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OPINION: You are not a poor college student

Disclaimer: Some college students are barely getting by day-to-day and are paying with the little they have to be at this university. This article does not belittle that reality.

You may think you’re a “poor college student” if you ate ramen noodles one night during the semester, bought a flannel at Thriftsmart or spent too much money on OrderUp, but the truth is, you’re not.

In fact, you–or your parents–pay approximately $40,000 a year for a meal plan in the Taj Mahal of cafeterias and for the chance to walk the grounds of Belmont’s architectural glory and fountains of knowledge.

Compared to the rest of the world, a college student is rich. The average recent college graduate makes $45,327 according to the September 2014 Salary Survey report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

This makes the recent college graduate richer than 99.6 percent of the rest of the world, according to Care International’s Global Rich List website which allows users to input their salaries and see how their wealth matches up with the remainder of the world.

If the numbers weren’t convincing, the Compassion Experience– located in the library parking Friday lot through Sunday– presented an interactive experience of extreme poverty.

At the Compassion Experience, participants could follow a journey of the story of two Compassion-sponsored children, Sameson from Ethiopia and Yannely from the Dominican Republic. Both were stories of individuals who faced fear and hunger daily as children but found opportunities for jobs and education through the encouragement and financial support of their Compassion sponsors.

Complete with audio narrated by a child and staged rooms, the tent transported Belmont students and Nashville natives from Belmont Boulevard and Music Row to cramped homes with wood boards as walls and a single stove. Then, participants went to a compassion classroom in each prospective nation and saw how that influenced each child as he and she faced a challenge.

In Sameson’s journey, participants learned there are 4.5 million orphans in Ethiopia and that “22 percent of children from ages 5 through 14 are working, but school attendance among that same age is 54 percent” from statisitcs posted on the walls of the tent.

Sameson struggled with navigating the tests in the education system with his minimal preparation and living situation at home, but he found support and direction at his Compassion center.

Yannely found herself in a similar crisis in the Dominican Republic. After facing a series of hurdles through the complex education systems, she finally became a doctor to aid children and adults suffering from disease due to poor water conditions. In fact, 12 percent of the world’s population uses 85 percent of the world’s clean water supply, yet the 12 percent solely includes developed countries, according to the event.

After the walkthrough, participants had the option to sponsor a child in various countries going through similar situations of lack of food, education, parental support or shelter.

The event allowed people to experience true poverty, not a first-world variation of “my day didn’t go quite my way” poverty.

We at Belmont have the opportunity to eat, live in air-conditioned and heated rooms, drink clean water, have access to Wi-Fi and obtain one of the most desired commodities around the world–education.

Meanwhile, across the globe and even in the neighborhoods of Nashville, families are going to bed hungry, don’t have access to clean water systems and lack the same support system to even dream of attending an institution of higher education.

So, what are we rich college students going to do about it?

Students can learn more about volunteering through Compassion or sponsoring a child online.

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