So I’ve finally typed up and posted my budget – both for the admissions workshop in April and the 3-year program. I’ve never been one for budgets, or indeed money, but one thing I’ve learnt from trying to fundraise in the past is that people with money love budgets. Perhaps too much so. But if you hope to get a cent from anyone, you gotta have a budget.

I had already made a preliminary budget while writing the STA Travel Trust app, but it had all been converted to AUD and I was guessing on most of it, so I figured a proper one was in order. It took me a while to find a currency converter that worked with multiple currencies at once, but this program came in REALLY handy. It’s got ad banners (Download.com says it’s spyware free; here’s hoping) but otherwise it’s a really great and nifty freebie. This HTML Table Generator was a Godsend in creating my budget tables – most other HTML table generators don’t let you input the data, or force you to input your data in some arcane manner. I did have a mild attack when I accidentally opened a different site on the same tab as the table maker, but thankfully I could press Back and have all my work intact. Whew.

The costs were surprising. From past experience, I know that to survive in Scandinavia (and Japan), you need to bring double the amount of money you budgeted. One travel website noted that Denmark on US$50 a day was “spartan”; I calculated for US$100 a day as I didn’t envision myself doing too much shopping during the admissions workshop period. Even THEN it seemed like quite a chunk of change. The prices for accommodation were based on the rates for City Sleep-In, the one hostel I spotted while in Aarhus. I can save on that by couch-surfing – I’ve actually made a new friend in Aarhus that way (hi Pia!). But with budgets, you often have to skew towards worst-case-scenarios – though I’ve tried to make mine more realistic for a young person.

Fees-wise, the KaosPilots actually come off cheaper than QUT, which charges AUD$8000 a semester for international students (they’ve just raised the prices recently). The KaosPilots are considered expensive by Scandinavian standards (largely because Scandinavian students get to study for free thanks to their governments), which makes you wonder about the costs of traditional universities. Australia often becomes a target for Asian students studying overseas because it’s the cheapest of the Big Three (US, UK, Australia). Here in continental Europe we have a world-class education for cheaper – yet no one in Asia ever considers Denmark or The Netherlands or anywhere else in Europe (except the UK) as viable education destinations.

The living costs are very high though. I looked through various university websites and took a price on the higher end of the scale (not much, just an increase of DKK 1000). I’m not sure how I’ll live in Denmark during the program; I might stay with a host family for the first year, if I can find one. Health insurance is the MASSIVE cost – over US$5000! I’m not even sure how long that policy is for. Granted, a policy with that price tag is one that comes with a lot of extras (I checked nearly every option they had), but they’re necessary extras, like dental and evacuation and medicine. The Danes are in one way lucky to have free healthcare (I’m not a Nordic citizen so I don’t qualify for it), but since it comes out of their hefty taxes, I don’t know if they’re necessarily better off.

The Apple laptop may seem like a frivolous option, but it’s there because the KaosPilots make a big fuss over using Macs. Apparently, according to their tech-guy (hey Anders, if you’re reading), if you don’t have a Mac you won’t be able to access some of the networks and features. I find this really odd, because I can’t really see what sort of system would allow access from Macs and not PCs – the Internet is largely the same with both systems isn’t it? Part of the Mac love is because Apple is a major client of the KaosPilots and they used to have a partnership, which meant that all the KaosPilots in certain teams had Macs. If only they had the same thing now, then I wouldn’t have to worry! I have a new Acer laptop which works great for me and I don’t want to change to a whole new computer in a year (when I typically use technology for 4-5 years, often more) just because I won’t be able to read some file. (Besides, I’ve developed a bit of a dislike for Macs after being in Limkokwing, where all of their iMacs broke down every day. ANNOYING. The Windows machines were virus-crippled but they actually worked, so they were often our only option.)

The exclusively-Macs option isn’t fair to people from countries where Macs are a whole lot more expensive and a whole lot less accessible – the people who buy PCs because it’s more common, it’s easier to get support, it’s cheaper. A lot of Asia (and perhaps the rest of the world) falls into that category; Macs are largely a Western-world thing. How about the people who’re going open source with Linux, Ubuntu, Red Hat, whatever else? Are they meant to be disadvantaged because they’re supporting creative, innovative, and socially-aware software? Maybe the best idea is to hook everyone up with a One Laptop Per Child laptop – it’s about $200, the interface is apparently dead easy to use, and 35 laptops to 35 KaosPilots will also mean 35 laptops to 35 needy communities across the world. How’s that for social progress.

I’m sure I’ve missed out some important details in the budget. Please share your thoughts and ideas on what else I could do with my budget – it’s an area I need more work in and any help is appreciated.

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