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February 27, 2014

PANORAMA [View Image]

Students Share Study Abroad Stories in Creative Ways


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Richmond, February 27, 2014 - About 50 VCU students gathered in the West Grace North Residence Hall Fireplace Lounge to share stories about their travels abroad at the VCU Education Abroad office's PanoRAMa. Promoted every semester by the Education Abroad office, this storytelling event is designed to encourage students to participate in cultural exchange and to provide them with a forum to talk with their peers about their travels. The stories ranged from tales about extreme backpacking in New Zealand to being chased by monkeys on the beach while studying in Nicaragua. Exchange students currently studying at VCU told stories about funny cultural misunderstandings and what it is like to be an international student in the United States. The Education Abroad office’s student ambassadors served as judges and awarded three prizes for the most entertaining stories. Wade Angeli (pictured, top right) won the most votes for "Best Story."  

Student's article published on


Education Abroad Student Ambassador Sarah Vedomske became a published writer when her article "The Top 5 Most Valuable Souvenirs from World Travel" was featured on Vedomske's article relays her perspective on the most valuable takeaways from studying abroad that are not the typical bought souvenirs. Read her article below as published on the blog.


Panorama [View Image]Wade Angeli won the most votes for "Best Story" by Education Abroad student ambassadors.

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‌Sarah Vedomske, an Education Abroad Student Ambassador, tells her stories of studying abroad.

Panorama [View Image]Students share interesting stories about their studies abroad.


The Top 5 Most Valuable Souvenirs from World Travel
By: Sarah Vedomske

So, you're probably thinking "Hmm, most valuable souvenirs... how much will THOSE cost?" But you are in luck, wanderlust friends, because these souvenirs won't even cost you a Euro. In fact, they are all free!

Connect with other study abroad students. [View Image]Connect with other study abroad students. Photo by Bogi Palotas.

The word souvenir in French literally translates to "to remember." Les souvenirs means "the memories." And those are the most important part of traveling, right? The memories. The stories. The adventures, the experiences, and the thrill of breaking out of your comfort zone and deciding to see this big, beautiful world. As cliché as it sounds, these things are worth a million times more than all the Eiffel Tower key chains and Big Ben teacups money can buy.

The most valuable souvenirs are things that you cannot hold. You can't show them off, or give them to you friends as gifts. However, you will carry them with you no matter where you go, every single day for the rest of your life.  

5. Understanding

Until you go abroad, it is hard to fully comprehend the idea of other cultures. We see pictures of faraway people living in places that seem to be worlds away, eating strange looking food, and wearing different types of clothing. Somewhere between the time zones and mountain ranges and the oceans that separate us, we have developed varying cultures. Sure, you can read all about them from the comfort of your home, and try to envision these daily lives so different from your own. But to get a deep understanding of other people in other places, you must immerse yourself in this culture. Talking to these people (or trying to work around a language barrier), tasting their food, learning about their differing lifestyles by seeing them with your own eyes- these are the keys to true understanding. It will shock you how simultaneously different and similar we all are. You will leave with a new sense of understanding and compassion for the world, and the people, around you. 

4. Connection 

There are 7 billion people in this world. That's a pretty overwhelming number. Traveling has a way of making it seem less daunting. Through traveling, you meet people from all over the world. You start to build friendships and make connections with people from different countries and continents, and with these connections, the world starts to feel more accessible. You begin to realize how much we all really do have in common as human beings. Sometimes it will shock you how much you can relate to someone who lives on the other side of the world, and maybe even speaks a different language. As your world expands with a sense of possibility, it also shrinks with a sense of common ground and connection. Suddenly, the idea of 7 billion people seems more comforting than overwhelming. 

3. Open-mindedness 

Traveling isn't always comfortable. That is one reason why it is so important and so rewarding. To travel is to bravely step out of your comfort zone and embrace unknown territory. It can mean relying on maps or strangers' directions to get you where you're trying to go. It can mean ordering food that you can't pronounce, or sleeping in a hostel room with people you've never met. Even when you think you have everything planned, travel sometimes has a way of skewing those plans. Travel teaches you to have an open mind in many different ways. It teaches you that sometimes, things don't go according to plan, but it's not the end of the world. Traveling, even when it doesn't go as planned, will always leave you with an experience, and very often, an adventure. 

2. Confidence

Traveling is a journey- literally and metaphorically. Often, the 'you' that stepped off of that plane, or boat, or train for the first time into a foreign land, and the 'you' who weeks, months, or even years later is leaving it, has changed. You will have gained insight into another part of the world. You will have seen the way a different civilization lives and works. You will have immersed yourself in this world, and you will have grown from it. At the end of this journey, you will look back and you will be both amazed and incredibly proud of all that you have experienced. From that moment on, you will carry within yourself a new self-confidence that comes from the knowledge that you stepped boldly into another part of the world and bravely explored all that it had to offer.  

1. Appreciation

It is no secret that travel induces an appreciation for the incredible and numerous natural and historical sites all over the world. When you spend months planning a trip, and finally make it to those places you've dreamed of for so long, you deeply appreciate them. Those experiences awake something in you that seems to be asleep in the routine of daily life. They open your eyes to something bigger. When traveling, you also notice how other people carry on their day-to-day lives, and how they differ from yours. You notice details. You take a closer look at things and spend time comparing another culture to your own.  What often happens is, although you may be thousands of miles from it, you start to see your own country in a new light. You start to take a closer look at it, after seeing first-hand the differences in the way other cultures carry on their lives. Your perspective shifts slightly, and you gain a new appreciation for all of the subtle details that shape each culture into its own way of life. When you return home, this appreciation will accompany you, and you will look around at your own life with a new sense of awareness, fascination, and knowledge of the little things that make your culture, and others, the unique art forms of living that they are.

 Visit the website for the full published article

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