“I’ll take ‘A Trip to Uganda’ for $1,000, Alex”

I was recently awarded a merit-based scholarship through the University Center for International Studies (UCIS) based upon the work that I’ve done within the African Studies department. The only problem? They told me that I’m not allowed to have the money after they told me I had already won the award.

I’m angry. I’m upset. I’m sad. This university prides itself on the work of their students, but won’t support one of them along their journey to success. Let me lay it all out for you.

UCIS gives scholarships to study abroad for the top three ranked students in myPittGlobal, a Pitt developed website using the Suitable platform where students input their coursework, work related to their certificate, events they’ve attended, etc. When you complete certain requirements, you gain points and move up levels. This is where the rankings come into play.

I am currently ranked second on the myPittGlobal Leaderboard, making me eligible for the scholarship. Technically, I am the only student out of the top three students eligible for the scholarship as I am the only student who is not a senior. Knowing this information, I could have potentially received up to $3,000 – the total of all three of our scholarships (I wasn’t betting on it though).

The administrators and office workers within African Studies told me about the scholarship about a week or two ago (I can’t remember. Let’s be honest here.) Shortly after, the man in charge of money for UCIS, or rather the man in charge of scholarships, talked to me about my Summer plans. I told him that I was going to be going with professors and students from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) to study marginalized groups in Uganda, and how I would individually play a role in that.

At the beginning of the week, there was word floating around the office that they may not be able to give me money. They said that since the study abroad office “didn’t approve of the program for undergraduates,” they may not be able to sign the money over. (Apparently study abroad was in control of the money the whole time. Who knew?)

Today, I was sitting in the office and the head of the African Studies department told me that they weren’t going to be able to give me the money for the very reason stated above. And that was it. The man in charge of scholarships within UCIS just gave up on me – at least that’s what it felt like.

I was upset for a few reasons:

  1. They dangled this scholarship in front of my face when they initially told me that I was going to be receiving it, regardless of the amount, and now I’m not going to get any of it.
  2. UCIS, Study Abroad, and African Studies are using my name on a presentation board regarding the work that I will be doing in Uganda at an event next week, but the two aren’t fighting against study abroad so that I can be supported financially in doing something that will make them look good.
  3. I earned this scholarship. Regardless of how they get the money, they should be giving it to me because at no point did anyone say that I needed to be going on a “study abroad approved trip” in order to receive it. It’s my merit based scholarship. Let me build my merit with it.

I told the people working in African Studies to tell everyone that I was also going to study in Israel for ten days to see if that would make a difference. But nope. That’s not approved either. I even told them to mention how I went on a Pitt Study Abroad trip to Ghana last Summer, but that made no difference because that’s not where I’m going now. Basically, if you aren’t currently giving your money to Pitt’s Study Abroad office, they aren’t going to give you any money. 

Its been roughly 12 hours since I’ve gotten the news and I’m still upset about it. I started to fall into a slump and then I couldn’t do work anymore. My bottom lip began to pop out and all I could do was play Block! Hexa on my phone. The second I walked into my door at 4:54pm, I started crying and immediately poured myself a whisky iced tea – a drink that I never even finished.

I know that some of this is out of certain people’s control, but it just makes me upset because if they knew something like this was going to happen, or that there was a good chance of it happening (similar situation happened with another student but she got her money because it wasn’t coming from Study Abroad), then they shouldn’t have told me that I was going to get me the money in the first place. It just feels like a broken promise at this point.

I just wish everything weren’t based around bureaucracy and capitalism.


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