Valpo Voyager

Student Stories from Around the World

Tag: Study abroad (page 1 of 13)

2016 Photo Contest Winners!

Grand Prize: Bubbles in Bath

Photographer: Regan Weber
Location: England
Description: Through the streets of Roman history, children discover bubbles.

GRAND PRIZE - Bubbles in Bath - England - Weber

Crossing Cultures:

          First Place: The Other Victims

Photographer: Breanna Struss
Location: Hungary
Description: A protest that stands in front of a memorial monument representing the German occupation in Hungary during World War II. The “real” memorial in the picture is a “Living Memorial of Remembrance” fighting the erected monument that falsifies the innocence of Hungary during the war. The monument is still protested every day for one hour. Survivors and their descendants brought these haunting images, such as: worn shoes, clothes, suitcases, and books. There were a lot of victims during World War II; some have been forgotten like the stuffed animal in this picture. This memorial strives to remember all those who were victims in the war.

FIRST - The Other Victims - Hungary - Struss

          Second Place: Social Day in Florence

Photographer: Micah Topel
Location: Italy
Description: On our way from Venice to Switzerland, Mackenzie, Jordan, and I stopped in Florence for the day. We were relaxing in the park for a few hours when an old man approached us and started speaking Italian. He was very kind and tried showing us where we should go, and we did our best to communicate with him regardless of Spanish being the closest language we knew to Italian!

SECOND - Social Day in Florence - Italy - Topel

          Honorable Mention: Cliffside Church

Photographer: Grace Nelson
Location: Italy
Description: Watching the candle lighters.

Cliffside - Resized


          First Place: Spirit of the City

Photographer: Breanna Struss
Location: Morocco
Description: A Moroccan man dancing and playing a drum outside the entrance to an old city in ruins. Islamic architecture is evident in the archway of the building, and the man is wearing traditional Moroccan attire. His authenticity and spirit made the old city come alive.

FIRST - Spirit of the City - Morocco - Struss

          Second Place: Gone Fishin’

Photographer: Matthew Smok
Location: China
Description: Spending the day with a Buddhist nun.

SECOND - Gone Fishin' - China - Smok

          Honorable Mention: Your Move

Photographer: Matthew Smok
Location: China
Description: Observing the older generation at play in the park.

HONORABLE MENTION - Your Move - China - Smok

Sense of Place:

          First Place: The Hills of England

Photographer: Regan Weber
Location: England
Description: A story of untainted land and wandering wrapped into a photo.

FIRST - The Hills of England - England - Weber

          Second Place: The Perfect Angle

Photographer: Kylie Schreiber
Location: Italy
Description: Captured after a hike in Cinque Terre

SECOND - The Perfect Angle - Italy - Schreiber

          Honorable Mention: The Duomo Trio

Photographer: Jessica Sunblade
Location: Italy
Description: Beautiful music played just outside the Duomo of Florence

HONORABLE MENTION - The Duomo Trio - Italy - Sunblade

Unforgettable Moment:

          First Place: No Huns Here!

Photographer: Matthew Smok
Location: China
Description: Walking on the Great Wall, one of the seven wonders of the world!

FIRST - No Huns Here! - China - Smok

          Second Place: Chanting at the Academy

Photographer: Matthew Smok
Location: China
Description: Chanting with Buddhist monks and nuns at the Buddhist Academy.

SECOND - Chanting at the Academy - China - Smok

          Honorable Mention: Climbing New Heights

Photographer: Alesha Dempsey
Location: Ireland
Description: Taking in the views and history of the Giant’s Causeway.

HONORABLE MENTION - Climbing New Heights - Ireland - Dempsey

Valpo, Near and Far:

          First Place: Reaching Untersberg

Photographer: Regan Weber
Location: Austria
Description: Alex flying the flag on top of one of the Alps Peaks.

FIRST - Reaching Untersberg - Gerrmany - Weber

          Second Place: Valpo Takes on Tubingen

Photographer: Micah Topel
Location: Germany
Description: Reid (pictured) stayed in touch with a student who studied abroad in Valpo a year or two ago. He was able to arrange a punting boat ride for use on the river in Tübingen one night. We each got to try our hand at “punting” and although some were more successful than  others, we all had a fantastic time!

SECOND - Valpo Takes on Tubingen - Germany - Topel

          Honorable Mention: Valpo in Shimmering Lights

Photographer: Micah Topel
Location: France
Description: This was one of the moments that contributed to Paris being one of my favorite cities. The Eiffel Tower was beautiful at night when lit up and flickering. What better time to capture a photo of it with the Valpo pin in front?

HONORABLE MENTION - Valpo in Shimmering Lights - France - Topel

Deep Scottish Love and Cultural Encounters

Author: Jennifer Kvasnicka

Program: CISabroad Summer in Scotland


My last full weekend in Scotland was an absolute success. I toured the Highlands of Scotland for three days. We stopped in Inverness, Glencoe, and stayed overnight in the Isle of Skye. The thing is you can see google images, but nothing compares to the real thing. No quality camera in the world could capture the absolutely stunning beauty of the Highlands.




Our driver, Chris, told us about #DeepScottishLove. It’s a feeling you get in the Highlands of complete awe and love of Scotland. It’s loving every hill and valley of skyline. I definitely fell into this category. The days we were in the Highlands and Isle of Skye were cloudy, but it amplified everything. The fog was so thick and low to the ground that you could almost touch it.



One of the highlights of my weekend was climbing Old Man of Storr. It’s about 8 kilometers, or 5 miles. It took almost 3 hours to complete. The terrain was so rocky that I was honestly scared of falling at times. I’ve found it so interesting that when looking at a mountain, I think, “Oh yeah! I could hike that EASILY!” Then, the closer and closer I get to it, the taller and wider it seems to get. I still made it though. Getting to the top of this one was the most difficult, but worth every minute. You could see for miles, including the lake!



My absolute favorite moment of this trip was when I was able to experience so many different cultures and people in one sitting. While waiting for the tour to start, I was stopped by a Chinese girl named Tao. It was my first extended experience with someone from China. She studies in Lancaster and works in Singapore at times. It was interesting to compare and contrast our stories and cultures. She’s now a good friend. My other experience was later that night.  We ate in the hotel kitchen. I was the only American sitting with one girl from China, three women from Japan, a German couple, a man from Spain, a woman from Thailand, and a man from Austria.  How many people can say they experienced this? Especially in Scotland!

We went around the table talking about our native language and how to say different things. I had it the easiest because everyone could already speak English. I was able to keep up with the Spaniard though! We all had another cultural experience with haggis. I did it.  I tried it, and I loved every bite. More specifically, it was chicken stuffed with haggis. It was a double culture shock in one! On this trip, I not only saw the sights, but I got to meet some pretty incredible people with some awesome stories.



With my time in Scotland coming to an end, I can’t help but reflect on every moment and realize they have all been good. I haven’t had one single bad moment. This week wraps up with a Ceilidh, a party with traditional Highland dancing, as well as seeing one more site. I can definitely say I have #DeepScottishLove, and I hope one day I can come back and share this incredible place with my family and friends. Farewell, Scotland, and thanks for treating me so well. Cheers!


To New Experiences

Author: Jennifer Kvasnicka

Program: CISabroad Summer in Scotland


In the last few weeks, I have done and experiences so many new things. I’ve climbed mountains, had proper tea, and even got a tattoo (sorry Mom, I’ll explain). The joy that this trip has brought me is unexplainable. I have learned and grown from every experience.

I’ll start with my new tattoo. I won’t post a pictures because it is still healing. This experience in Scotland has pushed me to to try new things and to be out of my comfort zone. Without my faith in this trip ever coming about, I think the plans would have just fell flat. Again, thanks to my family, and God, for giving me the courage to come here and explore these new experiences. The tattoo I got is “by grace, though faith.” I got it on my foot, not only for professional reasons, but also to symbolize that I’ve walked by faith through this whole journey. Through faith, that God pushed me to pursue this dream, not only to explore new things, but to learn more about my own family history and roots.

Climbing Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh definitely was not as hard as the Dumyat Hill climb at the beginning of my time here. It was quite an incline, but we made it. Silly us, we decided to walk it at 9:30 at night. Here, it stays light a lot later. We got to the top and had the most gorgeous view. You could see from the coast all the way to the castle. It was incredible. The entire city was lit up. There was also a concert at the caste that you could hear almost perfectly. I sat up there for awhile just soaking in the history of Arthur’s Seat, and the fact that a girl from the flattest part of the US is on a volcano!



IMG_0726 - Copy

Later in the week, I decided I NEEDED to have proper tea in Scotland. A few of my new travel friends joined me. We went to Bluebell Tearoom, which is a quaint little shop that serves all different teas and sandwiches. I’m glad I didn’t have breakfast before because there was SO much food. we received a three-tiered platter with sandwiches, scones (and jam, of course), and small pastries. I was so full, but every bite was worth it. It was a nice get-away from paper writing and climbing mountains. I can’t say that I have an absolute favorite experience. That would be impossible. But the fact that I have experienced so many different and unique things adds up to one pretty amazing experience if you ask me.

Tea for two



Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Author: Jennifer Kvasnicka

Program: CISabroad Summer in Scotland


I don’t think I could ever find the perfect words to say thank you. In the two weeks I have spent abroad, I’ve learned more about myself than in 20 years of living. I’ll try and do my best. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for your encouragement, love, and financial support through this terrifying adventure. Thank you for giving the tools to navigate a new country and teaching me “street smarts.” Without the support I received from my family and friends, I wouldn’t have had enough faith in this whole process.

This is the first time in my life that I feel like I have been in complete control of where I go and what I do. Each day I spend here, I’m reminded that not everyone is allotted such an experience, and for that, I am completely and forever grateful. My dad told me to really treasure this opportunity because “people like us” don’t always get this chance. That’s really stuck with me. I’m trying to do everything I can in such a short amount of time!


Realizing I had family that once walked these streets is amazing. Though I haven’t found a grave yet, I am determined! My experiences here, from fudge donuts to finding seashells in the North Sea have shaped me in so many ways. I just wanted to take this post to step back from all the adventures and be thankful to everyone who has contributed to this journey. Cheers to more adventures!





Life in Greece

Author: Dezzarae Arce

Program: CISabroad Summer in Greece

Taken right underneath the Acropolis, where you can go to find your local foods, clothes, gadgets, and anything else you may need.


The changing of the guard. You can see the guard’s motion, which is ritual.


Views of the town in Delphi

IMG_2516 IMG_2509 IMG_2518

Typical Road Signs


Overlooking the city of Nafplio


Taken in Athens, Greece – a typical view from your home’s window


Overlooking the city of Athens – Taken at the top of the Acropolis.


The Athens Flea Market located in Monastiraki, where you can buy handmade things and antiques


My First Taste of Travel

Author: Jennifer Kvasnicka

Program: CISabroad Summer in Scotland

I’m here! I was so worried about flying, security, customs, and all those sorts of things because I’ve never been out of America before, let alone flown by myself. I’ve also been managing my diabetes pretty tightly, but adjusting has been fine! The one thing I’ve told myself this trip is to be as open as possible and to try everything that I can.  This week, I hope I can give you a taste of what my week has been like!


I got to campus, which is right on the edge of both Stirling and Bridge of Allan, and immediately was welcomed by the International Summer School Team. A few other girls I arrived with decided to roam campus and get a feel for where everything was.  After getting lost around the loch (lake) a few times, we found our way back to the accommodations where we met up for our welcoming reception. We heard the Scottish history of Stirling University, including the stories of Wallace and his battles of Stirling bridge. Even better, a piper came and performed for us in his traditional kilt! After this, I felt like diving right into everything that Scotland has to offer.


Later that night, we went out to the city center of Stirling and explored. It was nice having no particular agenda or list of things to do. We went to Wetherspoons (The Crossed Peels) where I actually had HAGGIS, the national dish of Scotland! I also tried a hard cider that they had available for the cider festival. It was so different from America because Scots don’t have the same sense of space. They will stand as close as they want, and most anyone will start a conversation!


After awhile, we decided to explore the nooks and crannies of Stirling, We headed up the hill to the Church of Holy Rude Cemetery and Stirling Castle. We saw some amazing sites from the hills. We kept walking to find Gowan Heritage Hill. It was very secluded, but well worth the walk up. On top was the beheading stone used for execution. And mind you, this was only the first day.




The next few days consisted of orientation, campus tours, and getting some groceries from the local store. It was all a whirlwind experience because every day seems to go by so fast. Classes started Monday, which included my Witchcraft and Belief in Early Modern Scotland and British Pop Culture (Monsters and Vampires) on Tuesday. It was different from the US because classes are split between two sessions throughout the day. The courses are only about 12 students, but this gives us a change to get to know our professor better even though it is only a four week session.

Besides classes, we took an excursion to Edinburgh. My friends and I visited Camera Obscura, National Museum of Scotland, Palace of the Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh Castle, and so many other things! Edinburgh is much more fast-paced than what I’m used to in Chicago. It’s a hub of activity, and I loved every minute. I hope to explore the smaller towns around the uni (university) and get  more connected to the culture next week. As we say in Scotland, Slàinte!!  (Cheers!)





Grecian Monuments – Walking into the Past

Author: Dezzarae Arce

Program: CIS Summer in Greece

This is the Temple of Apollo taken in Delphi, Greece


The first Olympic stadium



The temple of the God of the Sea, Poseidon, in Cape Sounion


The tomb of Agamemnon in Mycenae


An ancient theater used by Greeks for musical and theatrical performances in Epidaurus. It is still in use today as it provides great sound quality. The acoustics are so great that if you drop a quarter in the middle of the stage, people in the very highest seating can hear it drop.


The classic Acropolis in Athens, Greece


The Library of Hadrian in Athens, Greece


The Parliament located in Athens, where there is a change of the guard every hour on the dot



So Why Study Abroad?

Author: Ellie Ashbrook

Program: CIS Summer in Thailand


This is my last blog entry for my study abroad experience in Chiang Mai, Thailand, so I will try to make it as inspirational as possible. I was thrilled to be accepted to participate in this study abroad program because I have always been curious of what’s happening on the other side of the world. Being chosen to have a blog was another plus, so my mom can follow my adventure, and I can ensure her that countries outside the United States are as safe as our campus at Valpo. I had no clue what I was in for when I chose to apply for Thailand other than knowing I would be riding elephants, mountain trekking, learning how to cook Thai food, and going to Bangkok for a weekend. You can only learn so much from the internet, and YouTube videos are helpful, but everyone has their own experience.

Before I left for Thailand, my family and also my friends told me that I needed to be careful because, “it’s a whole other world over there.” This was obvious, but I didn’t want what they had to say to scare me. I was told that I would be eating monkey brains and that I needed to watch out for dangerous critters. The more I didn’t know about Thailand, the more nervous I became, so I did my own research…a few nights before I had to leave.

I found out that I would have to use a ‘squat toilet’ and a few other handy tips. I did not come across dangerous creatures, nor did anyone talk about monkey brains. I decided that I should just go on this trip with no expectations (but I did bring a good amount of packages of tissue for the squat toilets).

I couldn’t say that I expected any of my experiences from this trip to happen. An elephant kissed me, I went flying through the mountains of Bann Wang Hang, trekked in the mountains of Doi Chiang Dao (my happy place), I lost my phone in the streets of Chiang Mai, went white water rafting the Mae Taeng River, saw break dancing in the middle of traffic of Bangkok, and just this past week, I ended up at the Grand  Canyon of Chiang Mai.

My weekend trip to Bangkok was incredible. It reminded me of Chicago but bigger and a lot busier. Walking through the markets was equivalent to running through the doors of a store on Black Friday. The group went to the Grand Palace in the heart of Bangkok. The palace is the official residence of the Kings of Siam, so it was crowded because everyone wanted to see the royal family’s gold. The amount of gold on the buildings was quite overwhelming. The weather was brutal because of the humidity, and the amount of people in the area made it unbearable, so the group decided to take a break and visit another area of Bangkok where they had a few street markets.

The Grand Palace

Grand Palace-Bangkok, Thailand

My friends and I decided to skip the street markets because a nice cold coffee from Starbucks sounded so much better. We went to the Starbucks at the right time because as soon as we arrived, the Frappuccino Fun Party just began. There were only a few other people for the party. They didn’t know much English, and we only knew so much in Thai, but it was still a fun time. We tried the Chocolate Black Tea with Earl Grey Jelly and the Double Chocolate Green Tea Frappuccino. Both were delicious.

This past week, our Thai professor took us to the hot springs where they have hot tubs throughout this huge park with a mountain view. Eggs are available to purchase, so you can cook your eggs with you while you hang out in the tub. It was an interesting pair. The best time to visit the hot springs is in the morning when it’s cooler, so I can see why people enjoy eating eggs while they sit in a hot tub.

Group at Hot Springs

Hot Springs

How Do You Like Your Eggs Done_

The last unexpected thing I can tell you that happened on my trip is that I visited the Grand Canyon of Chiang Mai. It’s a huge quarry that’s filled with water. They have bamboo rafts spread throughout the body of water so that you can hang out and cheer people on to jump from high cliffs.

The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon-Chiang Mai

I have to cute it short, but I still have so much to share. I had no expectations for Thailand, and I’m glad I didn’t. I think the most important thing I learned about myself on this trip is to not make false assumptions. Life is unpredictable, so enjoy the ride.

Mai Pen Rai.


New Featured Summer Blogger – Jen Kvasnicka

Jen Kvasnicka - headshot

My name is Jen Kvasnicka, and I am a junior Healthcare Leadership major. This summer, I am spending a month at the University of Stirling in Scotland! I am most excited to meet people from all over the world and try new foods!

The Food of Athens

Author: Dezzarae Arce
Program: CIS Summer in Greece


These pictures are from your local farmers market in Omonia, Athens. This farmers market has EVERYTHING you want to buy for your weekly groceries. You can find local and imported freshly caught fish, lambs, beef and pork. On top of meats, you can also shop for different cheeses, fresh local fruits and vegetables, spices, herbs, etc. Some foods are imported at the market, but Athenians are true to their country and prefer buying local foods to help their economy. Athenians also buy their groceries every week in order to keep their foods fresh and natural. This market is the second largest in Greece and was the biggest for a very long time.
These photos were taken in a square in Athens Greece. The stand is a local cart stand that sells different kinds of snack breads. The breads look like rings and have sesame seeds on top. These carts are found everywhere in Athens. The display cases with pastry desserts are filled with your daily snacks and pastries. Here you can usually find sandwiches, or pastries with ham and cheese. You could you could also find pizzas that are meant for lunch.  These snacks are typically found in your local cafes and pastry shops in Athens and are usually displayed in this way.


Food Cart IMG_2166 IMG_2167
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