Ripple Effects 2.6: Making Cents of Funding Options to Study in the United States

Picture of foreign currency
Funding graduate education in the United States is intimidating for many international students, with and without disabilities, but it doesn't have to be. Join us as we discuss some well-known and not so well-known methods of taking your funding strategy to the next level.

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Episode Transcript

Support for Ripple Effects comes from the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, sponsor of the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange, administered by Mobility International USA. To learn more go to www.MIUSA.org.

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I'm Justin Harford, Project Coordinator with Mobility International USA, bringing you a second season of Ripple Effects, travelers with disabilities abroad. This time, as part of our #Access2USA campaign, we bring you the stories of international students with disabilities studying in the United States. The goal is that more people will hear the stories and start to think about what is possible.

Justin: After learning about opportunities to study in the United States you might be thinking well great, but how will I afford it? Many international students with and without disabilities ask the same question. The answers Are as diverse as international students themselves.

There are many scholarships for graduate study in the United States offered by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the US Agency for International Development. Part of the mission of these agencies is to make these opportunities open to everyone. They actively encourage people with disabilities to apply and frequently host webinars for potential applicants with disabilities to learn about the programs and how to participate. These programs are open to everyone, whether you have a disability or not.

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Sameh: Okay so my name is Sameh Salalha. I'm from Palestine.

Justin: Sameh found such an opportunity in the US Agency for International Development Masters Scholarship Program for students from the West Bank in Palestine. He had a dream to get his Master's Degree in Teaching English as a Second Language to increase access to English for other blind Palestinians like himself.

Sameh: They're looking for people who need to make improvements and who are excited to make some change in society.

Justin: Sameh was exactly what the US Agency for International Development was looking for. He had already finished studies in Teaching English as a Second Language in the West Bank. After graduating from An-Najah University, he applied for teaching positions at several English schools, but feels that he was refused an opportunity because of his disability. He volunteered for three years and carried out an exhaustive project in which he made English language textbooks more accessible to blind people.

After completing an application process with essays, questions and an interview, Sameh was on his way to studying in the United States.

Sameh: They provided me I should say [laughter] they covered everything. I don't think I would be able to talk about each aspect of the support since they were covering different things. They're covering our flights, our residential life. They provided us as a sort of income to be able to purchase, to purchase food do these things. They provided me also with training sessions with three different trainers. One of them is the mobility and orientation training, the second is the rehabilitation training and the third is the technology training. I received all these types of trainings in the us how to handle lots of things since I'm living independently now. They provided me with the braille notetaking device which is called the VarioUltra device to be able to use it in my classes to take notes and read books. So they and they also provided me with a very important aspect in our lives which is the technology feed where I can purchase whatever technology I need to use in my education here at Nazareth College.

Justin: It is a good idea to contact the Financial Aid and International Student Offices of the university where you want to study to learn about financial opportunities like loans and scholarships. While a lot of funding is only available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, colleges do offer opportunities specifically for international students.

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Justin: Are you an international student with a disability who has studied or who is studying in the United States? #Access2USA needs you. Learn more about how you can join the #Access2USA campaign, tell us your story and share your insights. @MobilityINTL on Twitter, Mobility International USA on Facebook and www.MIUSA.org for our website.

Justin: Sometimes colleges like Oregon State University want to facilitate international exchange at the local level. They do this by providing financial support to international students in exchange for teaching community members about the customs and culture of their home countries.

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Justin: Shivangi Agrawal, a 2016 Oregon State University graduate with congenital disabilities in the hands and feet has found one such opportunity.

Shivangi: Yeah the scholarship is called ICSB International Cultural Service Program. It's like being an ambassador for your country in the university and the community in the city that you're in. So basically it involves me having to go to churches in this town or classes and presenting about my country, about different topics. So for example a few terms ago I was invited to go to speak at this philosophy class about Hinduism and religion in India and that was very interesting.

Justin: Before you come to the United States, you have to prove that you can support yourself for 12 months or two semesters. At the same time, many scholarships are only available after you arrive. This means that, like Sheriff Rasheed, who recently earned his master's degree from Grand Valley State University Michigan, you might have to get creative.

Sheriff: I got support from my family members. They contributed to my tuitions. I you know I sponsored myself for like two semesters. I need to find tuition for four semesters… I was able to pay for two semesters, and I got scholarships. Applied for different scholarships. I got some. I didn't get some. That's life. And I got a graduate assistantship which paid for part of my tuition with some stipends. That's how I finished my master's degree.

Justin: Shivangi's family even used loans so that she could get through her first two semesters, until she got her opportunity from Oregon State University.

Shivangi: So we had to take a loan, and so that was very difficult I think for my parents but I think it turned out well because once I got here I got a scholarship. It's not a full ride scholarship but it goes to like three fourths of the cost and I got a job which helped me cover all my rent and all my food and other expenses.

Justin: Yes. Money is something that you have to think about when planning your study in the United States, but it is not a barrier. Check with the Education USA Advising Center at the US Embassy in your home country, and the university that you want to attend, to learn about financial opportunities. Invite family, friends and even community organizations like Rotary to contribute to your dream. Take a job in your home country to save up money, and finally, fill in the remaining funding gaps with loans  from US banks, and other lending institutions.

Lastly, don't hesitate to contact us at the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange. We are happy to guide you in making your #Access2USA dream a reality.

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Justin: I'm Justin Harford and thank you for listening to Ripple Effects. Visit www.MIUSA.org to learn more about Mobility International USA and our mission to advance disability rights and leadership globally, and to share with us your Ripple Effect.