Looking for cheap ways to explore the state? You may want to start with the blog “Oregon on a Dime,” a new budget-friendly travel resource created by a group of Southern Oregon University students.

The blog is a project for a class in social media and public engagement. Students were split into groups and then given a random topic to create a blog about. The term began with specific assignments for the project including required social media platforms to create, but the project has since gained a life of its own, according to team members Alena Verweij and Erika Soderstrom.

“For a lot of us, it’s become our baby, and so much more than just a class assignment,” Soderstrom said.

Verweij is a senior German exchange student with a major in business administration and Soderstrom is a junior communications major from Phoenix, Arizona.

Verweij said after receiving the topic, the group narrowed their audience down to affordable travel to encourage students to travel around the state.

“Our goal has been to really get the SOU community involved,” Soderstrom said. “The school is very big on the outdoors and traveling and every student is on a budget, so finding cool places you can travel to that don’t break the bank is the priority.”

Other members include business, hospitality and tourism senior Alex Howard from Seattle, and communications students Kyrie Hughes of Portland and Kat Nguyen of San Jose.

Group members have traveled to the places posted on the blog so pictures and content are original.

Everything from the best vegan restaurants in Ashland to Airbnb’s for popular Oregon cities will be posted by the end of the term in March. The group plans on continuing the blog once the class is over.

Trips to Eugene, Portland and the Painted Hills in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument are next on the list for in-field research and blog posts, Verwerij said.

“The project is out of pocket, but its affordable travel, so we can do it,” Verwerij said.

Each group member has a social media platform and blog aspect assigned to them. Verwerij said she oversees the Twitter account, the blog design, the hiking section and the “deals for students” section. Verwerij said she’s traveled to more than 12 European countries and 14 U.S. states.

“I have a lot of experience, I would say,” Verwerij said. “I always travel cheap — my last flight from Berlin to New York, round trip and with luggage, was about $164. I’m really passionate about cheap travel.”

Verwerij said it’s really helped her English writing skills because she seeks feedback from group members before posting anything.

Soderstrom, who is a school newspaper editor, said she mostly keeps up the Instragram account, writes and edits some of the posts.

Throughout the course, the students have had to take on full responsibility of the website, creating editorial calendars and dictating when content would be most viewed. They’ve also learned vital marketing tactics like creating pop-up events to reach out to the student community for input.

The group has also reached out to the SOU outdoor program for adventure collaboration and marketing opportunities for both the blog and the outdoor program.

Verwerij said this is a great opportunity to teach students about affordable accommodation and travel techniques that work for more than just traveling in the state.

“Personally, I’ve met a lot of Americans that don’t know about hostels and I think they’re good for students,” Verweij said. “You meet people, especially when you’re alone.”

“We all bring our own experiences to the table … and we’re a very good team,” Soderstrom said.

Soderstrom said her emphasis in the communications field is social media and public engagement and that she plans on pursuing a career in journalism.

“It teaches me the value of social media,” Soderstrom said. “It’s a tool and if you use it correctly you can really gain a following and promote your brand.”

—Contact Ashland freelance writer Caitlin Fowlkes at Caitlin.fowlkes@gmail.com.