Western Union grant helps international students with financial hardships

Ava Barrett, a TROY student from the Bahamas, recently received a grant to alleviate COVID-19-related financial hardships.

Ava Barrett, a TROY student from the Bahamas, recently received a grant to alleviate COVID-19-related financial hardships.

The coronavirus’ impact has been felt all over the nation, but has hit international students particularly hard.

Kathleen Freed, the International Student Adviser at TROY, nominates international students and helps them apply for scholarships when they may be facing financial hardships.

The Western Union Foundation offered a grant of $10,000,” Freed said. “We have nominated eight international students and we managed to secure five.”

Ava Barrett is one of those students.

At TROY, Barrett was a member of the Music Industry program and in the band POPulus for three years.

“I fairly enjoyed it,” Barrett said. “I sang as a lead vocalist.

“I’ve gotten to see POPulus rise while I was there. They’ve turned high schoolers into professional musicians and that’s a program that I’m proud to say I was a part of.”

Freed reached out to Barrett after nominating her for the grant. Barrett had been dealing with financial hardships from both COVID-19 and Hurricane Dorian’s disruption in Barrett’s home, the Bahamas.

“At that point, it was worth a try,” Barrett said. “I went ahead and submitted my application, which was just a few documents, but also an essay.

“I had to explain why I was in need and what I’ve been through. Dealing with COVID-19 and Hurricane Dorian, financial assistance has helped me extraordinarily. The scholarship has really helped my mom to be able to carry me through TROY.”

International students are facing economic struggles and things aren’t as simple as they used to be.

“Their currency has devalued,” Freed said. “Suddenly, school is more expensive than what it was before.

“Also, their family members have lost their jobs, and so they’re losing financial support from their sponsors, their borders are sometimes closed or flying home is just suddenly expensive.”

Both COVID and Hurricane Dorian have had a damaging impact on Barrett’s home life.

“It’s more about the economy right now,” Barrett said. “A lot of the Bahamians are struggling, and a lot of people have lost everything familiar to them.

“There are others who have lost businesses and business opportunities based on the fact that the economy hasn’t returned to its value before the storm and before COVID. With the economy being terrible and me not being able to work to bring in income, you can obviously tell it can be a struggle for anyone.”

Barrett says she is thankful to TROY for providing numerous opportunities for her to continue to excel in her studies. Hardships and financial burdens haven’t stopped her from accomplishing the things that are most important to her.

“Among other personal issues that I’ve experienced like being a freshman and becoming a senior, a lot of things made it seem like my academic career would come to a pause because I didn’t have the tuition to back it,” Barrett said. “Without Troy University, I wouldn’t know about the opportunity.

“TROY has been consistently supporting me this whole time and I’m so thankful.”

Barrett interned in the fall at PLA Media, a Nashville, Tennessee-based public relations firm where she gets to work with songwriters and artists within the entertainment industry.

After graduation in December, she plans to continue working for the firm.

“Working hard is definitely the solution to all things,” Barrett concluded. “Even when it looks like something may not be working, it’s always about bringing positivity to your situation.”

The international department is starting a food pantry with the Office of Civic Engagement for international students who are facing food insecurity.

If anyone is interested in supporting the international students, they can contact the Associate Dean of the International Student Services, Linda Marie Frigge.