Last week a black male college student told me that he wasn’t going to study abroad due to monetary issues. I flipped. Sometimes I feel that individuals create barriers for themselves, ones that in reality don’t even exist. Barriers that are only solidified because of a lack of information flow aka not knowing.

So my next question would be, whose responsibility is it for individuals to find this information out?

Does the responsibility fall entirely on the individual who would benefit from the information? Does this responsibility fall on our teachers? Our parents? Our government? What if our teachers are inadequate or too busy trying to get their students to pass a test that will get them to graduate? What if our parents are single mothers or fathers who are working and supporting a family with barely enough time to get a home cooked meal on the table? What if our government is so split that no one is sure if their responsibility is social welfare or simply laissez-faire.  Who does the responsibility fall on? Who even cares?

What is the “information” that I speak of you ask?

Well I simultaneously speak generally and specifically at this moment. That is to say, specifically I’m talking about how this student thought that money was the reason he could not study abroad. When in fact, I also am pretty damn poor in my third year of college, but people enlightened me on the various grants and scholarships that I could apply to as I study abroad. And as I prepare to leave for Cape Town South Africa in three weeks, I have yet to have to pay for basically anything. I even have spending money while I am there.

I speak generally because this is not necessarily an isolated incident and I am troubled by the unfortunate pattern of people not knowing about the resources available to them.

I am even more disturbed that the person I was talking to was a student at my college (University of Chicago). As he explained to me his monetary reasons for not studying abroad I could only be baffled that he had not heard about the same resources I was introduced to. If this student at University of Chicago didn’t know about the resources available to him, how much worse is it for students on the south side of Chicago that don’t know about the opportunities and resources available to them. How do we break people out of the cycle of poverty and economic struggle when we can’t even figure out how to get information out there about the opportunities that already exist? How do people know how to get into a good college, or any college?

So whose job is it?

The only solution I know is to start with myself and say it’s my job. And this information might help and it might not, but it needs to be made available to students who don’t think they can leave the country because of their class and economic status.

I recently received the Benjamin Gilman Scholarship that is helping to fund my trip to Cape Town. It is a great program that encourages minority students to go abroad and expand their cultural awareness but also come back home and give something back to the community in which they live. Go check them out here.

And most importantly, if you know something…tell someone else about it. Let’s build a ladder in the barrel.