There’s news! My school, Western Washington University, announced a travel scholarship for anyone who registers for the Shanghai learning abroad trip!

As a result, I have submitted my application just minutes ago. This commits me to going, and commits me to the $1,000 deposit. With what I have already raised, plus the scholarship, I’ll have enough to cover the deposit, but the scholarship money isn’t disbursed until January 1st, so I’ll still have to pay out of my own funds, PLUS I still have to generate funds to pay for airfare, the visa, and other travel expenses.

I’ve raised a little over $700 so far, as a result of my caring and generous community that has provided both donations and paying side gigs. I have a lot further to go, but I’m so close to getting to that first milestone!

Again, if you’d like to donate, you can use PayPal here.

I’m so lucky to have this opportunity and I’m so very lucky to have you in my corner.

I’ve been offered an opportunity, and I’ve decided that if I can accept it, I should.

As a part of my MBA program, I have the chance to take a course on competing in a global environment at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. This is a very highly regarded school in China.

Of course, taking advantage of this opportunity isn’t free. While Western Washington University will cover accommodations and meals, I still have to pay for tuition, airfare, and visa and other expenses.

Before I break down my situation, let me tell you a little about myself:

I lost my last permanent, full time job in 2010, at the beginning of the “recovery” from the Great Recession. After that I exhausted my unemployment and my paltry “retirement” savings, leaving me completely broke. I worked part time and temporary jobs, and in fact, I haven’t had a full time permanent position since then.

Desperate, I filled out a FAFSA and found out that yes, funds were available for me to go back to school. This was a revelation to me; my parents said they were setting aside money throughout my childhood to invest and save for my college career, and yet somehow that money evaporated when I was an adult.

So I went back to school. I had no idea at that time that my passion would be in business.

I graduated with my degree in business administration in December of 2018, and made the decision at that time to pursue my MBA.

And that brings us to today. I still have no savings, and am still scraping by month to month.

But the opportunity to take a course at a prestigious foreign university is too huge to pass up if I can make it happen.

It will look great on my resume.

Having studied overseas, especially at Shanghai University, is going to look wonderful on my resume. It will open doors for me, someone who has spent ten years living in poverty, in terms of getting a good job and beginning to save for actual retirement. It will indicate my dedication to learning about my work and an ability to work well with those who are different from myself.

It will be a valuable educational experience.

I am passionate about the study of business in a way I never thought I would be. If you had told a younger me that in middle age, I would be furiously studying business and loving it, she would never have believed you. I’m fascinated with how business is part of the fabric of society and indeed of human nature. This is an opportunity to study how business impacts foreign economies, and the world economy. This will give me a more well-rounded view of my place in the world and the ways in which I can improve it.

It’s a chance to conquer fear.

I’m not embarrassed to say that I’m terrified to go. The idea of traveling to a foreign country on my own, going through customs and immigration on my own, navigating a foreign city on my own, is frightening to me. But my (former) therapist always told me that it was important to confront these anxieties in ways that are safe and constructive. This would be made more safe because I am traveling with classmates and our instructor, and thus less likely to become hopelessly lost in a city where I don’t speak the language.

My class needs enough people for the trip to go forward.

If we don’t have enough people committed to go, the trip may be cancelled, or the cost of it inflated until other classmates of mine can no longer afford it. It’s not a large cohort, only twenty people, so every one of us counts. If I get to go, not only does it benefit me, but it also benefits my classmates, who are people with the potential to get into business and change things for the better.

But I don’t have the money.

I presented this problem to my friends, and they suggested that I try to crowdfund it. I started that process and raised around $300 from my nearest and dearest, and I’ve started putting away my meager freelance income as well.

I’ve decided that if I can scrape together the $1000 deposit before the November 15th deadline, I will commit to going. This doesn’t cover the airfare, the cost of the visa, nor clothing expenses, etc. The reason I have to raise tuition costs for the course is that my partial tuition waiver from my work as a research assistant for the university doesn’t cover this course.

I’m almost halfway there.

After I get the deposit covered, I’ll start worrying about airfare and visa costs, and some wardrobe pieces so that I don’t look like a begpacker while I’m there.

I know you don’t know me well, dear reader, but if you have a few dollars to spare, every little bit helps. In terms of funding, I’m not using GoFundMe, I’m simply using my PayPal link. You can donate here.

I know it’s a lot to ask for people who may not know me, but I have to try. I have to try to make this happen.

If you’re not willing or able to donate, sharing this post with people would also help.

Thank you for reading.

You might think to yourself, well, Allison is a huge proponent of digital technology as a means of democratizing the publishing industry, so she must love digital versions of text books for her classes, right?

Wrong. I still buy them, because let’s face it, they save you money and they do take up a lot less space. But I absolutely despise digital versions of college text books. Let me tell you why.

They’re Not Ebooks.

We’re not talking about mobi files or epub files, or even pdf files that you can download and put on your Kindle (or e-reader of choice). They’re locked down, so that you have to read them on a computer or tablet screen, and you can only read them while you have internet access. This means that I can’t take my textbooks camping, or read them on a car or bus ride. It also means I have to read them on a lit screen, and that’s kind of a hassle because I find lit screens really hard to read on. This is why I love my Kindle Paperwhite; I can dim the screen as needed to make reading easier on my eyes. I can get the angle of the screen right for reading, reducing the impact of ambient lighting and other sources of glare. I can carry the Kindle around with me easily, hell, I can even vacuum with it in hand.

But no. No text books on your Kindle.

I do read on my laptop. I read article length pieces, typically 2,000 words or less. Reading on a computer screen for these short lengths of time isn’t a strain. Reading three chapters of college text books, on the other hand, is a much more time and labor intensive activity.

You Don’t Get to Keep Them.

You can’t keep these text books that you paid a hundred dollars for. Typically your access to the books expires at the end of the term or shortly after, which means you can’t use them for reference later in school or indeed in your professional career. You can’t download them and store them on your computer, so in essence you’re paying a hundred dollars (or more) to rent a digital text that is difficult to read.

It is a better value to rent a physical copy of the text book from Amazon than to purchase these “e-texts” because it costs a lot less and hey, you don’t get to keep it anyway. But this is often not an option because the digital text books come with a set of homework usually required by the class you’re taking. That means…

You Don’t Actually Get a Choice.

When these books come with homework sets in an online “class,” you’re forced to buy the e-text. You’re not forced to use it, because get this, you can pay extra to get a physical text book sent to you.

I actually had one class over summer quarter that made a purchase of online course materials optional, which was great because it meant that students who could afford to make that extra purchase were graded differently than those who couldn’t. That sounds completely fair, right?

So even when you do get a choice as to whether to buy or not, it’s not a real choice.

They’re a Bad Deal All Around.

They’re not a good deal for the consumer at all, for all the reasons mentioned above and more. I’m not going to get into why they get away with stuff like this, because that’s a topic that deserves its own blog post and requires a lot more research than I’ve done for this spur-of-the-moment complaint blog. Also there are likely people out there who have written on the subject better than I can.

But I will say this: if text book publishers had to compete in a market that was open and fair, things wouldn’t work this way.

Okay, I’m going to get back to doing my homework.