How I Made $2,500 In College To Pay For My New Zealand Engineering Trip

How you can do it without working more hours or selling products online.

Me at Hobbiton in New Zealand

If you are anything like me, you love to travel, to take vacations and to explore new places.

There are engineering programs out there like the International Scholar Laureate Program that take high-achieving engineering students to countries like New Zealand and China to learn more about engineering.

The only problem is that these programs cost money. A lot of money for college students.

These programs will cost around $2,000 for the program and your plane ticket will cost around $2,500 for a big old total of $4,500 to take part in the experience.

Between buying your plane ticket, paying for the program and having some money left over to buy food and some souvenirs it may seem impossible to go.

Tons of engineering students believe that they can’t afford it and end up not going.

I was able to attend the International Scholar Laureate Program in New Zealand while I was still in community college without having to pick up extra hours at work or having to sell any products to make money

Today I want to show engineering students how they can attend these programs debt free like I did.

Step 1: Get a part time job.

Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

The first thing you want to do is get a part time job.

This is so that you can save pretty much all of your paycheck for travel.

Part time jobs on campus, restaurants or even retail stores are great for college students because they don’t require a degree.

When I was invited to study in New Zealand with the scholar laureate program I was in community college, taking 4 classes and working part time at TJMaxx.

At the time I was getting paid $9/hr.

I don’t remember really having any monthly expenses. If I did they were extremely low.

I know there are a lot of college students out there that pay for rent. Don’t worry this method will still work if you have expenses, it may just require a little bit more effort.

Step 2: Calculate how much money you can save up for your trip.

Photo by Amol Tyagi on Unsplash

The next thing you will need to do is calculate how many hours you can realistically work while still doing school.

Take into account how long it takes you to do homework and study. I studied everyday and would do homework on the weekends.

However, I also worked on the weekends too.

I was working around 13 hours over the weekend.

Me being at $9/hour at the time I made around $100/week. So that is about $400 every month.

Now you will also need to calculate how much money you can save up.

You will need to factor in when you will need the money by also.

For me I got invited to go to New Zealand in February of 2015.

I needed to put a deposit down of $500 within 2 weeks I believe and then I could pay the rest of the program cost through a 3 to 4 month, monthly payment plan.

So I calculated that I could save up my paychecks from TJ Maxx with the current number of hours I was working to pay for the cost of the program in time. Great. But there was still a problem…

There was no way that I could work more hours and still do well in school to make the additional $2,500 I needed to buy the plane ticket.

This is where the next step comes in.

Step 3: Create a Fundraising video

Photo by Patrick on Unsplash

I remember when I was trying to figure out how I could get the rest of the money for New Zealand I had a light bulb moment.

I asked myself the question “How do I get the remaining money that I need If I can’t work any more hours?”

Then it hit me…

I said to myself “Why don’t I just ask people for the money?”

So the official way of asking people for money is to create a fundraiser.

I felt good about it because I was asking for money for a good cause. To further my engineering education with this unique opportunity.

Fundraising is the best way to make the money you need without any additional effort.

I made my fundraising video with the help of my father. We set up a fundraising page and threw it up on Youtube for everyone to see.

You can check out the exact fundraising video I did on Youtube here.

People feel good about helping younger people who are just starting out.

People want to see you succeed.

You want to make your fundraising video around 4 minutes in length. Anything longer than that and it feels a little too long.

Don’t worry about making your video perfect or crystal clear. The only thing you want to make sure is that your audio is clear. If people can’t hear you then it will be difficult to get your message across.

In your video you want to explain that you got invited to do a great program in New Zealand and the benefits to your education you would receive if you went.

Then you want to introduce the problem. The money problem. Tell people how much money you will need to pay to go on this experience.

From there you want to talk about your origin story. This is the story about how you got into engineering and the struggles you have overcome to get to where you are right now.

Then you want to explain how you help others in engineering and what you want to help others do.

Then you move into asking people for donations and tell them where they can donate.

That was my fundraising video in a nutshell. I warn you that it is not the best and I was completely awkward on camera. But I did it, and it worked. So study it and copy it.

Also, you may be able to find more information on how to make killer fundraising videos online.

Step 4: Ask for donations

Photo by Katt Yukawa on Unsplash

Now that the fundraising video is done, the only thing left to do is to ask for donations.

I felt pretty confident that people would donate.

But I also felt a little weird asking people at school to donate.

I mustered up the courage and went around telling everyone that I had a fundraiser and if they could donate.

The first people you should always ask are friends and family. They are more likely to donate than a complete stranger.

Now when you ask for donations ask for high range.

I asked for donations between $50 and $100.

People told me that I would never get that.

Guess what happened?

SURPRISE! 80% of the donations I got were either $50 or $100.

Some were $20 and one was $500.

The point here is that you get what you ask for.

If you don’t give people a dollar amount they will give you anything. You are leaving it up to them to guess what is a good dollar amount.

You would probably get donations of $5 or $10 if you told people to just donate, which just won’t make you the money fast enough.

Ask your friends and family to share your fundraising page on their social networks.

I was brainstorming a list of companies that may be able to donate.

At the time I saw that Lockheed Martin was a supporter of STEM(science technology engineering and math) education.

So I asked myself what if I got Lockheed Martin to donate to my fundraising campaign?

I went online and googled the email address of the CEO of Lockheed Martin at the time, Marillyn A. Hewson.

Surprisingly it was not hard to find her email. I honestly did not know if it was her legit email address or not but I figured if it’s her great, if it’s not her then maybe whoever it is will donate. I had nothing to lose.

I emailed her and to the surprise of many people (including my own) I actually got a response back.

However it was from a secretary or administrative assistant of Marillyn Hewson.

She replied (and I’m paraphrasing here) that it was great what I was trying to do but for legal reasons Lockheed Martin cannot donate to individuals. Good luck with your education.

What I really want to get across here is that you should just go and ask everyone that could potentially say yes…which is pretty much everyone in the world.

Getting the donations was just a numbers game. The more people you ask, the more donations you will potentially get.

Also the other main point I want to get across here is that if you don’t ask you won’t receive. Don’t automatically think people will say no. You will be surprised how far you may get with just asking.

To wrap this up, I collected the $2,500 in donations that I needed within 3 months, bought my plane ticket and enjoyed my time in New Zealand.


I hope this gave you some inspiration into how you can attend these great engineering experiences.

Remember, never say I can’t afford it. Always ask the question “how can I afford it?”

This simple shift will change your life as it has changed mine.

What’s Next?

If you enjoyed this article, check out my other articles on medium.