Some of you may have already caught wind of the hubub, but last year Go Overseas partnered up with Education New Zealand to offer one full ride scholarship to study abroad in New Zealand. Since most students cite cost as the biggest barrier to studying abroad, the scholarship, unsurprisingly, caused quite a stir on college campuses throughout the nation.
So whether you followed last year's scholarship from start to finish and want to know more, or are just hearing about it for the first time, I'm sure you're curious to know: Who won the scholarship? Will Go Overseas be running it again this year (*hint* YES *hint*)? And who's idea was it anyway to give away a scholarship to study in New Zealand of all places? Read on for the full inside scoop.
What Was the New Zealand Study Abroad Scholarship?
When I say "full ride" I mean "full ride". The 2014 New Zealand Study Abroad Scholarship was a full-tuition scholarship, worth $15,000 NZD, open to currently enrolled college students in the United States. It also included round-trip airfare from STA Travel, and basically just left living expenses up to the awardee.
Applicants were able to choose from one of New Zealand's eight universities or five institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs). Once the school was selected, applicants then also had the chance to specify whether they would want to directly enroll in the university or go through a third party program provider.
Most stand out, however, was the fact that the scholarship wasn't your typical, run-of-the-mill, essay based scholarship. Instead, applicants were asked to explain why they wanted to study in New Zealand and to submit a creative photo demonstrating their kiwi pride -- including the New Zealand flag, the country silhouette, or a kiwi (yes -- the bird, a native New Zealand'er, or the fruit...). Admittedly, some of the strongest entries included all three elements!
Why New Zealand? Why a Scholarship?
Though Go Overseas, and especially CEO and founder Mitch Gordon, passionately believes everyone should spend meaningful time abroad, the reality is that study abroad just isn't affordable or accessible for everyone. Furthermore, not everyone thinks to do it in the first place. Ultimately, this scholarship is just one element in an attempt to solve a much bigger issue: the lack of engagement in study abroad programs among college students.
"I'd love to see every student in the nation go abroad at some point in their student career," says Mitch, "but to do that, study abroad needs to be more accessible. Fortunately, the team over at Education New Zealand is eager for international students to discover and fall in love with their country. They were generous enough to help us sponsor a student for a semester while supporting our mission."
And why New Zealand specifically? Well, New Zealand is often overlooked as a study abroad destination for various reasons. It's a relatively small country and neighboring Australia tends to hog the spotlight when it comes to study abroad. However, New Zealand's a truly beautiful, welcoming, and adventurous destination -- and if students only knew more about it, they might reconsider.
Since students had to brush up on their kiwi knowledge before applying for the scholarship via the "Why New Zealand?" short-essay prompt, even non-winners learned a few things about this amazing country in the process -- many of whom loved the idea of New Zealand so much, they went anyway! Shortly after the scholarship ended, New Zealand actually saw a double-digit spike in student visa applications.
Basically, Go Overseas thinks New Zealand is awesome. Our friends at Education New Zealand know their homeland is awesome. So my question to you becomes: why not New Zealand?
The Top New Zealand Scholarship Applications
So much time, effort, and love went into these applications, that it was so, so difficult to choose a winner. As Anna, the Go Overseas Study and Intern Abroad Director and mastermind behind the day to day logistics of the scholarship, was involved in the decision process. She says, "it pained us that we couldn't give multiple scholarships, but it was really exciting to see so many people learning about New Zealand and getting pumped about the idea of living and studying there."
The sheer amount of quality submissions even inspired Go Overseas to tack on an additional $500 "Follow the Kiwi Scholarship" that hadn't been a part of the original scholarship. It was awarded to Sarah Weber for her social media enthusiasm and high-quality, unique photo submissions. "By simply offering scholarship to students, you have given us more hope than you could even imagine," said Sarah Weber, the recipient of the Follow the Kiwi award.
Just how creative did students get? (And what sort of applications caught the judges eyes?) Below are submissions from five top finalists (even more are posted in the Go Overseas New Zealand Facebook album):
Sarah Weber, a Wildlife Biology and Natural Resources, Recreation and Tourism Major at the University of Georgia, submitted the above photo as part of her scholarship entry. "Participating in NZ's outdoor adventures would not only be the most fun I could ever hope to have, but they would also allow me to branch out and experience things I've never experienced before." she says in her essay.
University of Southern California student, Sophia, submitted an entry which also reflected her major, Neuroscience. In her essay, she wrote, "I always get creative with my food and especially baking -- hence, my creative kiwi image of a neuroscientist's experimental brain. Knowing that some of the greatest chefs around the world have Kiwi roots it was impossible to not take into account the culinary surprises I will find while studying in New Zealand."
Margaret Nevers, a Strategic Communications major at Texas Christian University submitted her rugby-themed entry along with an essay which quoted professional development as a goal of hers while in New Zealand. "Going to school in New Zealand will also give me the skills to think and act globally and give me a competitive edge in the workforce."
Joi Elaine Porter
Joi is a theater major at Spelman College, and had her eye on studying in New Zealand because "The opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand opens up a whole new world of artistic discovery and innovation. I am so excited to study the different dance forms and acting methods that are employed in New Zealand."
Joseph, a Linguistics major at Boston College is a true vagabond at heart. In his essay, he wrote, "Two weeks prior to departure, my best friend rang me, asked 'Join me?', and I agreed. A cross-country road trip! The next ten days we spent driving across the country, stopping in no-name towns, meeting gracious, offbeat people, and sharing in their corners of the world."
Excitement on Campus: Gearing Up to Pick a Winner
Having entered the field of international education as a Study Abroad Advisor, Anna knew firsthand how big of an obstacle funding is for students, and was braced for a great reaction from study abroad advisors and students alike. Since Anna was also the point of contact for over 1,500 universities interested in sharing the scholarship with their students, she was also the first person to hear about the overwhelmingly positive reactions from students and study abroad advisors.
"After you pique the interest of a student in a particular program, their next question is always 'how can I afford it?!' In addition to breaking the barriers for recruiting students to even consider studying abroad as a viable and valuable option, we as international educators have to figure out how to help make their dream a reality. The program cost is one of the core problems regarding feasibility for most students," says Anna.
Flyers were printed. Emails were sent. Students from all across the country entered (615 universities to be exact), and they did not hold back. In the six weeks that the scholarship application was open, over 1,000 students applied. Top applicants were chosen and -- finally -- the winner was announced...
Meet Last Year's Scholarship Winner: Emma Faucher
Ultimately, the scholarship recipient, Emma Faucher, was chosen based on the creativity of her submission, outstanding academic record, and inspiring essay response. At the time, she was a junior studying Psychology and Communication at Castleton State College in small-town Vermont.
"We choose her because she impressed the selection panel with her knowledge of New Zealand and desire to understand and experience the Kiwi lifestyle and culture through her essay -- including Māoritanga," says Mallory, Community Manager at Go Overseas. In Emma's essay, her top reasons for wanting to study abroad in New Zealand were:
- Stunning scenery
- Indigenous culture
- Outdoor activities
- Sporting events
It's not Go Overseas style to simply email someone know they won a scholarship -- how lame is that!? Anna and Mallory hopped on a red-eye to Boston from San Francisco, rented a car, picked up Education New Zealand rep Sam Hoben in Connecticut and drove four hours to Vermont to surprise Emma with a giant, green check.
Emma's friends and family were present for the big surprise along with a few dozen Castleton students, faculty -- even the campus president! Needless to say, more than few tears were shed.
Emma Heads to New Zealand!
After receiving the scholarship that November, Emma booked her flight, packed her bags, and left for New Zealand to spend the spring 2015 semester abroad at Victoria University of Wellington through ISA.
Throughout her semester, Emma kept a study abroad blog blog documenting her adventures abroad -- from snorkeling in Island Bay, to exploring Wellington; attending kiwi parties to trekking in nearby mountains, Emma didn't waste a moment to experience all the parts of New Zealand she had talked about in her winning scholarship essay!
Oh, and that stunning scenery she wanted to see? She got to see all that while trekking across some seriously challenging landscapes. "I could seriously stay here forever, regardless of the extreme hills," says Emma.
Once her time was up though, she couldn't resist one more adventure before returning home. Prior to the scholarship, Emma had originally had her eye on a semester abroad in Australia, and to satisfy that curiosity spent a few days in Sydney at the tail end of her trip. A few days in the country just wasn't enough for her, however, and she plans to eventually return. "Next time I’m back in Australia I’ll have to get my kangaroo selfie and cuddle a koala in Queensland".
Like many study abroad returnees, Emma wants to travel more -- it's clear she caught the travel bug. Although she acknowledges it may be a while before she'll have another adventure, she's made it clear that there will be more journeys -- all thanks to study abroad.
Is There a 2015 New Zealand Scholarship?
Good news, y'all, another student will receive the New Zealand scholarship this year as well. Just like last year, students have the chance to win $15,000 NZD to cover program costs and tuition along with round-trip airfare by submitting a photo and writing a short essay on why you want to study in New Zealand.
Insider tip: the photos really got the panel's attention last year. Make them laugh or say 'wow -- look at this!' and the selection committee will be more likely to remember you when it comes time to choose the finalists!
Of course, sending off one student to fulfill their study abroad dream is the main point of the scholarship, but not the only point. Being such a unique and off the beaten path destination, the very idea of studying abroad in New Zealand could get students thinking differently about where and why they choose to study abroad.
The application opens on September 1, 2015 so bookmark our scholarship page and check it often for updates on when the New Zealand scholarship (and others!) launch.
You can also explore that page for more information on past applications, details on how to apply, and answers to most of those common questions you're dying to ask.
Will You Follow the Kiwi This Year?
You deserve the chance to explore a new country and grow as a person. You deserve to live and learn in a foreign country. Your life doesn't need to be confined to one place because someone told you that you couldn't afford to live elsewhere.
Now that you know this scholarship is legit, you know you have to enter. Think about it -- how could you turn down an opportunity like this? A semester abroad in New Zealand is an opportunity not many get. Don't let it slip away.