Arts & Features Staff Writer
Photos from across the globe were carefully displayed across the walls of the Blowers Gallery in Ramsey Library. Plates piled with snacks were balanced in the hands of attendees as they chattered and laughed about their experiences with traveling and studying away from the U.S. Students, faculty and guests eagerly awaited the adventure-filled stories behind the collection of photos last Thursday to celebrate the Study Abroad Photography Contest.
“The photo contest is a way to bring the world to UNC Asheville and to show the greater community places that faculty, staff and students have gone to,” said Cara Gilpin, assistant director of study abroad.
The competition is open to faculty, staff and students to enter any of their photography from their trip abroad. The photos are then divided up into categories for judgment. There are first, second and third place winners for each category, as well as honorable mentions and the Chancellor’s Purchase award. This year, the Chancellor’s Purchase went to senior mass communication student, Virginia Taylor for her photo titled, “Llama en los Andes.”
“Honestly, winning the Chancellor’s Purchase award was a little bit surreal. I got the notification that I’d won the highest award during a time when I was actually beginning to doubt myself as a photographer, so the win served as an inspiration to remind me why I loved photography in the first place,” Taylor said.
Taylor said that some of the most beautiful memories traveling abroad were during moments like this rather than at the touristy spots everyone travels to in Peru. Photography has been a passion for her for as long as she can remember and considers herself as a creative artist.
“My friends and I had spring break from our school in Peru, so this photo was taken in Bolivia. We went to the salt flats, the Uyuni Salt Flats, which you’ve probably seen on Instagram. We just decided to kind of wander around in the desert for about three days post-salt flats. We actually found this guide named Pedro and ended up in the back of this green van, driving through the Bolivian desert. And I think that even beyond the Uyuni Salt Flats, which are kind of what is known around that area, I really just loved the wilderness and sort of just driving around in the less touristy parts of the whole area of the world that we were in. So that’s actually kind of where this was,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s photo shows the Uyuni Salt Flats of Bolivia with towering snowcapped mountains in the background. The forefront of the photo is a single llama that was curious enough to stop and examine her for a moment.
“We just stopped for lunch and we were at this sort of like white mud brick house in the middle of nowhere next to this really beautiful lake. So I was just sort of sitting there sketching for a little bit and he wandered right out and looked right at me. So I took the opportunity to kind of just snap this photo. He was really hamming it up for the camera,” Taylor said.
The photos were initially placed in the Blowers gallery on the first of April and will continue to be on display through the April 16. All of the photos presented are available for purchase to anyone with the exception of the Chancellor’s Purchase photo which will be permanently displayed somewhere on campus.
Ally Hibbits, a mass communication student with a management minor won first place in the category of reflections. Along with being a full time student, Hibbits also works in the study abroad office. She said UNCA has a higher rate of students who study abroad than most schools. Hibbits chose to study abroad in Finland. Her photo was taken in a small town at the tip of Norway where it meets Finland. Her photo, displaying the sunset over the small town surrounded by water is called, Norwegian Dusk.
“So I was there during the darkest parts of the year in the Arctic Circle. This was sunset, but it was 2 p.m. Where I lived in Finland, and it was also kind of the same in this part of Norway, the sun would rise about 10:30 instead of about 2:30. But the days got shorter and shorter. So that’s why it’s called Norwegian Dusk even though it looks like the sun is actually rising,” Hibbits said.
During the part of the year that she traveled there is usually a lot of fog and clouds, however, that particular sunset was incredibly clear and she said she couldn’t pass up the shot. The average temperature in Norway was around 30 degrees during her whole stay. Hibbits said all of the photos that were submitted were amazing and she didn’t think she would win, but felt so happy when she found out she did. She recommends study abroad to every student.
“It was the best time I’ve ever had in college and in my life. I grew within myself so much during that time. And I think if you haven’t studied abroad, it’s hard to understand and relate to someone who has. Like, yeah, you know, you learn some things, but, it’s much deeper than just the surface, ‘Oh, I went to school,’” Hibbits said.
UNCA offers many different travel destinations to fit anyone’s interest in the study abroad program. Studying abroad through UNCA is about the same cost as staying at school.
Financial Aid is available as well as scholarships to apply for through the university. Their mission statement is to provide access to high quality, academically grounded, international experiences to students. These experiences serve to give students the skills necessary for successful engagement in a global community.
“Studying abroad was honestly the most incredible thing I’ve done during my time in college, if not one of the most incredible things I’ve done in my life. I feel that I have a new awareness of the world now that I have studied abroad, and a new appreciation for people and how we are all so interconnected. If you have the opportunity to study abroad, do it. You will never, ever regret it,” Taylor said.