Student Life Editor
“A picture is worth a thousand words,” or so the saying goes. But for the Keene State College students who studied abroad in the past year, the photos they bring home with them represent a series of experiences and memories of their lives forever changed.
The KSC Global Education Office hosts an annual photo contest for these students to give them an opportunity to share their stories.
Annie Fernandez, program assistant for the GEO, said approximately 40 students submitted photos. She explained students have the opportunity to submit three photos within two separate categories—“Global Engagement” and “General Study Away.” One photo for each category is selected as the winner through a general voting process, and one photo is selected as runner up. Fernandez said voting is open to the college and to the general public, and estimated they received approximately 200 votes this year.
KSC junior Kim L’heuruex won the first place “General Award” for her photo of the Victoria Falls in Zambia, Africa, when she studied in Botswana during the fall 2012. L’heureux said she wasn’t surprised to learn she had won. “I thought it was really cool that I won but I think the caption and just the photo itself was just so breathtaking,” she said. Fernandez explained every student was required to write a caption for their photo. L’heureux said writing the caption was difficult, just as it was hard to put into words her experience abroad to her friends and family.
L’heureux commented on her photo and said the Falls are one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, which explained its captivation. “That’s very cool in a sense,” she said, “Not many people ever travel to that place. Writing the caption was kind of just like opening a new spot where people could travel to, giving them an idea of what it’s like to be in a different spot.”
Fernandez said photos are a way for students like L’heureux to show their experience when words no longer suffice. Fernandez said, “This is a great way for them to put their photos out there, and it just gives them another outlet to express the usually quite transformational experience they went through. When you come back, there’s a lot to integrate into your life back home, so you need outlets to talk and express what you just experienced—the fun and all, but also the part that changes inside of you when you’re studying somewhere else.” L’heurex reiterated Fernandez’s statement and said showing her some odd 3,000 photos with friends and family has been the easiest way for her to attempt to bring her experiences home.
“They’re just–it’s a piece of you that you can bring back or a piece of your memory abroad. Obviously a photo doesn’t capture every moment or the emotion necessarily, but whenever I look at my photos a million emotions run back. I want to share with people back here to show them what I did for a semester and how it changed my life.”
The junior continued, “I think having the ability to share photos is wonderful because you’re able to express what you kind of did in a sense. They would never fully understand unless they were there with you. But they get a glimpse of what it was like.” Senior Rebecca Leclerc won the first place prize for the “Global Engagement” category for her photo from Cape Town, South Africa, where she studied for the fall semester of her senior year. The photo shows Leclerc serving bread at a soup kitchen in a township. Leclerc explained a township as an “informal settlement where houses are made of corrugated metal.” She explained townships exist in the wake of the apartheid where colored people were forced to move. In the photo, Leclerc described herself as being “playfully attacked” by children seeking bread. Leclerc said, “The people there are really poor. They’re sick. They just live in really bad conditions. But they’re so happy and they’re so nice and generous and love talking to and interacting with you. The kids are still happy and love being there and just playing and being kids basically. It’s like hard to explain that.” Leclerc said this photo represents the split within South Africa as the country remains both a first and third world country after the apartheid. She said explaining to friends and family the vast difference from one part of the country to another was nearly impossible, but being able to share this photo made it somewhat easier. The senior said she submitted two photos and did not expect to win. Senior Devan Witzenbocker was the runner up in the general category for his photo taken in Paris, and Annie White, a junior, was runner up for the global engagement category for her photo of the Charles Bridge in Prague. Fernandez said she hopes the contest can draw more attention to the GEO and show the opportunity that lies before them as KSC students. She said, bottom line, the competition exists as a pathway for students to express their fulfillment from studying away as best they can. “It just gives them a lot of joy to share what they did,” she concluded, “Not just with their friends and family but with everyone and I think its just such a meaningful experience for students that its just another way for them to express.” Every one of these students’ photos go beyond a thousand words. They represent a thousand memories and a life forever changed.
Julie Conlon can be contacted at