What’s Your Study Abroad Journey?

Guest post by Wagaye Johannes

“I wish I had studied abroad, but……

I hear this phrase often. Working in the field of international education, I meet many people who did not study abroad who say wistfully that they regret not taking advantage of it during college. Perhaps it was money or time, a relationship or sports, or maybe fear inhibited them. Although the reasons may be different, the net result seems to be the same: They wish they had studied abroad.

As part of my job, I also have the wonderful opportunity of meeting plenty of people who have studied or worked overseas. These study abroad alums feel compelled to immediately share with me their study abroad journey. How their time abroad changed what they wanted to major in, their career trajectory, and their perspective on being an American within a global context. They look upon their journey with fondness though the actual experience may have been filled with anxiety, struggles with communication in a foreign language, plans going awry, getting lost, and many more mishaps. Yet they view their collective experiences as a net positive that can be articulated in many different ways to explain some of the most important skills that they use today.

Study abroad is a powerful, formative life experience. Yet less than 10% of U.S. college students graduate with some kind of international experience as part of their college educIIESUMMIT2015__Christine O'Dea Winner Remarksation. We must find new innovative ways to communicate the value of studying abroad to young people today so that they, too, can reap the benefits of studying abroad.

One way is through videos, which has led the Institute of International Education in partnership with the New York Times in Education to launch the 2016 IIE Generation Study Abroad Voices Video Challenge. This digital storytelling contest is part of IIE’s Generation Study Abroad, a five-year initiative to double the number of students studying abroad by the end of the decade. By hearing and seeing study abroad alumni articulate the value of their study abroad experience, we hope to inspire Generation Z and others across the United States, to seek out an international experience as part of their college education.

Study abroad returnees (young and old alike) are encouraged to submit digital story submissions between 0:30 seconds and 2 minutes long that demonstrate how study abroad gave them an edge, the impact it had on their personal or professional life and the world, and how The New York Times content helped them navigate, enhance or make sense of their experience. Two winning digital stories will be selected and highlighted on the The New York Times in Education website, IIE’s Generation Study Abroad website, and across social media. Additionally, the winners will receive an iPad, $1,000 cash prize, and a trip to Washington, D.C., to attend the IIE Summit on Generation Study Abroad from October 23 – 25, 2016 as a “Generation Study Abroad Voice.”

What ever your study abroad story is, you can participate:

  • If you’ve studied abroad, submit a video.
  • If you know someone who studied abroad, encourage them to submit a video.
  • If you believe in study abroad, share the 2015 winning videos in your community, classroom and on social media to inspire more people to do it.

Contest Submission Deadline: June 15, 2016  

With your help, we can get more Americans to embark on a study abroad journey, as opposed to looking back on the road not taken wondering what could have been. #generationstudyabroad @iieglobal

Wagaye Johannes leads IIE’s Generation Study Abroad initiative. She is passionate about all things international and has lived/worked/studied in Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, and Japan. She holds an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Amsterdam and a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College.

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