“It’s not even about the money. It’s seeing who is there for dreams and who still cares about dreams,” said Ryan Hess, UNC Charlotte student. Photo courtesy of Ryan Hess.

Ryan Hess is a typical Charlotte 49er. A member of the Business Honors Program and University Honors Program, brother with the university chapter of Sigma Tau Gamma, supporter of Niner Nation Gold, previous Resident Advisor for the Department of Housing and Residence Life and an acting or previous member of countless organizations on campus, Hess has done it all. At least, he almost has.

What’s next for Hess is time spent studying abroad in Italy at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan. He’s been accepted, he’s filling out the endless paperwork, but something is still missing. The next two months for Hess, in addition to the previous few months since his acceptance, will be dedicated to raising the funds to get him abroad.

After applying to dozens of scholarships, many of which did not pan out, Hess has started an online donation point through Rally.org, a website that allows individuals to create fundraisers and track donations.

“I got the idea in February. It was like, ‘Hey Ryan, maybe you should start a fundraiser.’ And I decided no, I hadn’t pulled out all the stops yet. I needed to do everything else, and then the scholarships weren’t working out. But I kept pushing it off and pushing it off,” said Hess. “But now, I’ve done too much and come too far to turn back.”

Italy and the university in Milan is what Hess considers a right fit for him. Not just the university or the country, he also feels a connection with the language in general.

“I studied French for two years. I studied Spanish for two years. And I just couldn’t connect to them. I was like, ‘eh.’ But then I studied Italian,” said Hess. “I love it, it’s just beautiful. And it doesn’t have to be practical. For once, I’m doing something because it makes me feel good.”

Hess has less than two months left before he needs to have his funds together. If all goes well, he will leave Sept. 1, after the Charlotte 49er’s first football game against the Campbell Camels, Hess happily says.

“I’m not expecting a lot, this is kind of like a Hail Mary. If it takes off and does well, then great but if it doesn’t, I will find a way. I’m pulling out every stop. I’ve applied for scholarships everyday, I’m trying everything. Every stack of paper in my backpack has to do with Italy,” said Hess.

To help Hess realize his dream, donate to his rally here. Tweet @NinerTimes using #HelpHessItaly2013 to share your thoughts on Hess’ story.

Eden Creamer was the Editor-in-Chief for the Niner Times from May 2013 through April 2015. She graduated from UNC Charlotte in May 2015, receiving her degree in Communication Studies with minors in English, Journalism and Women's Studies. She now does freelance proofing, copywriting and design in the Charlotte area, and can be reached at edencreamer@gmail.com