University of Wisconsin's Sami Stidham Wins Study Abroad Film Festival for "Take the Goggles Off"

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IES Abroad
October 13, 2023
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We rolled out the red carpet for our Film Festival at VenueSIX10 in downtown Chicago on Thursday, October 12th—all in benefit of IES Abroad scholarships.

Sami Stidham (University of Wisconsin Madison| IES Abroad Barcelona, Spring 2023) took home the Grand Prize for the 9th annual Study Abroad Film Festival for her film "Take the Goggles Off."

The award was presented by the Film Festival's host, Patrick Jager, an IES Abroad Vienna alum, Study Abroad Film Festival Juror, and an award-winning media executive who led the development and production team behind such hits as A&E “Biography”, VH1 “Behind the Music,” and the creator of HGTVs mega hit “Fixer Upper.”

She received the $1,500 Grand Prize and secured the newly created $5,000 IES Abroad Barbara Bobrich Annual scholarship for a future University of Wisconsin Madison study abroad student in financial need, made possible by a $600,000 donation by the late Barbara Bobrich.

During Patrick’s celebratory opening remarks, he said,

Headshot of Patrick Jager
“Once again I am blown away by our submissions, and in particular the finalists and their incredible films. Every year the bar is raised, and the stories become more and more authentic. Watching the films I yearned to be walking cobblestone streets, stopping to look out at ancient vistas and connecting the a larger world, while also being intimate and vulnerable. For those of you who have not seen any of this year’s films, you are in for a treat. Each story is uniquely different and equally captivating. And THAT is truly powerful.”
Patrick Jager | IES Abroad Vienna Alum | Study Abroad Film Festival Juror | Award-winning Media Executive

Watch the 2023 Film Festival Event

Stidham is a Senior at the University of Wisconsin studying Journalism. She studied abroad with IES Abroad Barcelona during the 2023 Spring term. Her film was awarded top honors based on votes by the public, who were able to watch the films online and vote for their favorite Finalist film.

Stidham’s film, “Take the Goggles Off,” is a thought-provoking and visually captivating film that encourages viewers to embrace the profound beauty hidden within the everyday moments of life. The film highlights the importance of finding wonder not only in exciting adventures but also in the seemingly mundane aspects of daily existence.

Talking about her film, she said,

Sami Stidham solo shot

"I am a journalism major and a film minor, so words are kind of a big part of what I do. But I think I could know every word in every language, and none of it would be enough to ever explain how much love and gratitude I have for my family and for all of my friends who have become my family. So thank you to my family and friends for supporting me through this and through all parts of my life... I think anyone in this room would agree that studying abroad changes your life, and it certainly did for me. I want to thank Grace, who is the girl on the coast who had shared that quote with me and largely inspired the film. So thank you to her and keep those goggles off." - Sami Stidham | University of Wisconsin | IES Abroad Barcelona

The Finalist films were viewed and narrowed down to four Finalists by a prominent jury of directors, editors, producers and screenwriters, the majority of whom are either IES Abroad alumni or Film Studies faculty from IES Abroad’s international Centers.

This year’s Film Festival runners-up were:

“Lost Time” | by Emily Greenzang (University of Rochester) and Grant Didway (Whitman College) | IES Abroad Granada, Spring 2023

  • “Lost Time” beautifully illustrates that while the study abroad journey may conclude, the memories created during this time will forever shape their lives, emphasizing the enduring power of nostalgia and the value of intangible connections.

“Silent Echoes” | William Moore-Jones (University of Texas at Austin) | IES Abroad Barcelona, Spring 2023

  • Born from the filmmaker's study abroad experience and a journey through depression, “Silent Echoes” takes viewers on a captivating exploration of the profound realization that happiness resides within each individual.

Amy Ruhter McMillan, Senior Associate Vice President of Marketing and Founder of the IES Abroad Study Abroad Film Festival, says,

Amy Ruhter McMillan headshot
“This year's Finalists have not only elevated the standard but transcended it, leaving us deeply moved by their storytelling abilities. Each year we think the Festival couldn't possibly get any better, and then our students prove us wrong with their extraordinary films. Films that resonate with authenticity, inspire wanderlust, and ignite a spark of curiosity. This year’s Film Festival is not to be missed, and we look forward to sharing these Finalists’ films on the big screen and inspiring audiences from near and far.”
Amy Ruhter McMillan | Senior Associate Vice President of Marketing | IES Abroad Study Abroad Film Festival Founder
Film Fest

The IES Abroad Study Abroad Film Festival gave attendees the opportunity to engage with students, alumni, and the local film and entertainment communities, as well as to raise awareness about the power of study abroad. The red-carpet event showcased incredible students and their enriched educational experiences through their films, in addition to helping raise IES Abroad scholarship funds to send even more students abroad.

Through these visual journeys, the Film Festival helps increase the awareness of the benefits of studying abroad to new audiences, as well as helps raise IES Abroad scholarship funds to send even more students abroad. To date, the IES Abroad Film Festival has raised more than $700,000 for IES Abroad programs and scholarships

Film Fest winner announcement

This year’s Film Festival sponsors include: Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., Barnes & Thornburg LLP, Colliers, Cultural Insurance Services International, ESW Inc., Lockton Companies, Huron, Radisson Blu, Graphic Arts, AWS, Pratyasha Rath, Deirdre Campbell, and Erika and Jon Maschmeyer.

Congratulations to Sami and all the Finalists! Learn more about the IES Abroad Film Festival and you can still watch the livestream from the event!

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