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Annual photo contests showcase the diverse experiences of international students and students participating in education abroad programs at Rochester.

Every year, the Center for Education Abroad (CEA) and International Services Office (ISO), units within the Office for Global Engagement, give University of Rochester students the opportunity to tap into their inner photographer. Through their respective photo contests, the CEA and ISO challenge students to submit exceptional representations of categories such as “Cityscapes and Landscapes” and “UR Experience.”

Photo entries capture the beauty of the students’ surroundings, the culture they were immersed in, the human—and sometimes animal—connections they made, and the memorable or otherwise singular aspects of their experiences. While the winning photos serve as CEA and ISO highlights from the 2023–24 academic year, in the era of Boundless Possibility, Rochester’s 2030 strategic plan, they also provide captivating examples of why the University seeks to make further investments in scholarship support and experiential learning.

Over the next six years, Rochester aims to enhance and enrich its undergraduate and graduate education by leaning into the learning students do outside the classroom, such as education abroad, research, and fellowships.

In 2023, the University sent about 350 students to 35 countries to participate in education abroad programs while providing an academic home to more than 3,000 international students. This year’s CEA and ISO photo contests drew submissions from 49 international students and 54 students who traveled abroad. Here are nine of the top photos submitted. 
A brown horse grazes in a sunlit forest clearing surrounded by tall trees. A mountain peak is visible in the background under a clear sky.Italian stallion
Julia Schiavoni ʼ25, biochemistry

Believe it or not, this photo is not AI-generated, and the horse is not a paid actor. Julia Schiavoni ʼ25 created this poster-worthy still on a hiking trail in Borca Di Cadore, Italy, while participating in a summer research program with Rochester professor Nancy Chin. For years, Chin has taken small teams of undergraduate students interested in public health to this location. The mountain posing in the background of Schiavoni’s photo is Mount Antelao, the tallest of the eastern Dolomites, located southeast of Cortina d’Ampezzo, host of the 2026 Winter Olympics. It’s a significant landmark as the trip investigated the relationship between the region’s tourism and social justice issues.

Apart from visiting Canada, this was Schiavoni’s first time abroad. “This experience pushed me out of my comfort zone in many ways,” she says. “I was so fortunate to work with so many brilliant and experienced experts in this field.”

Three young people covered in colorful powder stand outdoors, smiling and hugging, with trees in the background.
Holi day
Ivan Gomez ʼ27, business and film and media studies

March 25, 2024, marked the start of Holi, the Hindu festival of colors that celebrates the end of winter, love, and the triumph of good over the evil king Hiranyakashipu. (He wanted everyone to worship him, and one story relays that he and his sister, Holika, conspired to kill his son, a follower of Vishnu).

The festival is a lot of fun. People celebrate by burning pyres (a symbolic thumbing of the nose at Hiranyakashipu), dancing, and dousing everything in color by throwing powder (gulal) and splashing water. This photo shows celebrants Ivan Gomez ʼ27 and his friends Paola and Martina in Moshi, Tanzania.

Although he calls Chile home, Gomez spent two years living in Tanzania. He was drawn to Rochester by the size of its international student body and the opportunity to study both film and business, which he found uncommon. “At the same time, it was also about scholarships,” he says. Gomez is a beneficiary of the Davis United World College Scholarship Program.

A vibrant nighttime cityscape of Singapore with lightning striking the sky. The illuminated skyline features the Marina Bay Sands hotel, the lotus-shaped ArtScience Museum, and the glowing Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel, all reflecting on the tranquil water.
Striking Singapore
Charlie Lu ʼ27, psychology

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. The place: Marina Bay in Singapore. Charlie Lu ʼ27 captured this awesome lightning strike from the walking path of Bay East Garden. Most prominently featured are the 57-story towers of the resort Marina Bay Sands, the petal-shaped design of the ArtScience Museum, and the Singapore Flyer, one of the largest observation wheels in the world. Lu, a Singapore native, was visiting home, and a friend offered to show him this spot to photograph the resort. (What a tip!)

A rising junior, Lu plans to bolster his research and internship experience and take in more of the local Rochester culture when he returns. He chose Rochester for its open curriculum. “I want to explore different interests without being held back by course restrictions,” he says. “So far, my favorite experience has been taking Intro to Japanese.”

A human tower is formed by a group of people, standing in front of a historic building with columns. Flags are seen atop the building. The base of the tower is wide, gradually narrowing as it reaches the top, with several tiers of participants. Onlookers are gathered around.Human tower of Barcelona
Abby Strugger ʼ24, brain & cognitive sciences and statistics

Anyone who thinks human pyramids are the pinnacle of human structure building may not know about castells. Castells are human towers—as many as nine or ten stories tall—traditionally built at Catalan festivals in the Catalonian region of Spain. Abby Strugger ʼ24 photographed the castell being built above in Barcelona at the Santa Eulàlia Festival.

Festivals like that are one of the reasons why Strugger chose IES Abroad Barcelona. “Barcelona has everything,” she says. “It’s the mountains. It’s the beach. It’s the city in the middle, and even within Spain, it has a unique culture.”

In addition to the classes she took within her program, Strugger took two classes at Pompeu Fabra University, allowing her to have a more authentic college campus experience. She recommends others do the same: “You are seeing other parts of the city and meeting students who aren’t just abroad students.”

A person wearing climbing gear, including a helmet and crampons, is ice climbing between two tall ice walls. They are using ice axes and are secured by ropes. The sky in the background is clear and bright.
When in Iceland . . .
Anastasia Thran ʼ25, biology

One of the biggest benefits of participating in education abroad in a European country is the access it grants to the rest of the continent. Anastasia Thran ʼ25, a participant in IES Abroad London at University College London (UCL), saw more than 10 other countries outside England. During a weeklong UCL break, Thran decided to start checking off bucket-list experiences. She booked a trip to Iceland and scheduled several excursions, including snorkeling in Silfra Fissure and ice climbing on the Sólheimajökull glacier. The latter was captured in the photo above.

While studying in London made adventuring through Europe easier for Thran, she had strong academic reasons for deciding to attend UCL. “They have a strong research presence in the UK,” she says, “and being a direct enrollment program, gave me more flexibility. For somebody like me, a biology major, it’s hard to find programs with applicable courses.”
A group of six diverse graduates, dressed in caps, gowns, and formal wear, joyfully pose for a celebratory photo on a sunny day in front of a historic building surrounded by lush green trees. They are smiling and striking playful poses, exuding excitement and pride.
Say, ‘Meliora!’
Adarsh Kumar ʼ24, computer science

If it isn’t clear from the graduation caps, the students in this photo are glowing because they just graduated from Rochester. They’re probably also pretty happy that they didn’t have to pay to have this photo taken. Thanks to Adarsh Kumar ʼ24 and the International Students’ Association (ISA), these and more than 40 other international students received high-quality photos of this major life achievement as part of ISA’s graduation photoshoot initiative.

Kumar took all the photos himself—in fact, the photo above is his second winning-entry to an ISO photo contest. And yet, he is not a student of the arts. A native of Varanasi, India, Kumar chose Rochester to study artificial intelligence. “What makes Rochester great for AI is they offer a good amount and variety of AI electives, allowing me to complete my computer science degree with an AI concentration. In my country, I can only properly explore specialized tracks like AI while pursuing a master’s degree or PhD.”

A grand baroque-style white cathedral with a large green dome and twin columns stands against a clear blue sky. The building is beautifully reflected in a calm, glassy pool of water in the foreground, with people gathered around its base.Went for baroque
Elizabeth Garijo-Garde ʼ24 (T5), music and public health

Vienna, Austria, earned the moniker “City of Music” for a legacy that includes being the home and workplace of renowned composers from Joseph Hadyn to Gustav Mahler and beyond. The classical music capital was a dream destination for Elizabeth Garijo-Garde ʼ24 (T5), who has been playing the cello for 15 years. IES Abroad Vienna became the opportunity to make her long-awaited pilgrimage.

The baroque beauty pictured above is St. Charles’s Church (Karlskirche). Garijo-Garde and her roommate attended a performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by a string quartet. Her favorite experience was a day trip to the Austrian Alps, ending with an evening performance by the Vienna Philharmonic in the Musikverein.

“It was emblematic of what the study abroad experience was for me,” she says. “I got to see Mozart’s apartment, Beethoven’s apartment, where Vivaldi lived—everything I’ve studied for so long just came to life.”

A person stands in the expansive, calm sea under a clear sky, with water stretching to the horizon. Their reflection is visible on the water's surface, creating a tranquil and serene scene.

The young man and the sea
Yupei Miao ʼ24S (MS), business analytics

Residents of the Greater Rochester region have the privilege of being about an hour from Lake Erie, less than that to a handful of the Finger Lakes, and for some, a literal stone’s throw from Lake Ontario. It’s easy to take that for granted, so someone from Rochester might not guess this is a photo of Ontario Beach Park.

Yupei Miao ʼ24S (MS) took his drone out for a sunset flight along the lakeshore when he happened upon this unknown man having what could have been a profound existential moment or a moment of silence for a lost pair of sunglasses. (Interpretation lies with the viewer.)

Originally from Xi’an, China, Miao recently completed an MS in business analytics at Simon Business School. There is no shortage of reasons students make this decision; one of the deciding factors for Miao was technical. “Simon will teach you how to use Python,” he says, referring to the general-purpose programming language. “I also enjoy the extraordinary diversity at Rochester.”

A striking orange sunset illuminates the peak of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, framed by tall trees. The clear, still water below mirrors the vibrant rock formation against a deepening blue sky.

False sun
Stella Fu ʼ24, business marketing 

Perhaps only the most dedicated of national park devotees would recognize this rock formation, pictured doing an impression of a setting sun as Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome. This particular view is from Sentinel Bridge. After spending some time on the park’s Mist Trail, Stella Fu ʼ24 hiked to the bridge and made this breathtaking golden-hour photo of the well-known batholith.

Fu had heard visiting the park during the summer was particularly rewarding, but that was a reference to the waterfalls. Apparently, it’s also an excellent time for photo making.

Originally from Beijing, China, Fu chose to study in the US because it offered the most academic flexibility. She was drawn to Rochester by its open curriculum, which allowed her to explore a range of subjects in her first and second years. “My time at Rochester has been filled with memorable experiences,” she says, “like snowboarding on the backside of Susan B. [Anthony Hall].”

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