Student Stories

UChicago students share study abroad experiences with creative storytelling

Enjoy the winning entries from the 2022-23 Study Abroad writing, photo and video contests

Studying abroad at the University of Chicago provides plentiful opportunities for students to further their academic pursuits amidst new cultures and perspectives. 

60% of students participate at least once during their undergraduate careers. At over 70 programs in 30 locations across 20 countries worldwide, students continue their rigorous education through UChicago faculty-led programming, direct enrollment in partner institutions or summer grant programs. 

This distinctive structure blends the academic rigor and intellectual curiosity that the College curriculum is known for with the University’s commitment to international education and global impact. 

Outside of the classroom, student engagement in the community is often referred to as the unofficial “fifth course” of each study abroad sequence. 

In an effort to document these unique experiences and encourage students to share stories from their travels, the Study Abroad office has held writing, photo and video contests annually for over two decades. 

Students are encouraged to submit pieces that “best expresses how [their] time abroad shocked, delighted, awed, challenged, or changed [them].”

Below, enjoy the top entries from each contest for the 2022-23 school year. 

Photos have been cropped marginally to fit our site's dimensions. 

First place submissions

Writing Contest (click the link to read): “Si tu voudrais te sentir chez toi (If you would like to feel at home)” – Hilary Shi, rising fourth-year

“‘What’s study abroad like?’ I have been asked this one particular question several times—during an internship onboarding meeting, in text messages with classmates, while Zoom calling my friends back home. In between these forms of communication, however, I felt like the answers I gave never did justice to reality. Now, in writing, this is my attempt to answer in a way that better encompasses the myriad of emotions I’ve experienced.”

Photo Contest: “An early sunrise at Cais da Ribeira in Porto, Portugal” – Nicole Yao, AB’23

Best Photo Portfolio: Torres Shi, rising fourth-year

Video Contest: “Haussmannization in 2022” – Maya Ordoñez, AB’23

“Haussmann, the architect of modern-day Paris, rebuilt the city in the mid 19th century to encourage residents to walk and admire the city. I tried to capture the ceaseless desire to wander and look, a feeling I experienced throughout my time there.”

Second place submissions

Writing Contest (click the link to read): “Amaranth” – Makayla MacGregor, rising fourth-year

“My piece is a nonfiction reflection on the connection between some of the travel I had the opportunity to do while in England, and the British literature I read for my classes. Jane Austen, George Eliot, and the Brontë sisters are some of my absolute favorite authors, so the privilege of reading their works while exploring the landscapes that they describe in their writing was a phenomenal experience. 

“My understanding and appreciation of British literature was vastly impacted by the travel that I did while here, and I’m so grateful for the new perspective that I have on the relationship between place and the novel. Above all, my time studying abroad has made me hope that in the future I can travel to the settings of my other favorite books, all over the world.”

Photo Contest: "Dock, Monaco City” – Liam Zhang, AB’23

Video Contest: "Senegal 2023” – Pedro Sousa Reis Casquinha, rising third-year

“A collection of memories from a winter spent in superb Senegal, the trip of a lifetime.”

Third place submissions

Writing Contest (click the link to read): “The Places I’ve Carved Out For Myself” – Emma Janssen, rising fourth-year

“In this creative nonfiction piece, I describe vignettes of notable places in my time at Trinity College, Cambridge. These aren’t the ‘typical’ places a visitor to Cambridge would see; instead, they are windows into my specific routines and the communities that I’ve become a part of. My piece explores the significance of place and nature, and the joys of study and conversation within beautiful and meaningful places.”

Photo Contest: “Man carrying tanned leather through Fez medina (35mm)” – Isabelle Balaban, rising fourth-year

Video Contest: "Nigeria, Summer 2022" – Nicole Yao, AB’23

Study abroad offerings include courses that fulfill general education, major and minor requirements across a range of disciplines within the social sciences, humanities and natural and physical sciences. For more information, visit