Students are using crowdfunding to make overseas dreams come true | education$higher-studies | Hindustan Times
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Students are using crowdfunding to make overseas dreams come true

Kids are raising lakhs online, for study-related causes ranging from an expedition to Antarctica to an art course in New York.

education Updated: Aug 03, 2017 15:06 IST
Lavina Mulchandani
(iStock Photo)

What’s the most adventurous thing you would like to do while in college — a field trip to Africa, a short-term course in art history somewhere in Europe?

Not many college students are can afford such adventures. Most either drop the idea altogether or, if they’re really committed to it, try for a student loan.

There’s an Option C now, it’s simpler, faster and more effective. Students are using online crowdfunding to raise money for passion projects that they cannot afford.

On platforms such as Ketto, Bitgiving, Milaap and Generosity, youngsters are putting up heartfelt appeals explaining why strangers should help them attend seminars abroad, buy sports gear or pay for a ticket to football tournament on the other side of the world.

“Students around the world are open to crowdfunding, and it’s good to see them fund the activities they are passionate about. It’s important to keep the goal realistic — and be truthful and accurate,” says Richa Dwivedi Saklani, managing director at Stoodnt Inc, a career guidance company based in the US. “Don’t try and pitch a world tour as a study trip.”

That doesn’t mean you rule out travel altogether! Abhishek Aggarwal, 20, a final-year chemical engineering student at IIT-Delhi is currently crowdfunding part of the expense of an expedition to Antarctica.

He has been selected for a 14-day international expedition hosted by the 2041 Foundation that focuses on climate change, one of 80 people from around the world who are actively participating in the social development of their communities. “I applied for the expedition in the first week on June, sending my CV and certifications of social campaigns I have been a part of,” he says. “After an interview I got selected by end of June and started the crowdfunding campaign in July.”

Aggarwal has to pay for his stay, food and transport there. “Total cost comes to around Rs 12.5 lakh,” he says. He will learn about climate change, renewable energy, sustainability and how it affects our present and future along with a better understanding of the continent’s fragile ecosystem. “I promised to send 5 high-definition photo shots from Antartica to anyone who contributes more than Rs 1,000 to my cause 20 shots and a handwritten postcard for anyone who contributes more than Rs 5,000,” he says.

He has to pay Rs 2.5 lakh as initial fees in 15 days. “Looking at success stories of people who have got crowdfunded, I chose it as my way of getting the down payment, I may take a loan for the rest.” He has got Rs 70,000 till now and hopes to get the rest soon on Ketto, the crowdfunding platform.

“It’s generally more difficult to get crowdfunding for travel-based causes,” says Varun Sheth, founder and CEO of Ketto. “Going abroad for sports tournaments or pursuing scholarship programmes may be easier to fund. But it also depends on how well you present the cause — and how much are you’re asking for.”

Making it happen

Do it right
  • Don’t try and take a world trip and pretend it’s for study. Pick a genuine cause.
  • Have realistic goals; don’t aim to raise more than Rs 5 lakh at a time.
  • Get your initial funders in place, establish connections with possible contributors online before you launch your campaign.
  • Use a lot of pictures and videos to tell your story and explain why someone should help you reach your goal.
  • Describe the cause in detail , tell the donors how the money will be used and why your cause matters.(Sources: Mayukh Choudhury, CEO of crowdfunding platform Milaap, and Richa Dwivedi Saklani MD of career guidance company Stoodnt Inc

Juhi Sharma, 25, a graduate from Chennai wanted to pursue a Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) with a focus on cinema, at the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema in New York. She got a partial scholarship from the institute, but still had to raise nearly Rs 19 lakh.

“I was denied loans by several banks. I applied for other scholarships but did not get them.”

Crowdfunding was her last resort. Sharma started her campaign in April and raised Rs 13.47 lakh by June. She is now in New York; her course is set to start in August. “It was a successful campaign as I generated major chunk without falling into debt. I am exploring part-time employment opportunities in university and enjoying the weather in the US,” she says with a smile.

It’s not just individual students using crowdfunding. A team of 23 from IIT-Bombay is currently campaigning to raise Rs 10 lakh for a prototype of an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUVs) that they have designed.

“We participated in a competition called Robosub in the US with more than 45 universities participating,” says Varun Mittal, 22, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student. “Presently there are only a few industries and student teams who are into making ROVs (Robot Operated Underwater Vehicles) let alone AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles). In such a scenario, we are aiming to make something no one in our country has achieved.”

While our institute does fund us, there is an upper cap on the budget and hence we always look for external sponsorships and support, Mittal adds. “Total money we needed was Rs 10 lakh to participate in Robosub, while we have got that money from various sources including crowdfunding, we are now looking to get crowdfunded to buy SONAR, a sensor for our AUV that will cost around Rs 40 lakh.”

How to make it viable

When Aparna Surampudi, 23, a PhD student from Andhra Pradesh was looking to get crowdfunded to attend Darwin’s scholarship programme to study biodiversity in the UK, she did it a little differently. “I did not just mention the fund I need but displayed the classification of them,” she says. “This is so you exactly know where your funds will go.”

Surampudi has been an active biodiversity conservationist in the Eastern Ghats (range of mountains that run parallel to the Bay of Bengal) and mentioned all the recordings she had on the campaign page. “I also mentioned to have spotted the first sighting of thick-billed green pigeon,” she says with a smile. “To all who contributed more than Rs 2,500 will get a special mention in my thesis, I said that in my campaign.”

Surampudi arranged all the money she needed, in fact, a little more. She earned a total of Rs 2,09,100 through the campaign.

“I always want to know how a cause will help the community in long run before contributing to it, says Neesha Shah, 27, a physician from Sion who contributes to students especially, across crowdfunding platforms. “I do not necessarily contribute to tuition fees but I am open to sponsoring their trip if it helps them and the community in the long run.”