Before coming to Trinity College I heard little about January Term, other than the fact that it was not a program for people with few means. Once it came time to apply, I seemed to have forgotten about the aforementioned tip.
I launched a fundraising campaign once I was accepted to the program in Paris regarding Brexit and the EU. I had been fascinated by these subjects in high school and intended to study International Relations. Soon after, I was called a ‘poster child’ for a cause I did not intend to take on.
I have heard it all in the past couple of weeks regarding my campaign: “you are doing a great job”; “I relate to your struggle and hope you get the funding you need”; “you deserve this opportunity”; “what are you fighting for exactly?”; “do you not already receive a significant amount of aid to be here?”; “you are asking for too much, it is just half of a credit.”
Yet, the hardest critic of my actions was myself. I overthought every possible reaction to my actions. I felt guilt for going to Paris while my family struggled to pay bills back home. I felt like an ungrateful brat attending a private institution asking for another unpaid opportunity. I did not know if I was making the right kind of noise or meant to be the one to pressure the institution and people in power to place thousands of dollars of funding into this program.
I received a $500 scholarship from the institution, but this covered little since the course itself is $3,300. I created a GoFundMe to help supplement the scholarship and my own savings put into the program. I did have to face the reality that the communities I was sharing my link with back home have few means themselves, so whatever they gave was a sacrifice and true investment in my education.
Tuition aside, I had to think about the cost of a roundtrip flight and lunch for 10 days. I only work part-time at the Underground and focus on my academics.
That is when I emailed my professors as well as eight departments related to the EU, Brexit, and France. I shared my GoFundMe link asking for them to share it, no obligation to donate, and requested a meeting with department heads to discuss the possibility of a grant.
I sent more emails to offices on campus and the administration. Although sympathetic, some professors and members of administration were upfront about the fact that no supplemental funding was available for the program, while others took me up on my request to meet.
This brings me to an important point that there were in fact staff members, faculty and students on campus who provided assistance and emotional support when I was unsure or stressed in this process.
One of my professors stood up for me at a faculty meeting where there were important faculty members and even a Board of Trustees representative. There was no way to escape the recurring issue of lack of funding for J-Term.
A week after meeting with the Vice President of Enrollment and Student Success Angel Perez, I received notice that the funding the Financial Aid Office can provide students increased to $1,000. The $1,000 was a start, but still not enough.
SGA President Trinna Larsen ’20 soon reached out as well, and SGA is currently helping me create a resolution to call for further funding of this program.
So, as my experience to find funding for J-Term continued, I considered multiple options for the future of the program.
Students without means should not have to be realistic about their financial situations and stave off this opportunity that their classmates can take advantage of.
It is time for the institution to stop sweeping this issue under the rug until the next poor person makes noise.
No one on campus should feel like J-Term is impossible, or have to go through the incredibly draining fundraising process I went through to make this educational opportunity a reality.
-Nanci A. Lopez Flores ’23