Photo contest highlights value of studying abroad

BY ALANNA KOEHLER ’15
Campus Life Editor

Students who have studied abroad in the past year submitted over 70 photos to the Office of International Programs’ second annual F&M Everywhere Photo Contest. A selection of these photos were showcased next to last year’s winners in the New College House commons during a reception, featuring the reveal of contest winners Thursday.

Each student was allowed to enter up to four photos, one for each of the following categories: Academics Abroad, Culture and Communities, Landscapes and Landmarks, and F&M Everywhere. A committee of faculty members judged the submissions and prizes were awarded.

“Our ambassadors were really looking for a way for students who studied off campus to share their experiences and really connect with other students,” said Rachel Helwig, assistant dean for international and off-campus study. “We also hoped that we were able to invite students [to the reception] who might be interested in studying off campus.”

The international ambassadors, who are seniors who have studied abroad, are each affiliated with a College House and work with the Joseph International Center, providing information and support to students curious about studying abroad and organizing events. These ambassadors, who hosted the reception, include Elizabeth McMahon ’13, Brianna Roche ’13, Josh Shields ’13, Aimee Silfa ’13, and Allison Wein ’13.

“There are a lot of opportunities to get involved with the study abroad process and hear about it before you go, but there aren’t a lot of events to incorporate that into your life when you come back,” Roche said. “[The contest] is an opportunity for students to share their stories again with people who haven’t been listening to them talk about it for months.”

A number of the ambassadors joked about how they seem to be unable to stop talking about their experiences, noting how friends who have not studied abroad do not quite understand why they are forced to listen to the stories repeatedly. The reception and similar events provide a forum for these students to speak to peers in similar situations, peers who understand how life-changing studying abroad can be.

The contest also allowed students to express, through photographs and brief descriptions, what awed them most and what they really took from their excursions.

“When students are talking with their family and friends, people really want to hear about: ‘Oh, you went to Paris! Tell me about the Eiffel Tower!” or ‘You studied in Africa! I’m sure you saw elephants!’” Helwig added. “Their experiences are so much more than that, so we tried to come up with ways that would allow people to tell bigger stories and maybe stories they don’t get to tell as regularly.

“I am a sucker for the Culture and Communities category,” Helwig continued. “I really like seeing the ways our students are able to get outside of the classroom and get outside of the American student bubble, in some locations, and really get to know the people that they are living and studying with.”

The winner of this Culture and Communications category was XinWei Li ’15 for her submission of the photo “A Wider World.” Li studied abroad in Ecuador in Summer 2012. Kate Salomon ’13 won first place in the Landscapes and Landmarks category with “A Typical View of Iceland,” her submission from the program DIS Copenhagen, which she participated in during Spring 2012. The winner of Academics Abroad was Molly Reynolds ’13, who went to Brazil in the Spring. Her winning photo was entitled “The Meeting of the Waters.”

Other submissions came from students who traveled to places such as Hungary, England, South Africa, Bolivia, and Samoa and covered a wide range of experiences, activities, and sights.

“[The photos] do a great job of really highlighting the cool experiences students have had off campus, whether in classrooms that are not four walls but might be the Great Barrier Reef in Australia or hiking a volcano in Chile as part of coursework on Environmental Science,” Helwig said.

The photos displayed made the possibilities seem endless and all involved had nothing but encouraging words and fond memories to share.

“I think that study abroad is one of the most crucial and amazing experiences I’ve had at F&M,” Fields said.

Students interested in studying abroad should contact the Office of International Programs or a student ambassador.

Questions? Email Alanna at akoehler@fandm.edu.

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