The Take Off Experience: Curriculum design

Imagine this. You’re 20 years old. Sitting in an airplane. Alone. And you’re moving abroad for the first time in your life. What’s on your mind? What are you dreaming about? Worrying about?

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Approximately 50% of Stanford undergraduates study abroad. The Take-Off Experience is an audio recording created for them. Students listen to the track while sitting on the plane, en route to their new city. The intent of the audio experience is to encourage students to move beyond what feels “comfortable” during their time abroad. It includes a story told by a Stanford undergrad who studied in Florence and a reflection exercise. The exercise asks students to map activities that they would feel comfortable or uncomfortable doing in their new city. It urges them to move beyond their comfort zone and be intentional about their time spent abroad.


This activity was designed to help Stanford students “break out of the Stanford bubble” before arriving in their new country. Our team brainstormed a wide variety of activities that could achieve this, as well as unique and underutilized moments in a student’s journey abroad that we could tap into. Resisting the urge to fall back into familiar territory (by developing a workshop or a handout) we identified the time in the air as a key moment to intervene and felt audio would be the best medium.

Early prototypes of the idea included an impromptu recording of a possible scenario, journey maps of the activity, and a storyboard explaining the concept. Early testing  led us to realize that we needed a student voice to give credibility to the advice the activity presented.

One student immediately came to mind. We interviewed Kristin Chesnutt, a student who studied in Florence her junior year, as part of our empathy projects with returning students months earlier.  She had moved outside of her comfort zone and tried something new in Florence. Her story felt like a great primer for our recording.

Scott Doorley and Tyler Winick joined the team to help us with production. Their expertise allowed us to amp up both the quality of the content and the production value.


Idea and execution: Tania Anaissie and Erik Olesund
Narration: Tania Anaissie and Erik Olesund
Producer: Scott Doorley
Post-production and engineering: Tyler Winick
Graphic design: Tania Anaissie
Story: Kristin Chesnutt

Categories: curriculum design, media production, user experience, audio