Reflections Photo Contest: Award-Winning Photos

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Having to come home early from studying abroad is, as the British say, absolutely gutting. Though everyone is missing out on something during these stay-at-home times, it is probably especially difficult for all of the students who are having to adjust back to life in America from the confines of their home. In an effort to help students process their thoughts and reflect on their time abroad, we asked them to send in photos and captions that focus on the positive moments they experienced abroad.

They did not disappoint. Thanks to all the students for your entries into our “Reflections” photo contest. I loved reading your captions and seeing your beautiful photos. It gave me a sense of hope. I hope you hold onto the memories you’ve created for the rest of your life ❤

Perhaps their photos and captions will give you a little hope as well. 

Overall Winner – Elaine Chien

“My favorite study abroad experience was visiting the Scottish Highlands which showcased the grand landscapes and incredible nature in Scotland. I felt such an invigorating sense of mystic wonder driving through the highlands. It’s a place I’ll always treasure despite my short time here.

I was honestly not prepared to have to pack up and leave so quickly. I felt like I was just settling in, getting to know everyone, and finding my place in this country.

When you live somewhere, you tend to do all the touristy things slowly. For me, partly because there was always tomorrow but mainly because at times living was just living. It was starting Netflix shows with my flatmates only to procrastinate on finishing, talking about cultural differences in various pubs, and trying to order McDonald’s at 2am only to end up at a friend’s flat until 3. Between all that, I somehow never made it to some of the top spots on TripAdvisor before everything escalated.

However, that just makes me all the more excited to come back to Scotland in the future. Scrambling to find a flight back to the US is a strange way to end my entire college career, but I’m all the more thankful to have had this study abroad experience.”

Country-Specific Awards


Ireland Winner

Photo by Tatiana Rosenberg

“My favorite experience during my year abroad in Ireland was getting up before sunrise to do photography for Coldvember. Coldvember is an organization of NUI Galway students who would swim in the freezing Atlantic every day in November to fundraise money for the university’s counseling services and to promote mental well being. I met lifelong friends and made amazing memories.”


Photo by Sophia Soudani

“One of my last adventures in Ireland was my trip to Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Filled with unimaginable nature and breathtaking sights, my troubles felt so small in comparison to the vast array of beauty and wonder that befell me. My day spent wondering the cliffs and exploring the beaches of Giant’s Causeway will forever be one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I am so grateful that I got to get a glimpse of Ireland’s charm and beauty though experiences like this one:) I hope to come back again real soon!”

Walking to school by the canal every morning, when the sun was just coming up, is something I will remember, always. People in the shops and on the street would often greet me. I would usually leave around 30 minutes early for the 10-minute walk to school, just because I could. I would sometimes pack breakfast and my watercolors and sit painting on one of the benches along the canal, or just on the grass. Sometimes, I would bring a book I was reading. I saw so many swans and swallows!

Photo by Daryanna Lancet

It felt like I had more time in Ireland than I’ve ever felt in my life. Spending time there felt like giving myself permission to be a younger version of myself that does not always dash from-thing to another, but instead is content to just spend time by myself walking around, taking everything in. I am amazed and filled with so much joy and gratitude to have spent time in such a beautiful place.

Best Caption

Photo by Annie Combs

“This is a photo of my friends and I, all from different countries, on Inch Beach in Dingle! The best part about the program for me was making friends from all over the world who became like family throughout our much-too-short program. We met on this trip, hosted by UCC’s international student society! Joining the society helped me experience Cork and really make the most out of my program. I am so grateful for the Irish students who ran the program and made us all feel right at home from the beginning of our time in Cork. This experience truly changed my life for the better and I am so thankful that I got to experience Ireland, even if it was for a limited amount of time. I dearly miss Ireland and I hope to return soon.”


Scotland Winner

Photo by Harini Rajan

“The Scottish highlands are a reminder to me of how stunning and powerful nature can be—mountains and valleys with a wee bit of sunshine as far as the eye can see. Those frosty days with friends of such warm hearts will always hold a special place in this heart.”


Photo by Airin Wu

“Even though our program got cut short, I’m grateful that I still made it to the highlands and got to witness its beauty myself.”

Photo by Elizabeth Maglio

“Home is defined not by the structure you find yourself living in but by the people you loved and the places you saw.

I found my home in Edinburgh. In the early days of September I found happiness in the meadows with a cup of tea and a good book. In this time of quarantine and anxiety I fondly remember the sunny days spent out in the Meadows.”


Having never read or watched the entire series, living in the city that birthed Harry Potter taught me a lot about the magic of the story. My friend, who is a huge Potterhead, and I wanted to see the street that inspired Diagon Alley. One store on Victoria Street had a photo-op where you can put on a robe, grab a wand, and pose for a pic. But I chose the other option: grab the mask and dress up as the most iconic house elf, Dobby. This mirror selfie is truly one of my best. I just had to share a pic from the first day my friend and I began our shenanigans around Edinburgh.”

Photo by Isabelle Ortiz-Luis

Best Caption

“One of my favorite parts about studying in St Andrews was being able to explore the endless charm of the nearby seaside fishing villages of Fife. The village of Crail holds the most special place in my heart, with a quaint pottery shop and tearoom among scenery that I simply couldn’t stay away from throughout the year. I took this picture of Crail Harbour in the evening light, just after watching the local fishermen dock their boats for the night.”

Photo by Fiona Grant


England Winner

Photo by Rena Song

“Spitalfields! This photo was taken in late March, when this usually bustling plaza was eerily quiet. As I walked through one more time, I mused about my first week in London in the same place, where we were fascinated by men’s fashion week, drank boozy hot chocolate, and filled our camera rolls.”

I had never expected to see it so quiet and empty, but I knew I would be back.”


Photo by Natalie Taylor

“Taking a boat onto the lake in Ciutadella Park in Barcelona was my favourite study abroad experience because as we were rowing the boat, I looked back at my life. I realized that if I had told my younger self the amazing experiences I would be having in my third year of college, I would never have believed myself.

I couldn’t believe that I was rowing a boat on a pond in Barcelona, surrounded by friends and absolutely loving my life.”

Photo by Emily Blankenship

“Without question, my favorite part about studying abroad has been the chance to see life through a different lens.

I find myself constantly surrounded by beauty and history and the opportunity to interact with it all like never before. In the short months that I’ve been here, I have visited awe inspiring locations, I’ve tasted delicious food, I have met unforgettable people and made memories with them that will never fade! What more could a girl want?”

“Stop shrinking yourself for places and people you have outgrown.This picture was taken at the V&A Museum after a sculpture art class. New experiences effortlessly took over my life as I stepped into the shoes of a Londoner. When I left California, I was terrified of losing my friends, but I knew I needed to find me. Somehow in these cobbled streets, conversing with strangers on the bus, attending London fashion week, crying when I could not hang up my curtains on my own and taking CordonBleu cooking classes; I found myself and a community that stood by me. You will never catch me shrinking again.”

Photo by Isha Ajmera

Best Caption

Photo by Charlotte McCanna

“I always knew that Ireland was the first place I wanted to travel to while studying in the UK. I’d been dreaming of going to the Cliffs of Moher for years, but no pictures could have prepared me for how amazing of an experience it would be. This photo was shot as the wind was whipping through my hair and my coat, nearly knocking me off my feet. The wind blew so strongly that the waterfall which runs down the cliffs was blown back up to the top, and seafoam scattered the path. While these conditions were not the most pleasant, nothing else seemed to matter while looking at the expansive cliffs and ocean so far below.

It was one of those moments where I realized how far I had come to be there and how liberating it was to navigate my way through unfamiliar countries. ”

Most Aesthetic

Photo by Audrey Smith

The ultimate dream. Riding horses on the shore in the Republic of Ireland. Dreams do come true.

Most Creative

“I made a lot of memories on this campus, but I really met myself and who I was in a new surrounding: tested, challenged, awakened, and empowered.”

Most Reflective

“This was taken in York. I was on a memorable trip alone to the northern county and I guess this means something in terms of introspection because the subject of this photo is the York Minster; it is itself a place for spirituality and I remember that I spent an afternoon in the church simply to appreciate and think about its power and history. One of my recent thoughts on the situation everyone who is now confined at home is in is that this confinement is an opportunity for everybody to think about themselves. Interestingly we built churches just for such kind of activities and now we don’t even need it. That being said, do we ever contemplate enough?”

Photo by Chi Zhang

Most Wholesome

“This is my favorite photo of my experience as it was our last group photo. This was taken the day it was announced everyone has to go back to their home country and so although we were very sad we decided to have some final fun moments together and have a photo shoot at the location where our friendship started, Sussex University. It begins with me in the left and the rest are all my friends I met, each from a different place from around the world.

Photo by Eve Rodarte

I will always remember this day it showed us how meaningful our friendships were regardless of only knowing each other for two months; we knew we were going to miss each other and wanted to capture it.”

Best Exploration of Photography

Photo by Justin Zhong

“One of my favorite things about being abroad thus far is having the opportunity and blessing to be able to capture such beautiful and scenic views, such as this photo of the lit-up Tower Bridge at night. Photography is one of my biggest hobbies when it comes to travelling because it really brings the journey to life once the trip is over. When I show these photos to friends and families, I want to be able to tell a story through them. Photography is all about creativity and finding that perfect picture, and, to me, that’s why I chose to study abroad because it is a journey of creativity and possibility. I never thought I would be able to capture such simple picture with a phone camera, yet it looks so sophisticated and beautiful.”


Each of my blog articles contains an image of my sister’s pup, Luna (AKA “Loony Luna”). Can you find her??