Taking Higher Education Further
The first time I studied in London was a study abroad opportunity in 2014. I was one of nineteen students that traded in the monotony of Baylor University for four months in England. I was invigorated. London was culturally rich and geographically closer to so many destinations I’d longed to see. A two-hour train ride from France, and a two-hour flight away from Spain, living in London allowed me to see much more than the UK.
I savored the experience as if I’d never have it again, but I knew I wanted to return in a bigger and better way. Working internationally became a goal. I found a new love for travel and a greater understanding of the world that I wanted to share immediately. I needed my friends and family to know how easy it truly is to see the world, but more importantly – to live with intention.
One day a guest visited the TV writing class I took my final semester in undergrad. He was an accomplished TV writer and producer who ran a school up in Brooklyn. He pitched us a two-year program that would offer tons of practical and theoretical experience. It would cost me $50,000, plus the cost of rent and food and life in Brooklyn. New York has never appealed to me, still the degree stuck in my mind as a possibility.
Before graduating with my Bachelors, I came to the conclusion that I want to redirect my career path from acting to television production. I spent some time in Los Angeles mulling over my first degree. What did I just gain? Where did I want to take it? Would it be enough? I decided that going back to school could save me some time gaining credibility in the industry. I would be a Master of Television.
So began my research. I found two Television programs in the U.S., the one in Brooklyn and another in Los Angeles. I still yearned to leave the states. I saw a second degree as an opportunity in more ways than one. I wanted to work in TV and behind L.A. and NYC; the third biggest global hotspot for industry was London. But how would I pay. I didn’t even have money for school in America!
I talked to a few friends in MA programs, and they got real with me – the same way I’m being real with you. Nobody wants to live off of student loan funds, but they exist to help us accomplish what we otherwise cannot afford to do.
I found out that Federal Student Aid (FSA) extends beyond the states, and can be easily applied to over 100 international schools. Considering the fact that college in the U.S. is a huge scam, it makes sense that the U.S. Department of Education doesn’t publicize this. They want you to accrue debt by them and for them. I’m here to tell you that we have options.
So I started with the list of international schools covered by FSA, and crosschecked it with a list of MA’s for film and television. Nowhere in this process did I feel limited. I liked 7 programs the most. After reading the course outlines for each, I found three I liked the best and applied to each. All of them cost less than half of the 50,000 I would’ve spent in Brooklyn, and I could pay rent and buy food with the other half! I submitted my school codes to complete my FAFSA application.
My school of choice was the most expensive, and I worried about the financial aid and support I would receive. The FAFSA folks asked my school what the Estimated Cost of Living would be, and they were spot on. I became eligible for enough money to house me, feed me and even entertain me after paying tuition.
The process of moving to another country was basically an extension of the process one would go through moving cross-country, plus a visa. Find your place before you go, pack well, prepare all you can and figure it out as you go along.
I will openly admit to doing a shitty job of adulting in Los Angeles. After nearly a year, I’d barely saved any money. With my family unable to help, I knew I would have to be more in control of my spending. Thus began the almost obsessive budgeting that’s saving my life. My FSA comes in three disbursements, and spending unwisely thousands of miles away could leave me in bad shape.
Several times before I left the U.S., and just about weekly since I arrived in London, I budget my funds. I know how much transport costs, how much my bills are, how much groceries should be, how much I’ll allow myself to go out and eat out - oh man, do I fuck this category up. I set aside money for emergencies and travel, a huge goal for my time abroad.
This winter, I had enough money left to take a trip to Dubai and I’ve already booked a trip to Madrid. It hasn’t been easy to do, balancing responsibility and fun. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t borrowed $100 here or there from my mom or a friend. I’d be completely full of shit if I told you I don’t worry about repaying my loan debt.
What I can say with 100% certainty is that I am proud of the decisions I’ve made to get here and the work I’ve put in to make this possible. If I can pull this shit off, then so can you.