Growing up in northern Uganda, I managed to piece together an education by winning one scholarship after another. But I will somehow have to come up with tens of thousands of dollars on my own to attend one of America’s most elite institutions.
The good news came first: I had been admitted to Columbia University’s MFA writing program. I danced in celebration.
The bad news came later: The school would provide no financial aid—at least this was the news at first. I was devastated, but told myself, Anena, this is Columbia, you can’t let it go. I put up a GoFundMe where I am presently begging the world to contribute to my approximately $100,000 costs of attendance for just the first year of a two-year program ($62,912 of that is tuition, the rest is “living expenses” and other fees). By mid July, I had slightly more than $1,500 in donations.
In the months since I was admitted in March, I have continued singing into Columbia’s ears, telling her how much I need her, asking her to give me some funding. She said, I don’t have funding now; when I get it, I’ll let you know. In early June, I received an email saying I had received a scholarship after all. My heart leapt into my hands. I clicked the link to my student profile to see how much I had actually been given. $10,000. I quickly told myself, Relax, Anena. This is a more-than-good start. It means Columbia wants you for real real. So I wrote again and asked Columbia for more. On July 9, Columbia gave me another $10,000.