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Letter: Senior study abroad leaves out FGLI students

Many students missed out on study abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is particularly true for the Class of 2022, as Duke maintains an unwritten norm that encourages travel abroad for one’s junior fall semester.

For my fellow seniors, it’s not too late. Here’s a way to study abroad without leaving campus for the spring: delay graduation until August and apply for one of the Duke-In summer programs. You can still walk at the May ceremony, and courses count towards graduation requirements.

But here’s the catch: it is only accessible to those who don’t need it. Financial Aid does not provide support after four years. Graduating seniors are also ineligible for the few scholarships offered by the Global Education Office, further discouraging unconventionalism in what has been an extremely non-traditional period of time.

As a member of the low-income, first-generation community, I advocate on behalf of the many like me who cannot afford to travel abroad directly after graduation. We relied on the integrity of our undergraduate institution to invest in the person we are becoming, and it let us down.

Duke spends a lot of money on its future students. In doing so, it neglects its current students' futures. What we lost was more than a funded and Instagrammable trip - it was the opportunity to explore global opportunities that may inform the trajectory of the rest of our lives. It was the loss of both empathy and recognition of inequity.

I admire those seniors who chose to study abroad this fall. Not all of us were brave enough to act against the urgency to make up for lost time on campus. More needs to be done financially and emotionally to help those of low SES navigate what is an overwhelmingly privileged experience at Duke. And though I do not expect assistance in my journey post-grad, I hope for my voice to push us one step closer towards the support we deserve. 

Samantha Sette is a Trinity senior. 

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