Meet the Next Generation of U.S. College Global Citizens Who Are Changing the World

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Meet the Next Generation of U.S. College Global Citizens Who Are Changing the World

IES Abroad, a leading not-for-profit organization providing access to 140 study abroad and internship programs in 34 cities around the world, announced today that six U.S. college students have been recognized as part of its annual IES Abroad Global Citizen of the Year Awards. In its second year, this is the first student-focused, study abroad honor of its kind.

Submissions were accepted from students who participated in an IES Abroad or IES Internships program in 2017, and were evaluated based on the following criteria:

  •      How They Have Changed the World Through Study Abroad - The contributions they made that impacted their local community while abroad.
  •      How the World & Study Abroad Have Changed Them - The lessons they learned not only about themselves, but also about the local community in which they lived.
  •      How They Will Sustain or Continue Their Impact - Their plans to sustain or continue their impact once they have returned from abroad.

IES Abroad received inspiring submissions from its students across more than 30 different U.S. colleges. Honored students for the Global Citizen of the Year Award include:

Winner | IES Abroad Global Citizen of the Year

  •      Yesenia Ayala | IES Abroad Santiago–Politics, Social Justice & Language, Spring 2017 | Grinnell College


  •      Kathleen Blehl | IES Abroad Milan–Business Studies, Academic Year 2016-17 | Villanova University
  •      Dayna Mathew | IES Internships London–Internship, Summer 2017 | Loyola University Chicago
  •      Marie Salem | IES Abroad Buenos Aires – Latin American Societies & Cultures, Spring 2017 | University of California – Berkeley
  •      Lucy Sternbach | IES Abroad Granada–Study in Granada, Spring 2017 | Yale University
  •      Will Turett | IES Abroad Vienna–European Society & Culture, Fall 2017 | Williams College

Global Citizen of the Year, Yesenia Ayala is a senior studying Sociology and Spanish with a concentration in Latin American Studies at Grinnell College. While studying abroad with IES Abroad Santiago, Ayala interned with Belen Educa, a Chilean non-profit organization that serves low-income communities by providing high-quality education to students. Ayala was placed at Colegio Alberto Hurtado, one of Belen Educa's schools, and assisted in English classes and helped with events, programming, and administrative work.

"My journey at this school completely changed my perspective on what education looks like internationally and expanded my mind," Ayala said. "Every interaction with the teachers, students, and administrators made me aware of why this type of work is essential globally. The first and most important lesson I learned with the group of seventh through twelfth grade group of students was the importance of cultural competency, no matter your background or race. Therefore, my mindset consisted of learning about the community first and allowing them to guide me in the different ways I could support their needs."

On returning to the United States, Ayala presented on her experience to students and families at Grinnell College, and she continues to work towards education equity through a mentoring and tutoring program she co-leads at the Meskwaki Settlement School in South Tama, Iowa. Additionally, she is preparing to publish a culturally competent college access mentoring curriculum as the result of her cumulative work with several organizations.

As the winner of the Global Citizen of the Year Award, Ayala will receive a $1,000 cash prize, and the five finalists will each receive a $200 cash prize.

Media Contact: Victoria Bruick, IES Abroad, 312-261-5038,

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