Study Abroad Film Festival

You are here

The Study Abroad Film Festival asks IES Abroad students to capture the spirit of study abroad—both what it means to you, and how it redefined your world.

We know you have an amazing story to tell and we don’t want to just hear it, we want to see it. Make us laugh. Make us cry. Teach us. Challenge us to think about the world that we live in and move us to do something about it.

We move your world. Now it’s your turn to move ours. We invite you to submit your short films—up to three!—that encompass the spirit of study abroad and how it redefined you!

Looking for study abroad film programs? Check out all of our programs with film courses here.

Submission Categories

We know that every experience has something to teach. That’s why your short film can be about any aspect of your journey that captures the spirit of study abroad. Check out the three categories below to decide which one your film will compete within.


A Day in the Life (90 second maximum) 
Your day is more extraordinary than you realize- show us what it looks like! Submit to this category to give a brief, but vibrant glimpse into your day-to-day life abroad. 

Creative Short (10 minute maximum)
Creative Shorts can be stories of personal development and reflection, music videos, explorations of social issues and events in your host country, reenactments, and more.

We want to learn from you! What did study abroad teach you about the world? Submit your film to this category if your film provides factual information on a topic or theme, or was created as part of an IES Abroad film course.

Our Previous Winners
"Tangier to Casablanca" | 2018 Winner

Philip Baites | University of Tenessee, Knoxville | IES Abroad Rabat, Academic Year 17-18

"This original song and film encapsulates my 9-month study abroad with IES Abroad Rabat in Morocco. Featuring a train ride, Chefchaouen (the 'Blue City'), Rabat, the Sahara Desert, cameos by two sweet neighbor girls, my Arabic professor, and my precious host mother, Doha, as the central character, 'Tangier to Casablanca' is a story of pain, joy, longing, and journeys intertwining. Two months after I arrived in Morocco, my host mother received news that her father unexpectedly passed away in Canada. Ultimately, this tragedy led to a bond to be formed between us, while also teaching me a valuable lesson. We are all on a journey. And it’s not the places or sites seen that have the lasting impact on us. It’s the people."

"Solitude: A Companion Abroad" | 2017 Winner

Ismael Byers & Kyle Arnold | Hope College & Ithaca College | IES Abroad Santiago, Fall 2016

“The short film we have produced aims to showcase the perspectives of students who studied abroad in Santiago, Chile this semester asking them ‘Why they studied abroad’ and their plans after. We used their responses to guide our writing of the film. The question ‘Why abroad?’ hoped to gain responses that suggested personal growth, change or enlightenment as we explain that study abroad is not always what one expects. It is not always so loud and glamorous, it is also quiet, ‘melancholy’ and lonely. This loneliness, actually becomes our greatest teacher and companion. This companion not only accompanies us but also allows us to search our innermost selves, helping us answer questions such as ‘What are we going to do after?’”

"Even in Europe..." | 2016 Winner

Jordan Cain | Indiana University | IES Abroad Vienna, Spring 2016

“These are the highlights of my semester studying abroad in Europe! I took a camera with me everywhere I went and danced, walked, and had fun hanging out in front of the what I thought was beautiful and unique to the city. I also danced in the places I spent my most time while I was studying in Vienna, such as a grocery store called Billa. I am so thankful I had this opportunity to travel and learn about so many different things in the world and this production is my way of communicating my feelings and experiences throughout.”

"It's Okay" | 2015 Winner

Kyle Rodriguez | Occidental College | IES Abroad Buenos Aires, Spring 2015

“Studying abroad is a strange and specific time that comes with a lot of expectations. We talk about the life changing time we had and how different we feel when we reach its end. But I also think that there are crucial aspects of studying abroad that people don’t talk about. Things that are too personal or too somber for casual conversation.

'It's Okay' is a reflection on the way that this experience humbles us by making each of us hyperaware of our faults and insecurities. It is a time where we can recognize that it is not about conquering our weaknesses; it is about discovering them. And in the end, we might find the strength to understand these weaknesses, and move forward.”

"East of Here" | 2014 Winner

Alexa Penton | University of Mississippi | IES Abroad Beijing, Spring 2014

"'East of Here' is told from several different perspectives, each interviewee offering a short insight into how they have been changed by their time abroad. I hope that, as a result, 'East of Here' also invites the viewer to reflect and reconsider his or her own feelings on what they see and hear on the screen. As I say in the film, China is only recently 'open' to the world--and the world only recently open to it. Comparatively few Americans know well the history of China or fully understand China in its modernity. 'East of Here' showcases the spirit of study abroad in that it challenges the viewer to look deeply into the fabric of a very foreign country and emerge, hopefully, with their perceptions and opinions redefined."

A Record-Breaking 2018 Study Abroad Film Festival

Thoughtful and creative filmmakers. Films that make you laugh, cry, and want to travel the world. No, not the Oscars (but close), we're talking about our 2018 Study Abroad Film Festival event! We were thrilled to announce our Grand Prize Winner during the second live IES Abroad Study Abroad Film Festival event on November 7th, at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago. The night was MC'd by award winning film critic Richard Roeper and was attended by almost 200 study abroad lovers, students, and staff.



Featured Media Coverage

Hope College Student Wins First Place in IES Abroad Study Abroad Film Festival

Ismael Byers, a Hope student, and Kyle Arnold, a student at Ithaca College, submitted their creative short documentary film, “Solitude: A Companion Abroad,” to the IES Abroad Study Abroad Film Festival after filming during their time in Santiago, Chile.

By Sarah Heth 
November 10, 2017

Kate Flannery to Host Awards Gala for Student Film Festival

Actress and comedian Kate Flannery, best known for her long run as Meredith on “The Office” — and as a founding member of Chicago’s Annoyance Theater — will be the emcee of the IES Study Abroad Film Festival’s awards gala Wednesday at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

By Bill Zwecker
October , 2017

IU Student Dances through Europe to Win Film Contest

From the steps of the Roman Pantheon temple, a group of tourists watched the most peculiar street performer, a young man doing the Carlton as the Foals hit “My Number” played from his back pocket.

By Brielle Saggese
August 31st, 2016

UR Student's Film Explores Personal Quest to Understand Identity

The film Thamine Nayeem made about studying abroad is much more than a travelogue. When her younger sister watched it, she cried. “She said, ‘This articulates everything that I’ve been feeling, but I never know how to express it,’ ” Nayeem said.

By Karin Kapsidelis
September 5, 2016

UGA Student One of Five Finalists in Film Festival Competition

A short film produced by Rachel Beavers, a University of Georgia telecommunications student and native of Atlanta, was selected as one of five finalists in this year’s IES Abroad Film Festival. 

By Staff Reports
August 30, 2016

We're still pinching ourselves over all the coverage our 2017 Study Abroad Film Festival received. After everything was said and done, our 2017 Festival resulted in 300+ media placements, highlighting not only power of study abroad, but the incredible storytelling prowess of our students and alumni. Watch our highlight reel below!