Low dollar curtails travel opportunities for grads

By: Nicole Gnazdowsky

Many students take time after graduating university to experience the world. Whether it’s through travel, volunteer work or exchanges. But as the loonie continues to plummet, options for recent grads are becoming limited.

Becky Morgan is one of many recent university graduates who feel their options for leaving the country for travel, volunteering or exchange programs have been limited by the falling value of the Canadian dollar.

Morgan graduated from St. Francis Xavier University in 2013 and has been working and saving money to take a trip to Europe. She intended to go with her partner before returning to school for her master’s degree.

“We thought that we’d travel to Greece, Italy and Croatia as well but, the more the dollar dropped, the more nervous we got,” Morgan said.

“We actually already have flights booked as of September but we’re going to cancel them and just use them to go home to Nova Scotia at some point.” Morgan and her partner are currently living in Alberta.

“It was kind of a relief once we finally decided that we wouldn’t go anymore. Plus I’m wanting to go back to school and we all know that education costs an arm and a leg.”

Dax Bourcier, who graduated last year from Dalhousie University with a degree in microbiology and immunology, decided to do some volunteering abroad before medical school. He accepted a position working with EQWIP HUBs, a program which works to develop entrepreneurship skills and improve job prospects for 18- to 35-year-olds.

Bourcier has been placed in Dakar, Senegal for the past three months and is living on a government-issued stipend. The amount was determined prior to the dollar’s fall and is not readjusted.

The stipend is intended to cover the cost of living and while Bourcier says living expenses are relatively low, the dropping dollar has created some limitations for them.

“Believe or not Dakar is actually quite an expensive city. In order to fit with our rent the country manager chose an apartment in the outskirts of the city.”

Bourcier and his team have five more months of work left in Dakar, and he fears that if the dollar continues to drop, he may have to dig into his education savings.

Jess Desousa, who graduated from Dalhousie in May with a degree in linguistics, is teaching French to elementary school students in France to improve her French-language skills. She says the value of her money is ultimately affecting the experience.

“It’s difficult to support your lifestyle in a country where your money isn’t worth as much as theirs. It really just cuts back on the opportunities you can take while being here,” she said.

“It’s not very often that you get to have an experience like this, and not being able to take full advantage of it because of the value of the dollar, which you have no say in, frankly, sucks.”