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Study abroad blog ‘the195.com’ expands to Brandeis

By Nathan Koskella

Section: Features

November 20, 2009

Brandeis will participate in a groundbreaking new Web site and blog known as ‘the 195,’ that will feature the experiences of students studying abroad.

The site, which was created by three students at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in June, had its first contributors, all of whom were from Northwestern, last summer.

Starting this spring, the 195 will host posts from Brandeis students studying abroad in addition to those of Northwestern students.

“The 195 is an aggregation of blogs from students studying abroad,” Jamie Fleishman ’11 said. Fleishman headed the group on campus responsible for the expansion to Brandeis. “The idea behind it is that all the students have a story to share,” he said.

After working with students from Northwestern to help bring the blog to Brandeis, Fleishman has spent the better part of this semester trying to recruit Brandeis writers to blog when they go abroad in the spring.

Students participating in the 195 will document in as little as one post a week their experiences in a foreign country as a vital piece of their Brandeis education.

“Having Brandeis as the very second on the 195 is a huge honor,” he said. “Our students’ stories will be read around the world.”

Tracy Fuad, one of the original founders at Northwestern, was pleased at the idea of expanding the 195.

“Our mission is to facilitate a more global conversation, and sine we felt that the 195 was so successful at Northwestern, we loved the idea of making it available to another university,” she said. “Brandeis is already a university that shows a lot of interest in the world through its global studies programs [IGS] and their study abroad programs, so I [think] it was a great fit.”

Brandeis’ participation in the blog was initially the product of good luck. Fleishman met Fuad by coincidence when he was 14-years-old at a French camp in Minnesota. While they kept in touch through online social networks such as Facebook, Fleishman recontacted Fuad when her updates included references to the 195.

“I didn’t get the idea to bring [the 195] to Brandeis until the fall,” he said. “I thought of the Web site…when thinking about new media and communication. This is the perfect Web site to bring the students studying abroad at Brandeis.”

After getting back in touch with Fuad, Fleishman said the creators were interested in enlarging the scope of the 195.

“Tracy asked if I wanted to help them expand to other schools, so I jumped at the chance,” Fleishman said. “It’s exactly what I was hoping to do for Brandeis.”

He then contacted numerous departments of the university, such as the Departments of Communications and Global Affairs to promote the site and Brandeis’ involvement.

To find writers, he also contacted Community Advisors in the Village Quad, which currently houses students who will be studying abroad in the spring.

“I assembled a team to work on it with me, and Fina Amarilio ’12 and Destiny Aquino ’12 share experiences,” Fleishman said. “We all have either journalism, media or communications backgrounds.”

Contributors were contacted via flyers, CAs and the Village listserv in the 195’s marketing campaign. An application process was used to guarantee enthusiasm in the project and the commitment from writers.

“[The process] showed that this [project] was a serious entity and made sure contributors actually committed to write while abroad,” Fleishman said.

The other members expressed similar enthusiasm abouttheir involvement with the Web site’s expansion.

“I’m very excited,” Amarilio said, “and I think the 195 will be very useful and be here for a longtime future.”

Ellen Abramowitz ’11, one of the students chosen to write for the blog, has experience with writing about her travels, having written about her account on the World of Work program in Mongolia. She will study abroad in Vietnam in the spring.

“I feel really excited about the 195, because it’s a great way to connect students abroad to their community at home,” she said. “The 195 is the ideal compromise, it has what [popular free blog Web site] Blogspot has, but also is accessible to the Brandeis community.”

Abramowitz also discussed her plans for her writing, now on her second expedition to Asia.

“I want to use it to keep people informed, express my opinions, but also to track myself on personal progress—my changing ideas,” she said. “You can write with your own voice about your experiences and you know you have an audience.”

The initial group is also happy with the turnout of writers who will makeup the first Brandeis 195 generation.

“Our writers are funny, serious and reflective,” Fleishman said, and since “the site includes creative bios, the people who applied are really into it.”

The goal is for the Web site to start a trend at Brandeis that can expand to other schools, and this semester is a test.

“I’m hoping that people at Brandeis, someone will say, ‘Oh, did you read that post?’ and that the number of people who do not know what the site is declines,” Fleishman said. “I want people to want to engage in the global dialogue.”

Editor’s note: Destiny Aquino is News Editor of The Brandeis Hoot.

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