Padnos International Center holding study-abroad photo contest

GVL / Courtesy - Ty

GVL / Courtesy – Ty

Drew Schertzer

Each year, close to 800 or more Grand Valley State University students choose to travel to another country. They may choose from 60 GVSU programs or from hundreds of opportunities held by other schools. For the third year in a row, the Padnos International Center’s PICS Study Abroad Photo Contest will showcase pictures that students have taken while studying in other countries. The photos will be shown Friday, March 9, through Friday, March 23, and can be voted on during this time. 

“Study abroad gives students the chance to see the world, and it is hugely impactful,” said Alissa Lane, outreach coordinator at the PIC. “To live in a country where people think differently and have different perspectives impacts who you are on a personal, professional and academic level.”

Lane said the competition will showcase what students have been able to see and do in other countries. She encourages documenting those experiences and reflecting upon them. She even described her own study-abroad experience from 10 years ago, saying she still goes through her pictures and memories. 

There will be more than 300 pictures on display during the contest. Categories will include Getting Lost, Celebration and Tradition, and more. The pictures will be held in 130 Lake Ontario Hall. After the votes are all in, a reception will take place Tuesday, March 27, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Red Wall Gallery in Lake Ontario Hall. The first-place prize will be an iPad, followed by a GVSU jacket and GVSU sweatshirt for second and third place, respectively. 

The reception is a chance for people to meet the students who took the pictures and hear the stories behind the photos. Lane described it as a way to learn about new places and live vicariously through the stories. 

“I think study abroad brings a lot of skill sets to all students, and everyone’s experience is different,” said Meaghann Myers-Smith, study-abroad adviser at the PIC. “GVSU thinks students are graduating with a global perspective that allows them to think critically about issues, processes and problem-solving adaptability.” 

Every Wednesday and Friday, study-abroad first-step meetings are held in Lake Ontario Hall. The number of programs that are available to students can be overwhelming, Myers-Smith said. PIC officials recommend that students interested in studying abroad visit an adviser to help them narrow in on the specifics of where they want to go.

According to Myers-Smith, students can do anything from internships in Madrid working in a medical clinic to studying biology in an Ecuadorian rainforest. She added that students usually come back with fresh confidence after studying abroad. 

Financially, students can access different resources such as scholarships and other financial aid to help them study abroad. Myers-Smith said another thing to keep in mind is the cost of living in some countries. 

For more information about the PIC PICS Study Abroad Contest or general study-abroad questions, visit