Aug 11, 2012

Paying Tuition

Paying my university tuition fee is a multistep process for me. Unlike popular universities with scores of international students (which accept international credit cards, I assume), my humble university only takes local cards, ATM transfers, or cash deposits.
So you can imagine all the hassle hoarding stacks of cash to the bank to pay a semester of tuition fees. Born and bred in Malaysia, surrounded by horror stories about how a relative lost their handbag (and half a limb) to a motorcycle snatch thief, where you are taught that you're surrounded by burglars, organized criminals, and people who'd do anything just for the 100 dollars in your wallet, carrying over 8000 in cash is simply petrifying.
That's why after my first cash-hauling experience, I decided I have better things to do than lose my limbs to snatch thieves. Why don't I transfer the money via telegraphic transfer to my tuition fee account?
I checked and verified with the school accountants and they promised it would worked. So I went back to snatch-thief land happy not worrying about knives pointing at my neck when I exited the bank.
By the end of the summer I transferred the equivalent of USD to my tuition account, made dozens of phone calls to different banks performing the complicated transaction, and paid all the transaction charges. Turns out the accountants in Taiwan wouldn't take the money for whatever reason I couldn't comprehend. It was rejected.
The money was wired back to Dad's account, minus transaction fees and a loss of RM 500 due to difference in exchange rates. I was furious and ashamed that it happened but Dad just said, well, that's a lesson. He even asked me not to blame the school accountants.
Which I can't allow to happen. I stormed the accountant's office making sure everyone knew about the incident (I'm a drama queen, yeah). Nobody took the responsibility for the 500 dollars, of course. They just keep quiet and let my rage fly even higher. I even wrote a letter to the chairman which made promises to change things but nothing materializes after 6 years.

So now I still painstakingly do cash transfers twice yearly to pay my tuition. What's different then and now - during my senior year, Citibank allows free overseas withdrawal on its checking account which saves me some transaction charges while making the transfer; my local Taiwanese bank, Chinatrust Commercial, allowed me to own a debit card which I can pay the tuition online instead of ferrying a truckload of money to their branch (I'm exaggerating). I just couldn't believe that even though we live in the 21st century with Visa, MasterCard, and AmEx, I still have to do this silly manual labor of carrying paper cash.
As I'm paying my second last tuition come end of August, I guess I won't miss the endless trips to a Citibank ATM and transferring the money elsewhere, watching my back and keep a low profile all the time. As junior Malaysian students ask me how would they get cash or pay tuition, I would dramatize and retell my story again and again, lobbying them to join my "reform tuition payment" movement on the school, and recall my young and fiery days slamming tables in the accountant's office.