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Northwest Missouri State University

Photo-Essay Contest 2014

1st Place: Reid Zimmerman


My journey began in Athens, Greece. Just a week into January I left home, the cold weather, my family, my country, everything that I have ever known, to adventure out to another place, country, continent in hopes of finding myself, a better education, more friends, and lifelong memories. I arrived to a beautiful sunny-skied Athens, Greece with an open mind and a racing heart. I was filled with nerves, excitement, and wanderlust. Days began to turn into weeks, strangers turned into friends, souvlaki turned into a daily must-have food group, and maps just turned into a pad of things to remember, I didn’t need them anymore. I ventured Athens, the Greek islands, trips to Italy, England, Germany, Denmark, and other countries I only dreamed of visiting – I was living my fantasy. Months passed and the Greeks were soon preparing for fasting, I was packing for an eighteen day trip they called spring break. My itinerary had me going to Paris for a few days then to Africa for a week; I was amazed at how I could travel from country to country, even continents, with such ease.  As predicted, Paris was mesmerizing – baguettes and wine under the Eiffel, shopping, The Louvre, a city filled with love. And a lot of my money. Time went too quickly and I was soon boarding a flight to Rabat, Morocco. My eyes were in shock, my head filled with many emotions – how could people live like this? Trash everywhere. People living in blankets, little food, but the biggest smiles you would ever see. Ten hours and many bathroom breaks later, I was in the middle of sand, camels, and turbans. The Sahara was breathtaking. My camel was uncomfortable. But my experience was unforgettable. Seven days out of my life was spent surrounded my people who had very little, but were the fullest, happiest individuals. No lecture or textbook could ever teach me the life lessons these strangers provided. I am forever grateful for my short stay in Morocco, as well as my time in Europe – it really was the best thing money could buy. My experience has humbled me and changed me and for that I owe my gratefulness, well some, to that long, bumpy camel ride.


2nd Place - Shelby Duren


My study abroad experience of Eastern Europe was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Who am I kidding… it WAS the most amazing experience of my life. I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Budapest, Vienna, and Prague in June of 2014. As a student, I have always dreamed about studying abroad. As a volleyball player, I never knew if I would get the opportunity to do so. When this faculty-led study abroad trip presented itself, I knew I had to go. Fortunately, it was during the summer so it would not interfere with my volleyball schedule. Little did I know that this trip would become one of my greatest memories and teach me so much about this giant world we live in. 

                Pictured above is my great friend Abby Graves and I in front of the famous John Lennon wall in Prague, Czech Republic. John Lennon, a member of the Beatles, was and still to this day is an icon for music lovers everywhere. In 1980, John was shot and killed. The world was shocked and angry. An individual painted his face on this very wall in memory of John. The communists would keep painting over it, but fans would continue drawing his face over and over again. They would also play his music by the painting. The communists eventually boarded it up, but the boards were finally removed in 1989. Today, this wall serves as an inspiration to people everywhere. I even left my own mark with one of my favorite lyrics by Kenny Chesney: “never wanted nothing more.” It was very liberating seeing the John Lennon Wall in person. Just knowing how many people from all over the world had to been at that very same spot was a pretty cool feeling. Just down the road there was also a pub dedicated to John Lennon and the Beatles. There you can listen to some good music and grab a bite to eat. The John Lennon wall was one my favorite things to see in Prague and was unlike anything I have ever experienced.  The entire study abroad trip was full of new and amazing experiences. I am just thankful that I got to be a part of such a great trip with even more great people. I just went this summer, but I honestly can’t wait to visit even more parts of the world someday.

3rd Place - Samantha Heibel


This summer, I spent a month in South Korea participating in the Ulsan International Program at Ulsan University. This is an internationally known accelerated that teaches college students from around the world basic Korea language and culture. I knew that through this program I would learn a lot, but I never imagined how much fun I would have! The UIP program was an amazing experience filled with opportunities I feel incredibly blessed to have received. I was able to go places and see things not many people in the world will ever see, and I got to do things that I wouldn’t have been able to with an average study abroad trip. I traveled all over South Korea and was able to see the beautiful history of the culture as well as the fun and crazy aspects of modern life. I have been many places in Asia, but Korea was so special because of how friendly the culture is there. During the day, I’d be visiting Buddhist temples and learning the proper etiquette of tradition Korean barbeques, and by night I’d be learning Korean drinking games with students from Ulsan University at local Soju houses. It was so fun to go out and have college kids want to come practice their English with me and ask about life in the United States. One of the coolest experiences of my time in Korea was the day I spent at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) visiting the border between North and South Korea. It was fascinating to learn about the history of the conflict between these two countries, and the animosity that still very much exists there. There are always stories about North Korea in the news, and I never would have imagined I would get the chance to actually see it with my own eyes. I cherish this memory because I know it is an experience I was given by the UIP program that not many other Americans will ever get to have. It was a mixture of emotions to hear stories of divided families and see the prayers left all along the bordering fences for peace between the countries, while being surrounded by a beautiful landscape. In the attached picture, I am at the North Korean border, in the midst of both North and South Korean, showing a bit of my culture: my love al ballet. Because of the time I spend in South Korea with the UIP program, I am planning to move back to South Korea after I graduate in May. When my family comes to visit, I hope to get the opportunity to take the to the DMZ, so that they can share in the amazing experience of seeing hat amazing piece of South Korean culture and history.


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