The 195 Website Connects Students Traveling Abroad and Builds Networks for Global Involvement
by Medill students Shanika Gunaratna, Tracy Fuad, and Adam Sege
Our vision for The 195 was dreamed up in a late-night conversation last winter about our overlapping loves of journalism, storytelling, and travel. We talked about the stories we had heard from a friend traveling in Nepal, and we wondered what stories from friends around the world never manage to find their way back to Evanston. We believed then, and still do now, that the stories of college students experiencing and impacting countries around the globe have the power to build the fabric of global community.
The result of that conversation is The 195 (www.the195.com), a multimedia storytelling platform that allows Northwestern students to read about the adventures, shocks and epiphanies of their fellow students as they venture far from the confines of Evanston. What does “195” stand for? It is the number of countries in the world—and a continuous reminder of the countless opportunities for new cultural experience.
|A street in Seoul, South Korea, from the travels of co-creator Shanika Gunaratna
Our vision has evolved exponentially since last spring, when we scribbled website layouts on napkins, bounced ideas off anyone who would listen, and leveraged our resources to make our idea a reality. By June, we had a finished product: a beautifully designed, custom-developed multimedia site that would serve both the Northwestern community and anyone else interested in travel. Within days of launching, the site was featured on the New York Times’ multimedia editor’s Twitter feed. Within weeks, we had our first round of contributors leaving to countries including India, Iraq, South Korea, Israel and Croatia, where they would document their experiences through stories, photos, and videos. Within months, we had a global following, with site views from Canada, Sierra Leona and Yemen. This fall, The 195 officially expanded to another community of students: Brandeis University in Boston, which now has it own website (www.the195.com/brandeis).
Since our launch in June 2009, The 195 has showcased the stories, photos and videos of more than 40 Northwestern students traveling in over 30 countries. With each blog post, reader comment and page view, we inch towards our ultimate goal: to help bridge the gap between college campuses and the far reaches of the world.
We are excited to partner with the Buffett Center and develop the website in new and exciting ways. With the Center’s support, we plan to host face-to-face gatherings for former contributors in order to build on the growing network of storytellers. We also plan to expand the multimedia content of the website. Multimedia is a key component of our approach, as contributor Hannah Robbins (WCAS ‘09) explains. Robbins is currently backpacking through Latin America, searching for community-based health organizations interested in partnering with new chapters of GlobeMed students in the United States. “By not only writing about our travels, but also being able to use video, pictures and sound to draw in readers, we’ve found that more people in our personal and extraneous networks are interacting with our blog,” Robbins says.
These expanding networks are the fuel behind The 195. We hope to push the act of blogging beyond its usual capacity of forging connections within an individual’s own social network. To us, blogging is a remarkable tool for provoking globally-minded conversation between strangers in scattered countries across the world.