Hi ASA fam
I hope you had an awesome week. Today’s post is a follow-up from my previous post about money mistakes (here) to avoid as a student abroad based on my own experience. See another list below:
Not take enough advantage of the exchange rate
This is probably going to be relevant for ALL foreign students (esp. the African ones).Most parents (and/or scholarships) would give you money in USD and/or Euros. Moreover, because the money transaction fees are so high in Africa, we tended to receive money in bulk i.e. for 12, 6, 3 months. In South Africa over the 10 years as a student, the exchange rate from USD to Rand went from 7-14 at various times. Can you imagine what it could have done for our pocket money if we exploited it well? *inserthappydance* Ma double, double oh!…like the Uche song…lol!
Not look around for the best bank deal for student accounts
In line with the above, there are multiple options in terms of potential interest you can accumulate while the lump sum money is locked up in an account.When I left Congo in 2003, 1% of the population had a bank account (I was not one of them) so all this admin was just overwhelmingly foreign to me (this has now increased to 10% I believe). I was just happy with the first bank that agreed to open a student without too much hassle (visa verification, proof of accommodation, proof of fund, etc.).
Watch out more closely for those transaction/transfer fees
It is a fact that Africans generally pay the highest transaction fees (here)! This is a balancing act you need to master with your sponsor (i.e. parents, uncle and/or scholarship). My parents resorted to using MoneyGram for the first 4-5 years as Western Union had closed shop when we arrived in South Africa (which had an average fee of $70-100/$1000 sent).
Luckily, this changed when my parents opened a local bank account which enabled them to transfer money to us and almost halved those costs per transactions. My point is, do your research & do not be afraid to try something better. I believe fintech has completely disrupted the banking industry, and Maxicash now offers the cheapest rates for the Congolese diaspora in South Africa. Read more about what I wrote on Maxicash, here. There are similar services in Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, etc.
Not buy the flat/apartment we lived in
15 years ago, foreign nationals could apply for 100% of a home loan in South Africa (this is no longer the case). I/We was not aware of this…We (read about living with my brothers, here) stayed in that flat for 9 good years & genuinely believe that if I had mentioned it to my parents in time, they would have been interested…esp. since we had to pay rent for it anyways…by now we would be well into half of the bond repayment…Oh well 🙁 !
Not work on a side hustle and waste my holidays away
I had a few odd jobs mainly for financing my nights out & my #shopaholism…lol! I regret not looking for the opportunity to build something and/or make a constant & sustainable income stream as a student (they say that the average millionaire has 7 streams of income).
Not look hard enough for scholarships
I made the Dean’s List in my first year (hoping I would secure a scholarship) but it was only applicable to South African nationals. I somehow got discouraged along the way and stopped looking. I should not have limited my search to South Africa and kept applying for international scholarships supporting African women in Science. I found these websites very helpful Opportunities for Africans and Afterschool Africa. Also, check out this list of scholarships for African students I came across on Wendy Luhabe’s blog.
I hope you enjoyed this post. I would love to hear from you…wrt to any other money mistakes you made and what you learnt from them. Wishing you a financially savvy & bright future 🙂
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