"Tangier to Casablanca" — Boren Scholar wins IES Study Abroad Film Festival

Student Philip Baites looking out at a sunset in Morocco. Text on image says "A film by Philip Baites, 'Tangier to Casablanca,' Rabat, Academic Year 2017-2018, University of Tennessee Knoxville."

Every year, IES Abroad, an organization that specializes in study abroad opportunities, hosts a film festival for students to show off their experiences from around the world. According to the IES website, "the Study Abroad Film Festival asks IES Abroad students to capture the spirit of study abroad—both what it means to you, and how it redefined your world."

This year, Boren award recipient Philip Baites, a student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, won the IES 2018 Study Abroad Film Festival with his video "Tangier to Casablanca." Philip not only wrote and recorded an original song inspired by his time in Morocco and the connections he made with his host family, but he filmed a music video to accompany the song.

Philip writes:

"This original song and film encapsulates my 9-month study abroad with IES Rabat in Morocco. Featuring a train ride, Chefchaouen (the 'Blue City'), Rabat, the Sahara Desert, cameos by two sweet neighbor girls, my Arabic professor, and my precious host mother, Doha, as the central character, 'Tangier to Casablanca' is a story of pain, joy, longing, and journeys intertwining. Two months after I arrived in Morocco, my host mother received news that her father unexpectedly passed away in Canada. Ultimately, this tragedy led to a bond to be formed between us, while also teaching me a valuable lesson. We are all on a journey. And it’s not the places or sites seen that have the lasting impact on us. It’s the people."

The IES panel was moved by the story behind his video, but also the fact that Philip chose to submit a music video with an original song for consideration in the festival. Leland L'Hote, IES Abroad Program Dean & a former film studies professor, stated that, “We have seen music videos before, but this one is the first original song I recall," and notes that "Philip truly 'captures the spirit of Study Abroad' by showing his audience the profound impact the time with his host family has upon him over the more common travel narratives we see in many entries.”

Spending time abroad—either with a host family or on your own, either for a week or nine months, either through an organization like IES or through a scholarship like the Boren Awards—has the potential to significantly alter your worldview, your ability to connect with people who have different backgrounds and beliefs as you, and how you interpret and convey those experiences to others. Philip's creative abilities in songwriting and film-making proved to be an amazing way to show everyone about the impact that his time as a Boren Scholar had on him.

To learn more about the IES Study Abroad Film Festival, and watch the videos from past winners and finalists, visit the IES website. To learn more about the Boren Awards program, visit the Scholarship Opportunities page of CultureReady.org.

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