Photo contest brings pieces of the world to UNC Asheville

Taylor Sexton

Arts & Features Editor

tsexton@unca.edu

Clouds roll over the miles upon miles of lush, green mountains and 374-year-old weathered walls. A young man takes this opportunity to do a handstand on the Great Wall of China, hanging off the edge of the world, a moment in time captured forever with a photo.

Paul Ruback, a UNC Asheville sophomore biology student studied abroad this summer in Qingdao and Beijing, China.

Sophomore Paul Ruback hangs off the edge of the world on the Great Wall of China

“I really just wanted to remember it forever and it was honestly probably the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my entire life. There’s a reason it’s one of the wonders of the world,” Ruback said. “It just felt unreal looking at it. I still can’t believe that I was there.”

Ruback said The Great Wall of China was one of the most breathtaking and amazing sights he had ever seen.

“I learned how to teach English and I got to teach at a local kindergarten there, which was really a lot of fun,” Ruback said. “That was my favorite part.”

Ruback explained how he was constantly taking pictures while abroad, never wanting to miss a single moment. He was excited when he heard about the study abroad photo contest. He was excited when he heard about UNCA’s study abroad photo contest. He said having tons of photos would be a waste if he had no means of sharing them, plus he was hoping the presentation of his photos would encourage others to study abroad.

Breathtaking adventures like these are submitted and featured in the study abroad photo contest.

“It’s a way for students, faculty and staff to bring the world to UNCA and its community in a visual format,” said Cara Gilpin, assistant director of the study abroad program. “I think it’s also a really nice way for those traveling abroad to explore ways that they can document their experience.”

Gilpin began working at UNCA back in 2009 and it was at this time  she oversaw the photo contest. Originating in 2003, the photo contest was once part of the international studies program before transitioning and making its home in the study abroad office.

The photo contest has four categories: Nature’s Beauty,  People, Reflections and Cross-Cultural Moments.

The categories seek to display landscapes, panoramic views, wildlife, outdoor activities and people. As well as photos that visually represent their life-altering experience of studying abroad, which could be cultural events or interactions with host cultures.

The winner will receive the Chancellors Purchase Award, which has a cash prize of 250 dollars. The prize winner will be announced after the awards ceremony.

“It’s kind of become an event that people look forward to yearly. We have a reception in April every year and we invite the participants to tell the story behind their images and it’s just really wonderful to not only meet the people that have traveled to those locations, but hear a little bit more about their experiences there. So it’s something that I enjoy,” Gilpin said.

There will be an anonymous panel of judges to look over the nearly 140 submissions before narrowing it down to four winners for each category as well as second and third places for a total of 16 photos.

These 16 photos will be on display at a reception in April, where participants will have the opportunity to share their stories behind the images.

Senior Darcy MacFarland, who studied abroad in Morocco, attended the 2017 reception and placed in two categories. One placed second in Nature’s Beauty, titled Sahara Trip and the other placed third in People, titled Cinematheque Tanger.

“I was just taking pictures of them because they just looked so photogenic in that little coffee shop,” MacFarland said about Cinematheque Tanger, a photo of her friends in a coffee shop.

Sahara Trip is a panoramic photo of the Sahara Desert, taken on the back of the Camel she was riding, MacFarland said.

“It was honestly just breathtaking. Just because, I never thought that I would go to the desert, you know? And then I had the opportunity so I went and, it was just really incredible. The sand was so soft, it was really hard to run and stuff,” MacFarland said.

Paul Ruback visited Confucius’ hometown when a group of kids on a field trip ran up and invited him to sing.

MacFarland said she loved Morocco and talked about how welcoming, helpful and warm the people were and encourages everyone to go visit Morocco.

MacFarland took many  photos while abroad so  she could always look back and remember her experience. Then, she saw the photo contest.

“I was like, ‘oh,  I could probably submit these, some of them came out pretty good. I guess I could see what happens if I submit them.’And then two of them got picked to showcase in the little room in the library,” MacFarland said.

MacFarland enjoyed the awards ceremony and said hearing about everyone’s journeys and experiences was nice.

The study abroad photo contest is not only for students and faculty who have studied abroad through the school. The contest also welcomes submissions from students and faculty members who travel abroad, whether it be for vacation or through a different program.

“It was such a different experience,” MacFarland said. “It wasn’t like anything I’d ever experienced before. And I would 100 percent go back and do it again.”

The deadline for photo submission is Oct. 1 at 5 p.m. Anyone interested in submitting photos can email them to studyabroad@unca.edu and complete an application on the study abroad website.

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