Snapshots of experience tapped as winners

Three Western students nabbed top honours in the 2014 Modern Languages and Literatures Photo Contest for snapshots of their varied international experiences.

Last fall, students were asked to contribute one photograph of their experience abroad for an online photo contest. The contest was held as part of the International Week 2014. The winner are:

  • Becky Quinn, a Criminology and Italian Language & Culture student, who took first place for her photo, There is nothing better than learning while you travel, chronicling her study abroad at the University of Siena, Italy, in June 2013, where she took Intermediate Italian (Italian 2200).;
  • Stephanie Vaughan, a Spanish Language & Hispanic Culture and French Language & Literature student, who won second place for her photo, Wherever you go, there you are, taken during her half-year exchange at the Universidad de las Américas, in Puebla, Mexico; and
  • Laura Acquaviva, a French Language & Linguistics and Italian Language & Culture student, who took home third place for her photo, It’s a kiss that whispers…, taken during her study abroad at the University of Siena, Italy, where she studied Advanced Italian (Italian 3300).

An exhibit featuring the entries is on display in The D.B. Weldon Library through March 30.

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There is nothing better than learning while you travel

Becky Quinn

First place

Deciding to go to Siena has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only was I able to learn Italian inside the classroom, while improving it outside talking to the locals, but it also helped me grow as a person by being immersed in a completely different culture and interacting with people from very different origins. Having a roommate from Iran, who’s only common language with me was Italian, really helped me improve my conversational skills.

While in Siena, I was able to travel and experience different adventures. During the month I was there, I travelled to Milan, Pisa and Florence on different weekends and also took a mare bus with some friends to spend a whole day at the beach. We would also go on adventures without leaving Siena – exploring different streets and different restaurants or coffee shops every day. I went in June, so the preparations for the Palio were taking place. This meant that every weekend there was a contrada party and it was amazing to see the great pride the members took in the preparations and how great all the streets looked decorated in their contrada colours. But without a doubt, my favourite night in Siena was the notte Bianca. On this night, all the shops stay open past midnight and the streets are filled with people laughing, live music and different performances. It was definitely the best way to end an amazing study abroad.


Wherever you go, there you are

Stephanie Vaughan

Second place

While I initially chose to study abroad to learn more about the culture and practice my Spanish, travelling to Mexico has changed my life, my perspective and my view of the world – all for the better. My favourite part of my experience was coexisting with the people of Mexico. Their spirit, love and generosity outshine that of anyone I have ever met. While in Mexico, I learned we could choose the small-but-warm houses, experience over tangible happiness and love over greed. And in doing so, we can understand the value in pursuing such a lifestyle.

I have truly left my heart there.

Another important aspect of studying abroad is what I have been able to cultivate here, in Canada, after returning. That has been just as rewarding. I have taken what I have learned in my travels, shared the love I have experienced there and opened up the hearts of those around me.

I’ve realized I want travel to be second nature, because this is the life I have dreamed up for myself – one where I can grow my branches from place to place. If I have any last words, do whatever makes you happy and don’t lose hope. We’ve got so much to offer this world and we are going to do it in exactly the right way. Here, there, anywhere.


It’s a kiss that whispers…

Laura Acquaviva

Third place

I arrived in Siena, Italy, on June 2 after a week-long visit with family living in a small town in the south of Italy. My uncle and I were travelling on a cheap but comfortable bus, which only stopped three or four times on the eight-hour trip to Siena. At a certain point, I decided to try and sleep. When I awoke, it was still early and everyone was asleep. I put my glasses on and opened the curtains in the hopes of seeing a road sign that would give me an idea of where we were. As soon as I peered out the window, I had no doubt that we were getting close to Siena – Tuscany looked exactly as I had always imagined.

The atmosphere at 7 a.m. in Siena is incomparable – the quiet lanes, the aroma of freshly made espresso and pastries, cafés opening, shopkeepers getting their stores ready for the day and the cool morning breeze of a day still not too warm. In the morning, before arriving at the university, I would always buy a cornetto, but would wait to get my coffee until I got to the campus.

In Siena, there are thousands of bars where you can get an excellent coffee. But would you believe the coffee I drank every morning came out of a vending machine?

The best thing when you study in Italy is you are ‘forced’ to learn the language much faster. And what about the idiomatic phrases, those expressions that you will never hear in class, but will become second nature to your Italian self? They will come to you while you talk to the people around you. It is always better to study a language in its natural context.

This journey was worth everything it required.