Photo competition gives students the opportunity to share pictures and stories

Students have heard it before, ‘Now is the time to travel, it’s a life changing experience,’ but Keene State College students who have studied abroad put meaning behind this phrase by sharing their experiences to encourage other students to travel.

The KSC Global Education Study Abroad Photo Competition was held in the student center last week.

With over 150 votes submitted, there were four winners out of more than 70 photo submissions.

These winners shared their pictures, as well as some insight about their opinions on studying abroad.

According to KSC Senior Study Away Advisor Tim Francis, 62 KSC students are studying abroad this semester. However, he believes this number should be higher.

Francis said that one of the biggest regrets college seniors say they have is not studying away.

“I wish study away was required of every major,” Francis said.

However, all hope is not lost for students who did not study abroad while in college — after graduation is also a good time to travel.

Francis pointed out that traveling only gets more expensive and difficult once “you have a car, house, family, kids, spouse, pet and a full-time job,” ­— things that most students don’t have as of now.

He also said another luxury of traveling while young is being able to stay in a youth hostel, which is less expensive than a hotel.

First place winner in the general category for her picture of Cinque Terre is KSC Senior Kelly Decerbo.

She said, “Taking the initiative to travel at any point in ones life is a colossal move and sometimes a risky one, but to take that risk when we’re young and still prone to making mistakes and staying up all night could very well be the most liberating thing to happen to a student or twenty-something.”

Decerbo said as people get older they tend to “settle, to become comfortable in their ways and let go of aspirations.”

She explained that there is so much to see of the world and to travel while young is crucial because it could open one’s eyes to a different version of him or herself.

Lauren Villanova, who studied abroad in Colombia, said she got to learn a lot about her own culture by studying abroad.

“I’m actually adopted from Colombia and it was my first time back,” she said.

Kelly Decerbo / Contributed Photo

Kelly Decerbo / Contributed Photo

Villanova said she spent a lot of time practicing her Spanish and immersing herself in her culture.

“In this life you should experience something outside your comfort zone. You don’t know what could happen in the future and if you don’t take the opportunity to expand your horizon now, you may never know what you’re missing,” she said.

She also shared some insight by saying, “Don’t overthink expectations and live in the present moment. Everyone has different experiences so don’t compare your expectations to others.”

Francis of the GEO office noted the positives of traveling.

“It allows you to try other delicious foods, meet people from around the world, learn about other cultures as well as reflect on your own,” he said.

Francis said he can’t pick one valuable lesson that students learn while studying abroad or traveling. Instead, he insisted that students learn infinite lessons.

“Learning how to be with others, how to live with people in cultures different from you, learning how to work in groups with people of different cultures, independence ­— I can’t pick which one is most important,” he said.

Most students who have studied abroad agree that they have learned many valuable lessons and more about themselves. Decerbo said through studying abroad and traveling in Europe she learned many lessons that she has been able to transfer back to her day-to-day life.

“Seizing the opportunity to travel emancipated me from my entire lifestyle prior to doing so. Traveling opened my eyes to the variety in humanity and the frequency of judgement and negativity there can be in the world. I can honestly say that I am a generally more positive student and person based solely on my experiences abroad,” Decerbo said.

KSC students shared, however, that the place someone chooses to study or travel does not dictate where he or she will spend all of his or her time.

“I chose Florence because I wanted to study abroad in a central European location from which I could easily access a multitude of other cultures. Not to mention the architecture, food and overall lifestyle Italy has to offer,” Decerbo said.

She traveled from Italy to France, England, Switzerland, Spain and other countries while studying abroad. “It’s hard to believe until you actually experience it, but once arrived in your host country it is quite literally one of the cheapest and simplest things to travel to a neighboring country or city via plane, train or bus. Traveling on your own? No problem, catch a flight to Paris for under thirty dollars. Prefer to travel in a group? Book a trip with one of many popular student travel companies for around two-hundred-fifty dollars, it’ll include transportation, accommodation, a travel guide and activities,” Decerbo explained.

Francis said the Global Education Office definitely encourages traveling to other countries while abroad, but also mentioned that even if a student doesn’t travel out of his or her country of origin there are still many places to see, and one is able to further immerse him or herself into that one culture.

Through studying abroad, KSC students have the option of 25 programs in the fall or spring and 18 programs in the summer. However, those graduating this May still have options to study abroad through the school or travel on their own after graduation.

Francis said, “I would suggest a summer program abroad where [seniors] can do an internship or work abroad… These summer, short-term programs allow the student to get that international experience before they enter the ‘real world’ in the fall.”

An article on titled Top 10 Reasons You Should Travel After Graduating College says after college graduation is the perfect time to travel.

The author explains that she gets questioned for traveling abroad after graduation and her response is, “At twenty-two why would I want to jump start spending the next forty years of my life working forty-hour weeks waiting for those two weeks of vacation to spend each year?”

In the article she mentions that everyone deserves a break between 19 years of being in school and the ‘real world.’ She also mentions graduates can still use their school ID while abroad to get discounts and have cheaper alternatives than traveling later in life.

The article goes on to list reasons why after graduation is the best time to travel. It reads, “How can you find your place in the world and know exactly what you want to do in life without seeing the possibilities first?”

Contributed Photo / Kelly MacDonald

Contributed Photo / Kelly MacDonald

Decerbo agrees that students should travel during or after college. “I think that the period following graduation is a crucial time, and a window of opportunity to do something extraordinary,” she said.

She continued, “Rushing into a career might seem like the move, but any opportunities that exist the day after graduation will more than likely still be there when you return. If they aren’t, maybe that path will give way to entirely new career choice. Traveling gives everyone a new outlook on themselves and the world around them, and no one should be deprived of that.”

Through traveling and studying abroad, KSC students have had some unexpected and crazy experiences.

Villanova said meeting her birth mother and half-brothers, something she was hoping but did not expect to do, was her most memorable experience while abroad. To make this possible, during her time in Colombia, Villanova traveled alone to go to the orphanage she was adopted from and with help from a local business owner, was able to track her mother and half-brothers down.

Two weeks later she met her mother and half-brother for the first time.

“It was exciting, strange and compelling. I don’t want to generalize because I know not all adoptees feel this way, but I always wanted to meet my family since I was a child, so it was honestly a dream come true,” Villanova said of her experience. Villanova said she still says in touch with her half-brother and was very fortunate to have that experience.

Badstubner said he had many great experiences while abroad, but favors the times he went scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef and got to DJ at a club in Australia. “My craziest [experience] would be being a DJ at different nightclubs on a weekly basis,” Badstubner said. He said he DJed in Boston and Worcester occasionally before he left for Australia, so when he went to there he figured he would continue to do so.

He said he was a weekly DJ for a club in New South Wales called Hostage X.

Decerbo, Badstubner, Villanova and many other students who have studied abroad or traveled agree that their experiences have only made them want to travel more and they strongly advise others to do so as well.

Badstubner said, “My experience abroad has fueled a desire to travel much more. I caught the bug so to speak. It’s like a tattoo: you have it with you for life and you always want more.”

Decerbo agreed that studying abroad has furthered her desire to travel more. “My time in Italy wasn’t my first abroad experience, but more of a next step in my travel plans which has only solidified my craving for exploration,” she said.

“In May, I’ll be returning to Italy to start my new job as a marketing and travel specialist at a student travel company that I used often while in Florence,” Decerbo explained.

Villanova said, “Those who have traveled know themselves more because they have pushed themselves out of their normal boundaries, so only then do you know more about yourself and the world.”

The article on agreed with these students.

It said, “Don’t let the ‘American Dream’ get in the way of your dreams. You don’t have to wait until you’re 65 and retired to see the world — live while you’re young.”

Taylor Thomas can be contacted at

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