Each year more than 100 UNC Asheville students set out to broaden their world vision by studying abroad. They return with new perspectives, new knowledge, and of course lots of new photographs and stories to share. A collection of winning photographs from the Study Abroad Office’s annual photo contest will be on view in in the International Photo Exhibit, in Ramsey Library’s Blowers Gallery from April 11-May 31.
UNC Asheville senior Sarah Smith, whose photograph, “Tunnel Vision” won this year’s Chancellor’s Purchase Award, spent the spring semester of 2015 in Derry, Ireland. Smith took classes in Gaelic, the societal structure of modern Ireland, and the history of Ireland—resulting in a degree in Irish Studies.
“I signed up to take a course on Gaelic because I wanted to learn a bit of the native language,” Smith said. “As I began to learn it, I was amazed at how difficult the language was! I’ve taken Spanish, Latin, and French and this was completely unlike any of those. Gaelic is an incredibly beautiful, intricate language and one not easily mastered.”
Smith’s winning photo, “Tunnel Vision,” was taken during a trip to the Isle of Skye, Scotland.
“After a long day of hiking through these mountains—mountains completely comprised of gravel—stumbling upon herds of sheep, and visiting the Fairy Pools, we returned to Sligachan to grab dinner at the only restaurant in the county,” Smith said. It was there, while watching the sun set, that she took the photo of the Black Cullin Mountains.
For Smith, the value in studying abroad was not just in the beautiful landscapes she visited, or even the time she spent in the classroom. It was also in the chance to experience something new.
“The cultural exposure is a necessity,” Smith said. “I can’t tell you how much experiencing different countries, languages, and cultures expanded my thinking and view of the world and really helped me to become a better student once I returned.
“You don’t study abroad just to sit in a classroom and learn out of a textbook. You study abroad to learn the things a teacher and a classroom will never be able to teach you,” Smith continued, “information no textbook holds. You study abroad to learn how to be independent through first hand experiences, how to navigate through countries where no one speaks English. You study abroad to gain street smarts and in then end you walk away with a whole new understanding of what culture is.”
Smith and the other participants in the International Photo Exhibit will share the stories behind their winning photos, and tales of their travels, and an opening reception from noon-1 p.m. on Tuesday, April 19 in the gallery.