Low-income students have options for studying abroad

by Kemi Giwa, Contributor

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Within minutes of walking into my American institution class, my professor begins to burst with excitement about the opportunity available for students to study abroad in Ghana.

Almost immediately chatter and excitement fill the air until one student bursts out, “What if I want to go, but can’t afford it? I heard studying abroad is unreasonably expensive.”

Within seconds the room gets quiet as a few students mutter, “Yeah,” and “I don’t have the money for that.”

As the professor gets the class back in order, I too began to wonder how in the world I would pay the cost of studying abroad.

It was much to my surprise many students felt they would have to limit or even jeopardize their educational experiences due to financial setbacks.

“I am already in that ‘poor broke college student’ predicament right now. I’m living day to day as it is,” freshman Najja Wilson said. “Though my major requires that I study abroad in able to graduate, I do not see that as a possibility so I’ve been weighing my options and searching for alternatives”

Wilson isn’t alone with those feelings.

“I wish there were grants or money available for students who can’t afford to study abroad,” freshman Chidera Ezeani said. “It isn’t fair that I have to jeopardize my education just because I am not well off — I almost feel as if I am being robbed of an authentic college experience.”

Due to the concern among many of my peers, as well as my own discouragement, I decided to do some research. I doubted such a large college with a variety of students from all economic backgrounds could have such indifference for the very students who needed assistance the most.

After much research, I realized there is money available — a lot.

For students who do not have the financial capacity to travel to Europe or anywhere else, SDSU offers money to those who need it through scholarship and grant opportunities.

After speaking with study abroad outreach officer Ine Williams, it became clear there are options for low-income students, but not many students know about them.

“There are many scholarship opportunities available,” Williams said. “A lot of it deals with working with the financial aid office, and many people do not think they are eligible so they don’t even attempt to search. The reason so many people feel studying abroad is not an option for them is because the idea of traveling, people automatically think it’s expensive, because you have to fly and get a hotel, but studying abroad is not the same. Studying abroad requires being apart of a community, and you are a student, which is where financial aid comes to play. If we could defeat the perpetuation of the financial myth, more students with lower income would give it a shot.”

Clearly this is great, but if students don’t know where to look, how can they find these scholarship opportunities? Williams said if more people knew about the informational meetings held all semester every semester, that would fix the issue.

“We have sessions where we specifically mention the largest scholarships, each student is already in our database so all they need to do is register, and once they do that they will be directed to a list of scholarships,” Williams said. “Students will be directed to a list of over 600 study abroad opportunities where they will be able to search, filter, and review the options, making it so that they can be specific with their range of costs so they can navigate the best way to approach their plan.”

Ultimately, it is an institution’s duty to promote cultural diversity and provide as many educational opportunities as possible, especially when dealing with circumstances a student cannot control.

With the multitude of scholarships available, it’s clear SDSU has succeeded in that aspect. The issue, however, seems to be the lack of information available to students.

In addition, Williams highly encourages students to attend the informational meetings that are held 2 p.m. on Tuesdays, 12 p.m. on Wednesdays and 4 p.m. Thursdays in the International Student Center.

“My goal is to have everyone attend at least one meeting and activate their profile,” Williams said. “People can’t even make choices because they don’t know about the opportunity. This will change that.”

Whether you are a student drowning in debt, suffering through financial hardships or simply have no idea how you will be able to afford traveling overseas, but don’t want to miss out on the rewarding experience of studying abroad, don’t fret.

Money is not only available, but plentiful.

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