The following was written by Aleesa de Castro, who is on the UGA Women’s Track & Field team. She is studying Entertainment & Media Studies through the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and had the opportunity to study abroad during May 2022.
All in all, there is no other way to describe this trip than a dream. In think a lot of what makes a great study abroad experience is finding the right program for you. For me, as an aspiring film producer, there was no better fit than the Cannes Film Festival. For the two weeks of the festival my classmates and I were at the global epicenter of the film industry. We were meeting filmmakers and buyers from all over the world. We were able to grow our networks and open our eyes to all the careers that exist in the entertainment landscape. It was magical. Every day consisted of screening international films, attending press junkets, dressing up for red carpets, meeting talent and industry professionals, trying different French foods, and exploring the French Rivera. I look back at this experience and it almost doesn’t even feel real.
For the screenings, we were the first to ever see these films, some of which may never even be seen again. We saw films from all over the world. Some that wowed us, and some that really put us right to sleep. It was exciting being the first to rate these films and express opinions on them, as the press from this film festival often either launches a film’s success or crushes its trajectory. Also, at the screenings and press junkets we are able to meet so many incredible people. One of my favorite memories from Cannes was getting to speak with Baz Luhrman, the director of Elvis, and the lead actor, Austin Butler. They two had spotted us at the press junket, and then came up to speak with us. Baz asked about my future, what I was doing in school, and then inspired me to always be creating. I got share my take on the film Elvis with him and express my admiration to him as an auteur filmmaker. This moment will stick with me for the rest of my life.
Another unique aspect of the film festival is just how truly global the film festival is. At the festival, there is the international village where each country has a tent that lines the beach. At these tents you can meet other filmmakers from around the world and learn more about what it available for filming in each of the countries. They often have events where they encourage filmmakers to come together, get know each other, and celebrate. I was fortunate to connect with several filmmakers from Ukraine, South Korea, India, Holland, Africa, France, and the U.K. I hope to stay in touch with many of these incredible people.
Studying abroad in Cannes, France was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It taught me so much about independence and leadership, and what that looks like off the track. My peers and I were in an unfamiliar city with a language we did not speak. We had to learn how to be self- sufficient, how to communicate, and how to navigate the festival. With a lot of freedom in our day to day, we had to create our own structure and plan out our own excursions, transportation, etc. As a student-athlete, I found myself to already be prepared for much of this. I stepped up to be a leader on my trip; which in turn allowed me to maximize this experience, and have the most incredible time.