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Get “Financial Smart” by Going on an Exchange Program

Get “Financial Smart” by Going on an Exchange Program

One skill that should never be overlooked, whether in work or personal life, is financial literacy. 

To put this concept in layman’s terms, this kind of ‘’literacy” is what compels individuals to save for retirement, invest for the future and avoid getting into debt. No doubt it is a qualification to help people survive in the real world. 

Nevertheless, to make children and teenagers appreciate the intrinsic value of the hard-earned cash can be laborious. The main reason is likely to be the fact that they do not have the access to the real-world practice, as their spending is usually controlled by their parents. 

So what is the ideal way to train youngsters to be “financial smart”? Probably by sending them away and give them financial independence! This may sound like Mission Impossible, but it can be done now with ICES’s popular High School Exchange Program. 

Eun Lee, ICES Cambodia’s Senior International Relation Officer and also a former exchange student in the US, said while going on a High School Exchange Program, also known as J1 Program, is already perfect for prudent parents, it also allows the participating students to learn to manage their finance, a skill they may not develop in their home country because of the direct supervision from their parents.

“Being in a new country with a different currency, financial system, and pricing methods (such as tax) can be anxiety inducing,” Lee said.   

“While studying abroad, you will need to learn the art of managing your finances such as setting a budget, understanding the exchange rate, using affordable phone services, looking for ways to save money and making sure to use it smartly.” 

As they are alone, Lee added, students will look for ways to save money and make sure to use it smartly by creating a priority list. It is about taking responsibility and practicing discipline. She also recalled the hard lesson she learned during her exchange year in the US, during which she had access to credit card for the first time in her life. 

“It was the first time I had access to a credit card and I bought things without thinking,” she said.

It didn’t take long until for Lee to find out that all the small purchases added up. Thanks to this, she learned to cut down on impulsive buying, to compare prices at different stores and to look for coupons or wait for seasonal sales such as Black Friday and boxing day.

“It can be difficult to manage your finances at first because most teenaged students back home rely on their parents concerning daily money management,” Lee added. “Teenagers who have the freedom to fully manage their own money are likely to learn valuable life lessons along the way.”

ICES recommends $250-$300 spending per month (lunch money and personal expense) but it depends on the student’s lifestyle, although his or her host family will provide meals and in most cases transportation to and from school, meaning that shopping and eating out will draw more spending.

Meanwhile, Chihok Guay, ICES Cambodia’s First Generation Exchange student who spent one academic year in Oklahoma, said he had his best financial lesson in the US. In the States, he was intrigued by online shopping on Amazon.com, where one can find almost anything, and items are delivered to his or her doorstep the next day. 

With access to internet shopping, he initially bought a lot of things without thinking carefully if it’s a necessary purchase, but like Lee, he soon learned his lesson, with help from his host family.

“My host dad Jay taught me something about money; spend less than you earn and save 10% of what you earn for rainy days,” Chihok said.  

“I learned from my mistakes and that I should wait for 2-3 days before deciding to make an expensive purchase.”

Growing financially smart, meanwhile, is just one of the advantages offered by the program. 

According to Dr. Quach Mengly, a well-known education expert in Cambodia, studying in the U.S. comes with many benefits beyond language acquisition including quality education, unique curriculum, multicultural environment and abundant opportunities.

“Sending your child abroad to study could be the first step in securing their future success,” he says. “Travelling and studying abroad play an important role in not only broadening your child’s horizon but also in making sure they are as well-equipped for their future.”

If you want to become a financially smart, more independent person, stop waiting and sign up for an exchange program with ICES now! For more information on how you can join the High School Student Exchange Program with ICES Cambodia, as well as the program fees and application process, please contact 077 777 244 or 098 686 901.  

To be eligible, you must pass the English Proficiency Test provided by ICES Cambodia and have a good academic record (Average “C” in main subjects for the past 3 years). Register now to take the English Test: https://forms.gle/3qifKLu79f4hx5uB7.