Program: College of Media in Pampalona, Spain, 2013
Location of photo: El Perdon Mountain Range
El Camino de Santiago has been portrayed in many movies and TV shows as the “spiritual journey” that will change your life forever. For Alex, Tom, and I, it was a way to get away from the world and get to know each other a little better. With no hiking experience (and no hiking gear on top of it), we embarked on a 15-mile climb to reach the Alto del Perdon. The statue pictured is dedicated to the pilgrims who walk the Camino, and offers a panoramic view of Northern Navarra. My roommates and I decided to join the metal pilgrims and animals in triumph, posing for a self-timed photo as my camera lay on the ground. The trip brought us closer as students in Pamplona and linked us together for years to come. We set out to climb a mountain, with no prior experience, and succeeded. The 10 hours of bonding that went along with it, with no computers, cell phones, or TVs to interrupt, was more of a summit, because the walls between us went down and the three of us returned brothers.
“Lumbisi and UIUC”
Program: SAO – GLBL 298, development and education in Ecuador
Location of photo: Quito, Ecuador
One of my favorite things that I was able to do in Ecuador was to help improve the educational lives of children in a rural community by organizing, teaching, and leading a day camp. While our group often had to confront struggles and adversity while planning our lessons, we were ultimately able to deliver an unforgettable experience to the children in the camp. We were also able to leave a lasting legacy of our summer camp in the form of a mural for the students to enjoy. We created, designed, and painted this mural for our students, and one by one, each student put their handprint on the branches of the tree to act as leaves. In this photo, my classmate Mayumi is just putting the finishing touches of the fantastic mural we collectively created, complete with names to correspond with handprints. I believe that the lasting impact that we made on the children by being there as mentors and role models is reflected in this mural. The students were able to understand that with our combined efforts put together, we are a part of a bigger picture. I think of the students often, and hope that this mural reminds them of the experiences we enjoyed together.
“Experiencing Traditional Moroccan Dress”
Program: SAO Spanish Studies in Granada, 2012
Location of photo: Tangier, Morocco
In this photo, you can see one of my classmates dressed up in traditional Moroccan women’s clothing. I think it’s a great representation of the kinds of academic experiences study abroad students can have outside of the classroom. How often do American students consider the traditional clothing of Islamic cultures? The majority of us, American (college) women, get up, shower, put on sweat pants or shorts, a T-shirt, and go to class. However, in Morocco, there are symbols for every article of women’s clothing. Each article is put on with attention to detail, without any thought about wearing these many layers under the hot Moroccan sun all day. These are the kind of mentally transforming experiences study abroad students can have abroad.