The three amigos

Ariana Beedie

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Three USI students will head to Spain this summer to promote the university for six weeks.

 USI Eagles Abroad, a program created by Matt Rust and Brian Lewallen in Fall 2012, will track the students as they promote studying abroad through the use of social media.

The three students not only have a shared interest in life abroad – they are also fraternity brothers in Sigma Tau Gamma.

“This is a huge deal for me,” Rust said. “No other university has done anything like this before.”

The junior psychology major said this journey is exposing a few firsts for him. Rust has never flown on a plane or traveled outside of the country.

“We want to promote USI on a social media platform, with outlets for students to watch,” Rust said.

Social media is an emerging technology that many universities haven’t yet utilized, he said.

The students will use a Facebook page titled “USI Eagles Abroad,” along with a Twitter, Instagram and YouTube account, to document their journey.

“Through social media, I could show students what it’s like to be abroad, and all the excitement they’re missing out on if they didn’t go,” Lewallen said.

The senior Spanish and international studies major traveled abroad to Grenada, Spain, in Fall 2011. He spent 10 days in the Dominican Republic in June 2012 before constructing the idea for USI Eagles Abroad.

In Fall 2012 Lewallen and Rust collaborated with the provost, various deans and USI President Linda Bennett to spread awareness of the innovative concept.

“Little by little, deans were contributing to our idea, along with the USI Foundation,” Lewallen said. “There is no other program quite like this.”

After speaking with the university’s president, the students were invited to the President’s Roundtable to present their idea and ask for funding.

The initiative was approved, as long as the group expanded to a more diverse perspective.

“The reality is we’re doing something for the university, and being flexible with an idea is key,” Lewallen said.

The students will travel to suburban schools in Indianapolis to promote USI Eagles Abroad, along with the university itself, before heading off to Spain.

“It’s going to expose the great things our university is doing,” Lewallen said. “I think the sky’s the limit.”

After promoting locally, the students head to Spain for six weeks to promote the university on an international level and connect with other USI students already studying there.

Jarae Gibson, a sophomore business administration major, was recently asked to join USI Eagles Abroad.

“I’m excited,” Lewallen said. “He’s a great addition to our team.”

Gibson said he is excited to help spread awareness about the program, although he doesn’t speak much Spanish.

“I definitely like to see and embrace other cultures,” Gibson said. “Our goal is to promote USI to encourage potential and current USI students.”

In Summer 2012 Gibson traveled to Ireland with the USI Chamber Choir. It was his first time traveling outside the country.

“It was the coolest trip of my life,” he said.

After traveling to Spain with USI Eagles Abroad, Gibson will travel to Japan in Spring 2014 to study abroad for one year and utilize the Japanese language.

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