Meet Our 2017 Global Citizen of the Year Award Winner & Finalists

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Our 2017 Global Citizen of the Year is Yesenia Ayala (IES Abroad Santiago | Grinnell College)!

We reviewed powerful and inspiring submissions from students across more than 30 different U.S. colleges and universities who studied abroad or interned with us this past year. Each of the applicants shared their experiences and reflections on being a global citizen by answering the following questions:

  • How have you changed the world through study abroad?
  • How has the world and study abroad changed you?
  • How will you sustain or continue your impact?

The choice was difficult, but one winner and five finalists decisively rose to the top. Meet these six stand-out students who were – and are – change agents across the globe.



Yesenia Ayala | The Global Citizen of the Year 

IES Abroad Santiago | Grinnell College

“I hope that in one way during our individual tutoring, class sessions, and daily interactions I was able to change their perspective and create motivation in their lives in the same way they did with my life.”



Kathleen Blehl | The Influencer

IES Abroad Milan | Villanova University

“I look forward to inspiring others to find newer, more sustainable ways of doing things, changing the way we look at fashion, and creating a world with more creativity and less pollution.”


Dayna Mathew | The Advocate

IES Internships London | Loyola University Chicago

“I became more knowledgeable about my own prejudice and also became a champion for social justice. I vowed to fully immerse myself in this opportunity and change others’ mindsets about ‘criminals.’”


Marie Salem | The Volunteer

IES Abroad Buenos Aires | University of California – Berkeley

“I came to realize that the low-income minority populations I wish to serve don’t have the privilege to become frustrated and give up on dealing with the inequalities they face, and therefore, I should not have that privilege either.”


Lucy Sternbach | The Storyteller

IES Abroad Granada | Yale University

“This photo-narrative project, indeed, might have negligible significance. However, both the final-product narratives and the less-tangible conversations of my work could be part of a slow, yet important, paradigm shift for women around the world.”


Will Turett | The Researcher

IES Abroad Vienna | Williams College

“My primary takeaway from these experiences was not one of concrete language or cultural learning, but instead feeling increasingly connected to a globalizing world and recognizing the role (however small) I can play in solving the diverse, cross-national problems facing our world.”

Congratulations to our Winner Yesenia Ayala and all of our Finalists! Read more about our 2017 Global Citizen of the Year Awardees, and learn how they’re changing the world through study abroad and internships.

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