In October of 2015, I was fortunate enough (or so I thought) to meet a man by the name of Dr. Lane Rolling. To begin, I received an email about a study abroad seminar that would allow graduates to travel. Those who know me know that traveling and science are what I believe to be part of my true essence. I believe those persons would also agree that opportunities to do so have been few and far in between for me. So, I was naturally excited about what I believed to be a second chance opportunity. I was wrong. We learn from an early age to follow our inner voice; our conscience. Yet, I ignored red flags for this “opportunity”.
During this seminar I allowed myself to disregard Dr. Rolling’s boastful, narcissistic accounts of material things and revenge on old college roommates. Instead, I chose to delight myself in the stories of helping the sick in Peru. I even sat quiet as this black man made offensive jokes about the white students in the room (not like me) and jokingly belittled others. My excitement remained although I questioned this individual’s rhetoric. My mind played a bit of mental tug of war as I weighed the amazing opportunity to “get off the boat” and the undeniable turning in my stomach.
Ultimately, I continued to ignore this feeling and was accepted into this loosely organized international program. And I was grateful. Although I questioned things such as misspelled clinical questions and lack of professional correspondence, I also knew that an opportunity like this for someone like me was hard to come by. I continue to kick myself and deal with the shame of accepting what I felt was wrong for another line on my resume.
Eventually, I had to politely withdraw from the program. This was not due to my discomfort, but to financial difficulties. Prior to making my first payment, I was assured that I could receive a refund if needed. However, as of January 15, 2015, I have yet to receive my requested refund. Not only that, I have yet to receive any further communication from Dr. Rolling. How is this possible when every person I know in contact with him has heard from him since the aforementioned date?
It is my opinion that Dr. Lane Rolling is breaching our contract in an attempt to keep more than $1,000 of payment. I am just as shocked as I’m sure others who look up to him would be at his failure to respond. After a few days, I finally decided to do my research. Research I and those coordinating his seminar should have done ahead of time. I was stunned to hear stories from others who have withdrawn from the program. Stories of failed refunds, disrespectful telephone arguments and a common uneasiness. Even worse, my heart dropped when I found an article chronicling the loss of a promising college student from Virginia on this Peruvian excursion.
To be transparent, I feel betrayed and hurt by those who opened the door for Dr. Rolling. I have a sense of embarrassment that I am sure all who have been duped for their money feel. And quite frankly, I am angry. This debacle has weighed heavily on my mental state. I can barely fall asleep, and when I do I wake up angry to my first thoughts of man cowering behind his organization. With no listed residential ties to the United States since that student lost his life, this program is a huge gamble. Recovering these funds will require legal aid that may or may not work. To those who are interested, the money you send abroad may never be returned if you decide to withdraw or upset this unprofessional director.
I advise individuals hoping to study abroad anywhere to do in depth research… beyond what your facilitators place on the flyer. I firmly believe all universities should have a process of approval for all international opportunities in order to protect students. For those who come in contact with Dr. Rolling, I caution you. This man is not who he appears to be. I commend his good work, however I question his professional standing here in the United States, as well as his personal morals. This man is preying on students who believe they have little options to receive hands on experience in science. If I fell into his trap as a professional and not a student, I fear for the students in the HBCU community that he frequents. No opportunity will ever be worth my sanity, personal comfort, voice or loss of more than $1,000. Even if I cannot recover my funds, I hope this guides someone else away from making the same mistake. Bless.