Meet the Winners of the 2018 IIE Photo & Impact Story Contest!

Two Boren Scholars and an Artist Protection Fund Fellow Win

IIE is pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 IIE Photo & Impact Story Contest! In March, we asked current and past participants of IIE-managed programs to submit their photos and impact stories that demonstrated power of international educational exchange. IIE received nearly 200 submissions from a range of people, from Cargill Global Scholars to IIE PEER and Emergency Student Fund grantees. This is also the first time that an APF Fellow has been selected as a winner.

The winner and two runners-up will receive $300, $200, and $100 gift cards, respectively. See their winning entries and read about them below!

1st Place: Alex Melnik, Boren Scholar to Indonesia, 2016-17

After a bumpy three-hour ride in the early hours of morning, Boren Scholars Alex Melnik and Laura Mulvey (pictured here) reached the peak of Mt. Bromo in Indonesia. “To me, this photo — and the story behind it — perfectly represent my experience in Indonesia,” writes Alex in his winning submission.

“To me, this photo — and the story behind it — perfectly represent my experience in Indonesia,” writes Alex in his winning submission.
Congrats to our first-place winner, Alex Melnik! Alex is a junior International Relations and Urban Studies and Planning double-major at USC. He took a gap year in Malang, Indonesia through the Boren Awards to study the country’s national language. Prior to arriving, Alex spoke no Indonesian. He admits the first several weeks were challenging. Three months into his journey, Alex and other exchange students had the chance to visit the peak of Mount Bromo, an active volcano in East Java. After three hours of a bumpy, difficult ride, Alex and fellow Boren Scholar, Laura Mulvey (in the first photo), finally reached the topic, just in time to see daybreak.

He writes, “To me, this photo — and the story behind it — perfectly represent my experience in Indonesia. After I reached the peak of my journey, I could hardly believe the progress I had made in two semesters. I had known absolutely no Indonesian before arriving, not even “thanks.” But by the end, I had sat on a panel discussing slut-shaming in Indonesia; had done a 20-minute presentation on HIV/ AIDS; and had developed close friendships with numerous people. All in Indonesian.”

Boren Scholarships are managed by IIE and sponsored by the National Security Education Program. They provide unique funding opportunities for U.S. undergraduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests, and underrepresented in study abroad, including Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
Boren Scholars represent a vital pool of highly motivated individuals who wish to work in the federal national security arena. In exchange for funding, Boren Scholars commit to working in the federal government for at least one year after graduation.

2nd Place: Farzane Zamen, Artist Protection Fund Fellow from Iran in UK, 2017-18

(From Left to Right) Habiba Makhlouf (Egyptian singer), Farzane Zamen, and Micah Nye (Glaswegian musician) perform songs from Farzane’s EP in Glasgow. A collaboration with multiple artists, the Z Bent EP strives to give a voice to Middle Eastern women from diverse backgrounds.   

Congrats to our second-place winner: singer, songwriter, and producer, Farzane Zamen! The IIE Artist Protection Fund, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, provides threatened artists like Farzane with fellowship grants and extended residencies to continue their work in freedom and safety.

As a woman living under Islamic law in Iran, Farzane could not openly pursue a singing career in her home country. Determined to find a way to express her art, Farzane attended the Safe Havens conference in Malmö, Sweden, where she learned about IIE-APF. She has recently completed her six-month APF Fellowship residency at the Centre for Contemporary Arts-Glasgow, with support and participation from Glasgow-based organizations, venues, and non-profits including The Glad Café, Green Door Studio, Paragon Music, and Safe MUSE.

Her song, “Dance With Us,” is an invitation for women from around the world to feel free enough to pursue their passions, and to dance. It is part of her EP collection, Z Bent, which was produced during her APF Fellowship. A collaboration with multiple artists, Z Bent strives to give a voice to Middle Eastern women from diverse backgrounds.

“I just wanted to break the silence, and music was my weapon,” says Farzane. “I had a big goal but it was very difficult to achieve as there are lots of limitations for female singers and musicians in Iran… I consider this residency a milestone in my musical life. Now I’m seeing a brighter future for my music.”

Learn more about the work of IIE Artist Protection Fund Fellows at Instagram, and follow @farzane.zamen on Facebook, Instagram and Soundcloud.

3rd Place: Philip Baites, Boren Scholar in Morocco, 2017-18


The natural and host families of Boren Scholar Philip Baites broke bread over Friday lunch in Rabat, Morocco in February. (Left to Right) Ilyas Mohib, Doha Mohib, Majduneen Hararas, Neyma Mohib, Perrin Baites, John Baites, Mourad Mohib, and Ahmed Gausk.

Philip is a University of Tennessee at Knoxville senior French and world business major who is spending the year in Rabat to enhance his Arab studies minor and to practice his language skills. So far, he’s been able to climb Mount Toubkal, the tallest mountain in North Africa and to walk through the Sahara Desert. Thanks to mobile tech and social media like FaceTime and Instagram, Philip’s family in Hendersonville, Tennessee was able to see almost every moment of it during the fall semester.
But, he said, there’s nothing like going to a place to experience it for yourself, and, more importantly, to meet the people. “It is not the places that make a trip, it is the people,” he wrote in his winning submission.
Philip says the real value of international educational exchange lies in its multiplier effect. “While it is powerful to share everything I have learned and experienced these past few months, I believe it is even more powerful to highlight the impact that this year away has had on those closest to me.” In February, Philip’s parents came to Rabat to see the city and, more importantly, to make new friends with his host family. On Fridays in Morocco, families spend lunch together, usually over couscous. It was the highlight of Philip’s trip so far.

“My parents, host mother, host brother, host uncle, host aunt, host cousin, and myself shared in countless laughs and my host mother even gifted the traditional attire to my parents to be worn for this occasion. What happens around a dinner table may not seem very significant, but it is here where misconceptions are laid to rest, stereotypes abolished, and people gain a better understanding of the ‘other.’ It is when we “break bread together” that community is shared and true friendship is built.”

Congrats! Follow along for the rest of Philip’s journey on Instagram at @philipbaites!