We are thrilled to have been chosen as finalists in three categories of GoAbroad’s 2014 Innovation Awards! The winners will be announced at the upcoming NAFSA Conference in San Diego in May.
GoAbroad.com is one of the largest online study abroad databases for students to search study abroad program opportunities and listings. These annual innovation awards are designed to showcase the best of originality, creativity, and exceptional ideas in international education.
IES Abroad is a finalist in the following categories:
1. Innovation in Access and Equity
IES Abroad IDEA Bloggers
All students should have the opportunity to participate in an international education program. IES Abroad is dedicated to broadening access and cultivating a diverse, globally-savvy workforce. So, we launched our Initiative to Diversify Education Abroad (IDEA) to creatively address the relatively low participation of underrepresented students in study abroad.
Our IDEA Bloggers, a program that started in Fall 2013, are students of diverse backgrounds, as regards race, ethnicity, sexual orientation/identity, non-traditional major, disability, and/or first-generation college student, who are typically underrepresented in study abroad. These students are chosen to voice their perspectives via the IES Abroad blog network.
IDEA bloggers share their experiences abroad via a written, photo, video, or creative blog (we’ve even had a cartoonist!). So far, we have had the pleasure of having six IDEA Bloggers; our current IDEA bloggers include a varsity football player in Paris, an African American/multi-ethnic student in London, and a student of Hispanic heritage in Istanbul, Turkey.
The interplay of one’s identity—whether that be culture, race, religion, personal history, linguistic background—against the backdrop of a new culture and place can be fascinating. We ask our IDEA bloggers to capture general reflections of life abroad as a U.S. student, but also to share their unique perspectives to help inspire other prospective students of like background and for all students, no matter who they are.
2. Innovation in Marketing/Social Media
We [Heart] Study Abroad Campaign
Our goal for our “We Heart Study Abroad” campaign is to encourage our alumni, current students, and prospective students to share why they love study abroad on Valentine’s Day. By doing so, we engage our audience with a common mission and celebrate the holiday in a unique way.
Last year, we started the campaign with custom graphics for our email marketing and social media, and focused on asking prospective students, current students, and alumni to share why they love study abroad. We received excellent feedback, with more than 150 people on Facebook and Twitter sharing why they love study abroad. Because of the campaign’s success, we created promotional items (pens, buttons) with the “I heart study abroad” tagline to distribute at fairs, school events, and conferences.
This year, we dug deeper to find innovative ways to reach and interact with our audience. We launched our Instagram account, @IESabroad, during the week of Valentine’s Day. We also contacted eight alumni couples (seven married and one engaged) who met on an IES Abroad program, and asked them to share their stories. For instance, our Love in Granada Facebook post received 81 likes, 11 shares, and 15 comments, and had a reach of about 15,000 people! These stories were also shared on our website, Twitter, and Instagram, too.
We asked our talented student bloggers to tell us what they love about studying abroad, too—15 bloggers shared their unique stories in the form of writing, photos, and videos.
To round out the campaign, we compiled a collection of Valentine’s Day Traditions Around the World and a list of International Terms of Endearment—both were shared on www.IESabroad.org, Facebook, and Twitter.
3. Innovative Student Video
IES Abroad: Departing for Beijing by Alexa Penton
Alexa Penton, our IES Abroad Beijing student video blogger for Spring 2014, had us from her very first post: a short video of her time spent in the San Francisco airport before she departed for Beijing. To us, this video captures the excitement, the anticipation, the “butterflies in your stomach” feeling that come right before a student begins her/his once-in-a-lifetime study abroad experience.
We loved it so much that we shared it with prospective students to show them what it feels like before embarking on this educational journey with IES Abroad. Throughout the semester, it has been exciting to follow along on her travels in and around Beijing. We’re lucky to have her as an IES Abroad student blogger!
View all finalists and summaries of their submissions here.