This October, J-School senior Samantha Stidham was awarded the Grand Prize for the IES Abroad Study Abroad Film Festival in Chicago. Stidham is on the reporting track in the J-School and after graduation, wants to pursue documentary film journalism and travel.
The film festival celebrates student filmmakers who showcase the transformative experience of studying abroad. According to IES Abroad, “the Film Festival has provided students a platform to voice their global journey through their own words and video footage.”
Stidham’s winning film “Take the Goggles Off” was inspired by her experience studying abroad in Barcelona this past spring. It is a “thought-provoking and visually captivating film that encourages viewers to embrace the profound beauty hidden within the everyday moments of life,” according to a press release from IES. With this win, Stidham received $1,500 and secured a $5,000 IES Abroad Barbara Bobrich Annual scholarship for a future UW–Madison study abroad student in financial need. She shared both her thoughts on creating the film and winning the award.
Why did you create “Take the Goggles Off?”
My film “Take the Goggles Off” is really a love letter to life. It’s mainly inspired by a quote another student from the program shared with me. I met her the first week of the semester. Neither of us really knew many people yet, so we hung out, and somewhere along the way she brought up the quote: “If we could remove the goggles of habit, we would be overwhelmed with ecstasy.” I just thought that it beautifully encapsulated a really important message. We can get so swept up in our day-to-day habits and routines that we forget how remarkable our pure existence really is. My film is about taking those goggles off and experiencing the little wonders of life like a flower growing between a crack in the sidewalk, as well as the big things like getting to live in Spain!
What thoughts went through your mind when you found out you won?
I was just so overwhelmed; I couldn’t believe it! The message of the film is something I really believe in, and I’m proud of how it turned out. The fact that so many other people found meaning in it and enjoyed it too really means the world to me. I was so honored.
How has the J-School helped you get to this moment?
The J-school at UW–Madison has been incredibly influential in my journey. I really don’t think I’d be the person I am today without it. Not only have I learned practical skills, but I’ve sharpened the confidence and curiosity that it takes to be a good storyteller. My experiences with professors and in classes have helped me discover what I’m passionate about, and what I want to do going forward. I’m also super excited that I’ll be able to give back to other students at Madison through this. Because I won, Madison is receiving a $5,000 scholarship from IES Abroad to help other Badgers study abroad. I had such an incredible experience, so knowing that I’m (in part) helping another student do the same is really cool.
Interested in studying abroad? Explore UW-Madison’s study abroad programs and enhance your UW experience.