 2015, international students in the U.S. contributed more than $30.5 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The benefits extend beyond the monetary numbers – U.S. and international students alike find their experiences are enhanced by cultural immersion.

I would do a few things differently that day in Cuba–I would have been more careful and aware of my surroundings. But I wouldn’t take back any of the trips I’ve been on during my time at Ball State. I wouldn’t take back driving up the mountains in Trinidad or singing in Liverpool’s Cavern Club or exploring the Roman Forum. It turns out most international students wouldn’t take back their opportunity to study in the U.S. either, although there are certainly setbacks.

This week, Ball Bearings explores the cost of an international education.

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