It is the last weekend of August. This weekend I am meeting with three bright students who received a grant from the AUC Scholarship Fund (ASF). As AUCAA, we have been promoting the ASF as a cause we hope alumni donate to. Yet, the ASF remains a rather impersonal fund and we thought it would be good to give this fund a face. Or rather, three faces.

Three ASF students

I talked to three third-year students: Fatiya (Humanities), Axel (Social Science) and Lance (Science). Each with their original view of what AUC is all about:
Fatiya: “AUC is to me the place where I can grow both personally and academically.”
Axel: “AUC is to me the place where I can get 21st century education – where I can learn how to deal with today’s world.”
Lance: “AUC is to me the place where people are unapologetically themselves – a place with very genuine interactions.”
I asked these three students some questions about what the ASF grant means to them. I was genuinely struck by their stories and the eye-openers they gave me. One of those eye-openers was: “With a loan, you cannot be your true self for some time. You have an obligation to someone else that forces you in certain directions.” More generally, I would like to share with you the three things they taught me.

1. The ASF is a big pull factor to attract talented students to AUC

Fatiya: “My father moved from Ghana via London to Amsterdam. He learned to become an electrician. He was far away from home and it was hugely difficult to pay back the loan. The ASF makes it possible for me to study close to home and without big worries about my next installment. This attracted me to AUC.”
Axel: “It is really simply – without the ASF grant I could not afford to be studying at AUC.”
Lance: “When I looked for where I wanted to study in 2014, I needed to look for places with scholarships from the start. Initially, that was the UK and the US, but later on I discovered that AUC also provides such scholarship, which widened my option space.”



2. The ASF grant enables students to do great other things next to AUC and to contribute in fantastic ways to the AUC community

Axel: “I was able to launch an app called Sharood for the dorms that was all about sharing food for free in a community. All food is for free, since you pay with a virtual currency called ‘cookies’. A meal costs between 1 cookie (e.g. pasta pesto) and 5 cookies (full Chinese rice table). The app has already 500 registered users. Last year Sharrood was also used to match students to refugees, so that the students could cook for refugees. By now ING is interested to use the app to get their employees to share lunch.”
Lance: “The grant enabled me to be part of many committees from day 1 such as TEDx and Jeuglab. This year I was voted to become Chair of AUCSA. A function that I would not be able to fulfil without the grant.”
Fatiya: “Due to the ASF grant, I am able to follow a bachelor in law next to my AUC curriculum. For me it is also important to give back to the community what I have received. For that reason, I am involved in homework tutoring.”



3. An ASF grant allows the student not only to study, but to enjoy a complete student life

Axel: “Participating in student life is expensive. Spending time with people costs money. Nobody is able to develop a friend group without spending money on activities, drinks, etc. People often don’t see that these costs are unavoidable if you want to be part of a social community.”
Fatiya: “If you pledge to the ASF, you are essentially creating a level playing field. You are giving students with an ASF grant the opportunity to study but also to really enjoy your time without the worries about finance that you’d have otherwise”



The meaning of money

I think Fatiya, Axel and Lance taught me a lot about the meaning of money this weekend in August. As Axel told me: “Once you really need a scholarship to study, you get to know the real meaning and value of money. It is in the subtle things. For instance, when you decide in what sort of dorm room you want to live, i.e. 1, 2 or 4-person dorm room. With sufficient money, one would make the trade-off between a lot of social interaction (positive) and a lot of distraction (negative) that both come with size.” With this example, I think I finally get it: the meaning of money is in the small things, but without money – they become big things.

After reading this article, I hope you consider donating money to the ASF.
I do realise that while most of you would share that vision, some might be hesitant to contribute for financial or time reasons. Let me be honest here: a small amount in the order of 10, 15 or 20 euros would already mean a lot. As for the time constraint, you can be reassured: the donation process takes you only 2 minutes and 50 seconds – yes, I used my stopwatch – as described in the straightforward steps below:

  1. 10 seconds: Click on this link
  2. 60 seconds: Fill in the short form
  3. 70 seconds: Transfer using iDeal or PayPal
  4. 30 seconds: Receive an email with an overview of your donation (your donation is tax deductible)

I believe our alumni network can transform a sum of small gestures into significant help for those disadvantaged students whose dream is to become our fellow alumni one day. I hope that many of you will decide to become part of this collective action.