If you ask any student who has studied abroad in another country, he or she will tell you that it was one of the most transformative life experiences that they have ever had. But while many students are excited to embark on an international adventure, they are also concerned about how they will fund that life-changing experience.
Instead of giving up if scholarship money is not easily available, City College student and former InteRDom service-learning intern Malika Jones encourages students to conduct their own fundraising campaigns using blogs, social media and other tools readily available in our era of advanced technology.
There are a number of national and subject-specific scholarships to which students may apply, as well as opportunities for funding in each student’s home university which should be explored first and foremost, but often those resources are limited and may not provide enough means to cover airfare, living expenses, program fees and credit hours.
Instead of giving up if scholarship money is not easily available, City College student and former InteRDom service-learning intern Malika Jones encourages students to conduct their own fundraising campaigns using blogs, social media and other tools readily available in our era of advanced technology. In her blog account of the days leading up to her service-learning trip to the Dominican Republic, Malika describes how she visited almost every department in her home university of City College, and when she came up empty looking for scholarships, she got busy with her own fundraising campaign.
“If you do not try, you will not succeed,” a friend told her to motivate her to begin. Not only did she succeed, but Malika had a transformative experience that will serve not only to change her life, but the lives of many people in the community where she lives.
Before her study abroad experience, Malika Jones was tailoring her own major in community health and development and minoring in journalism at the City College of New York in New York City. However as a result of her time in the Dominican Republic, she is now majoring in anthropology with a concentration in medical anthropology. She was born and raised in the New York metro area, and she participated in the 2012 City College-InteRDom urban gardening service learning program in the Dominican Republic. Read on to learn more about Malika and what she did to raise the funds to participate in this life-changing international experience, and read more about hers and other students’ experiences in the Dominican Republic on the InteRDom blog.
Q: What do you study and where?
A: I study at the City College of New York, where I major in anthropology with a concentration in medical anthropology. In addition to this, I minor in journalism and take the pre-medicine track (which consists of one year of each of the 4 basic sciences classes—biology, chemistry, organic chemistry and physics—required for the medical school admission.
Q: How did you find out about the City College- InteRDom Service Learning Project? Why did you want to participate?
A: I found out about the City College- InteRDom Service Learning Project in urban farming from a flyer posted on a school bulletin board. When I saw the flyer, I felt as if my prayers had finally been answered! I had been raving about learning how to grow my own food and finally the opportunity was all mine! The first thought that floated into my mind was “I will start an urban garden when I return!” This opportunity would allow me to gain the skills and experience necessary to do so.
Q: Where did you grow up? Why do you want to initiate an urban gardening initiative there?
A:I grew up in a socio-economically disadvantaged inner-city community of New York City. My goal to initiate an urban gardening initiative in my hometown was inspired by my own personal health challenges and my desire to increase my community’s access to local, fresh, and organic produce. There is currently a health disparity epidemic sweeping my community and other socio-economically disadvantaged communities throughout the nation. Racial/ethnic minorities and the poor are disproportionately suffering from degenerative diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, fibroids, coronary heart disease, childhood obesity, and more as compared to more affluent non-minority communities. This epidemic is partly due to the limited availability to healthy affordable food— what is commonly known as food deserts. Two barriers that contribute to the existence of the food desert status quo include accessibility and affordability to healthy foods. By using the community-based gardening model that I learned from the Ministry of Agriculture while studying in the Dominican Republic, both barriers can be overcome. The gardens will be local and the produce will be free! These gardens can be utilized as a means of transformation in my community and potentially other socio-economically disadvantaged communities of New York City.
Q: Is this the first time that you have conducted a fundraiser?
A: This was not the first time I conducted a fundraiser. In high school, I fundraised to pay for my Cardozo Judges basketball team uniform and in college I fundraised over $1,500 for a holistic breast cancer support group in Harlem, N.Y.
Q: What were the first steps that you took to set the fundraiser up?
A: I used Facebook.com to bring immediate awareness to the cause and my fundraising campaign. I did this by creating a flyer that I thought would attract people’s attention The flyer was simple and straightforward. It included a picture of myself, a title succinctly expressing the action I wanted readers to take and two subtitles–explaining how studying abroad would help my community and my involvement in community projects. I highlighted my active participation in the Rockaway Youth Task Force non-profit organization. I encourage anyone fundraising to tap into the wealth of their social networks– whether it’s a non-profit that you’re a member of, soccer team, religious institution, council-member’s office or your parent/(s) job. It took me approximately 2 hours to go through a series of edits/revisions of the flyer until I was satisfied. This time may be more or less for you depending on the vision you have for your flyer and your skill level in design programs.
I was elated to see all the positive feedback I received in a short amount of time. I had approximately 5 people offer to donate within hours of seeing it on Facebook. I motivated people to donate by explaining how the trip would also benefit them as members of the community because I have plans to start an urban gardening project there. It was unfortunate that by then, I only had one more day to raise $800.
Q: If you were going to do it again, would you do anything differently?
A: If I were to do it all again, I would give myself more time. My fundraiser only lasted for 3 days. Next time I would give myself one to three months—depending on how much money I want to raise. I would first “Google” fundraising websites to tap into my online resources. Then I would use my Facebook and Twitter account to get the attention of celebrities, politicians and friends/family who would like to donate to a worthy cause. I would also use my Paypal account to have donors send funds to my account. Moreover, I would create a personal blog that could be viewed by potential donors to share why I’m fundraising and how they can help.
Q: What is the time frame necessary to have the most success?
A: I would say the time frame necessary to have the most success in approximately 3 months. The earlier you start the more likely you are to successfully raise all your funds. If you know you’re studying abroad next year, you can even start now.
Q: What recommendations do you have for students who want to do something similar but are worried that it will be too time-consuming?
A: Compare investing one hour a day to promote your fundraising campaign, and as a result you receive $500 from donors to working for one hour at a job that pays you $10/hour. Which of these two is more time consuming? Fundraising takes a time investment, but it is so worth it.
Q: How do you think that conducting a fundraiser of this magnitude will help prepare you for the working world?
A: Conducting a fundraiser of this magnitude will help prepare you for the working world by encouraging you to become a “go-getter.” Anything you want in life is not just going to come to you. You have to go get it! You need a good plan, a great attitude and excellent work ethic.
Q: How do you think that participating in the Service Learning trip has contributed to your academic and professional goals?
A: My service learning experience has been the highlight of my academic career. I’ve gained so much insight into myself and my appreciation for exploring and embracing other cultures. I’m now an anthropology major because of this culturally-enriching experience. In my future profession as a physician, I think that it will be essential to be able to culturally identify with patients—to understand the cultural implications of one’s health. Since New York City is a multi-cultural melting pot, I think that a background in anthropology will prepare me to be effective in understanding and addressing the socio-cultural influences in patients’ health.
The internship program, InteRDom, an initiative of Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD) and Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo (FUNGLODE), is the premier internship, research and academic study program in the Dominican Republic. It offers international students the opportunity to research important topics at the forefront of the United Nations agenda, obtain professional experience by interning with Dominican organizations and businesses related to their fields of study and/or earn academic credits by taking courses and seminars at a local university.