By Troyce Grant

Taylor Potter, a graduate student at the University of Georgia, had dreamed of attending the Cannes Film Festival in France as an undergraduate.

Her original plan was to attend in her junior year, but that changed when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the university’s student travel programs.

Potter didn’t think she would have another opportunity to take the trip because she would be graduating. But when she decided to pursue her master’s degree at UGA, she was given a second chance to take the trip.

“You know, I was the sore thumb. Sticking out in that situation. I was the only grad student on the trip. And so that kind of situation is incredibly unlikely to happen again,” she said. “It just was kind of this perfect storm.”

Despite her graduate student status among a group of traveling undergraduates, Potter recognized the trip as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and knew she had to make the second chance happen.

Potter had saved money when she moved home to live with her parents during the height of the pandemic. She said each month she would put away 75% of her paychecks. Still, she needed to find more ways to raise enough money to avoid taking out student loans.

Potter got creative and decided to take to social media. She documented her entire journey on Instagram under the account name “@yes_i_cannes.” She created a calendar with days that people could donate money matching the date they chose to give. So, if someone selected the ninth of the month, they could donate $9.

By the end of her fundraiser, she had $2,000, including donations from a professor who had contributed on multiple days. With the amount she had saved before, Potter said she had $4,500, which was the bulk of the money needed to cover the $5,000 program.

Potter said she was grateful for the outpouring of support from her community.

“I think a lot of that community was built around, you know, around these three years to go on this trip,” Potter said.

Rebekah Seabolt, a global studies program manager at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, said she works with students interested in studying abroad who come from all kinds of financial backgrounds. She said they are all worried about the same thing: The best way to fund the program.

“The first thing I do is a spreadsheet … come up with highest points of estimation of what you would need to pay out of pocket,” Seabolt said, adding that she then helps “break that down into a manageable amount of how much you can save.”

Unlike Potter’s creative fundraising, most students can’t depend on getting financial help or support from others. Seabolt recommended taking on side tasks like babysitting and Uber driving. She also tells students to ask for money for special occasions such as a birthday instead of other non-cash gifts.

“I’ve had a few students come in and feel comfortable enough to open up to me about their financial situations at home,” Seabolt said. When students don’t have the financial resources to pay for studying abroad on their own or with family support, she encourages them to apply for scholarships. Seabolt said the university tries to make the programs manageable and available for many students and provides a significant amount of money through scholarships to support studying abroad for those who need assistance.

 

Troyce Grant is a journalism student at the University of Georgia