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Five days, five students, five stories in five countries

BYU recently featured five study abroad students in an international spin-off of its #MyViewFromBYU Instagram Story takeovers. The five-day series commenced in Washington, D.C., and concluded in Moscow.

Each day, a different student documented a typical day of immersing themselves in their new home’s language, culture, food and transportation.

Fourteen percent of BYU’s 91,000 person audience watched the five takeovers. In total, there were 1.6 million views of the photos and videos within the stories themselves.

Stop No. 1 — Washington, D.C., with Trevor Morgan

Trevor Morgan, a public relations major, kicked off the series in Washington, D.C. As a press intern for Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, Trevor gave BYU’s audience a peek inside one of America’s most prominent buildings, the U.S. Capitol. Even Senator Hatch himself, a BYU grad, made a brief cameo on Trevor’s takeover. Day one of the series ended at the Washington Monument.  

Stop No. 2 — Vienna, Austria, with Natalee Torgerson

The second stop of the series was Vienna. Student Natalee Torgerson is there taking German and art classes as well as interning at a local children’s school for the summer. Natalee shared her day of celebrating the Corpus Christi holiday by wearing traditional Austrian clothing, taking a train through a salt mine and swimming in a lake surrounding a quintessential Austrian village.

Stop No. 3 — London, England, with Sam Frazier

London was documented by political science major Sam Frazier. She’s studying at the London Centre, which thousands of BYU study abroad students have called home since 1977. Sam started her day with a final exam at the National Portrait Gallery and then visited local markets and museums. A West End showing of The Phantom of the Opera topped off her takeover.

Stop No. 4 — Senegal and Morocco with Amy Read

French and biology major Amy Read featured her study abroad in Senegal and Morocco, highlighting traditional dancing, food and languages. Amy ended her takeover by sharing her unique experience of being in Morocco during Ramadan, a time of fasting for Muslims.

Stop No. 5 — Moscow, Russia, with Hanel Watkins

The series’s fifth and final stop was in Moscow via neuroscience and Russian major Hanel Watkins. Hanel’s Sunday started with a ride on the metro to attend her church meetings. Afterward, Hanel highlighted some of her favorite buildings in Moscow. Hanel’s day ended with a traditional Russian meal.

While every takeover in the series was unique to each student and their location, there were a few common themes throughout the series.

The students helped to dispel the misconception that studying abroad is financially impossible. They shared how they financed their programs through BYU department and academic scholarships, federal student aid and savings.

“Experiences like this are awesome," Trevor said. "There’s grants, there’s scholarships — you can make it work. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity anywhere you go."

The students expressed their enthusiasm and love for their newly-adopted homes as they excitedly shared their favorite things to eat, see and do.

The students highlighted the educational opportunities afforded to them in their new homes through internships, language courses and on-site learning.

At BYU, there are four international study program types, with study abroad being the most popular:

  • Traditional study abroad programs are guided by BYU professors in the field and include lectures, study, research and field trips.
  • International internships are individual, work-focused programs that are more personalized to a student’s future career goals than study abroad programs. Students are guided by a faculty mentor and receive training from a field professional.
  • Direct enrollment is more of an independent and individual experience than a study abroad or international internship program. Direct enrollment students do not travel with a BYU professor and group of BYU students. Rather, they directly enroll in an international university for a semester, independent of BYU professors and students.
  • Field school is the most research-based international study program. Field school students are mentored by a faculty director in a specific location. They conduct field work on a project of interest.  

Get all of the details on BYU Study Abroad programs from the Kennedy Center.

This takeover series enabled BYU to provide its 91,000 person audience a rare peek inside some of BYU’s popular study abroad programs. Prospective, incoming and current students were also able to interact with each of the five study abroad students through direct messaging on Instagram.

More than 150 direct messages were sent by prospective students, current students, alumni and others to the five study abroad students. Many of these questions pertained to the students’ majors, study abroad programs and career goals. Other messages thanked the students for sharing their experiences living abroad.

“Seeing a day in the life of these students in amazing places doing amazing things was eye-opening and inspiring, all while being able to ask them questions," said Connor Dillon in one of the messages. "As a student about to start at BYU in the fall, I just loved seeing the ways these students got involved out in the world as an accompaniment to their studies. Without a doubt, the first series was a success.”

Instagram Story takeovers have proven to be an invaluable tool for BYU in reaching and interacting with its followers in a meaningful way. BYU plans to continue the weeklong series approach with the success of its first takeover series. Next up on the takeover series queue: unique, interesting and impactful on-campus student jobs and internships.

Writer: Amanda Chase