It was my Yale interviewer who first advised me against doing a semester abroad. He explained to me with a sort of fervent nostalgia how incredible his eight semesters were at Yale, how quickly they went by and how imprudent it would be to miss out on any one of them. He instructed me instead to take advantage of Yale’s summer session courses abroad, to experience travel without having to pass up a semester at Yale.
After three semesters at Yale, I could not agree more with this view, and it is clear that the majority of the student body — with the exception of a few outliers — shares this outlook. There is a very small culture of study abroad at Yale; as the University provides so many incredible opportunities and experiences on campus, it seems foolish to limit our time here.
Much more emphasis is placed on going on summer abroad programs, just as my interviewer had mentioned. But the resources to fund students on these programs are severely limited.
Yale’s instills in us an excitement about these summer abroad programs from the very beginning. I remember my tour guide at Yale just returning from a European country and raving about the wonders of her summer abroad courses. I especially remember her exclaiming how Yale paid for her whole trip, which, as she said, is very common among the student body. She boasted an image of Yale that throws money at its students without hesitation.
Last year, as a freshman, it was my first summer having to figure out real plans and, having heard such wonderful things about the summer programs, I decided to apply. The notion that everybody at Yale went on these summer programs left me neglectful of the cost — but it wasn’t until after I was accepted that I was faced with the $12,000 price tag.
I had thought that if everybody went on these trips, they could not be that expensive. If these programs are the norm at a place of such socioeconomic diversity, they have to be reasonably priced.
My parents were unwilling to pay that cost. And I, without a job, could barely make a dent in the price with all of the money in my bank account. I was told that if I had figured it out earlier, I would have been eligible to receive Yale’s generous funding.
But, once again, I was disappointed to find that the funding was, in fact, not generous.
Yale’s main source of funding is called the International Summer Award (ISA) that provides a stipend for one summer experience abroad for undergraduate students. Eligible students are given up to $10,000. Among other eligibility requirements, students must be receiving financial aid from Yale in order to receive the ISA.
The ISA is an incredible grant that provides remarkable opportunities to hundreds of students each year; however, 45 percent of Yale’s student population is not on financial aid, and thus remains ineligible. Beyond the ISA, there are very few other options, all of which have very specific criteria. There is a grant that funds Yalies to “to develop a deeper appreciation for the land of Israel and for their identity as Jews”; another supports “Yale students of exceptional promise to study Chinese, Japanese or Korean at specifically approved sites”; one of them funds students to study a foreign language, the only limitation being they must be proficient in “Arabic, Swahili, Yoruba or Zulu.”
The most general fellowship, the Tristan Perlroth Prize, awards up to $4,000 to students studying abroad and favors Calhoun students, students proficient in a foreign language and international studies majors. Even if one were lucky enough to be awarded this prize, she would still be left with two-thirds of the initial cost.
Yale’s funding for students on financial aid is incredible, but there are a lot of students who are not on financial aid and are still unable — or unwilling — to pay $12,000 for a summer program. Specifically, this leaves the middle class, those students whose families are able to pay for necessities, like an education, but not indulgences, like summer travel, stranded without any options.
I do not feel entitled to studying abroad, but I came to Yale with the belief that the University provides equal opportunities to all of its students. As long as summer program funding remains scarce, Yale cannot flaunt its reputation as the great equalizer.
Ally Daniels is a sophomore in Berkeley College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.