Why We Travel: A Writing Contest

Academic Year 2023–24
A student is sitting in a courtyard and looking down at a notebook with pen in hand. Two monks play ping pong in the background.
Sketchbook: Ping Pong in a Buddhist Monastery (Maayan Malter, ’15 / Beijing: Social Sciences)

Study Abroad sponsors a travel writing contest for UChicago College students who have completed or are completing a study abroad program. This contest was established in recognition of all the great student writing influenced by time abroad.

We accept works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, as well as any other works of writing that your time abroad has inspired you to create. Experiences abroad are myriad, and we are seeking writing that reflects this. You are encouraged to submit a piece that best fits your experience and expresses how your time abroad shocked, delighted, awed, challenged, or changed you.


To take part in this contest you must be a University of Chicago undergraduate student. Your submission must be about an experience that took place at a location outside of the United States for a minimum duration of 3 weeks. All study abroad experiences through the University of Chicago, one of its partner programs, or a College travel grant (FLAG, Research Grants) are eligible.

Please follow all formatting rules (see below). Failure to do so will render your submission ineligible.

Subject Matter

Not sure what to write about? Here are a few suggestions to get you started. Remember that you are free to write in any genre you wish.

  • Tell us about the day you will most remember from your time abroad.
  • Introduce us to people you met while studying abroad (your host family, language partners, fellow travelers, etc.).
  • Describe your sensory experience of a place you visited while studying abroad.
  • What is something you learned about yourself or others through your study abroad experience?
  • How have your travels changed your perspective on an issue?

Submission Process and Deadline

Works of writing should be submitted in Microsoft Word Document format or in rich-text format (RTF) and must not exceed 16 pages double-spaced in length. Please use standard text size (12 point) and standard margins (1 to 1.5 inches). Send in your submission by attaching the document to your submission email. In your email, please include the following:

  1. “Travel Writing Contest” in the subject line
  2. Your name, student ID, and year in the College
  3. Your desired published name
  4. Where and when you went abroad and for how long (please also indicate if it was through a Chicago-sponsored program)
  5. A title and short explanation of your submission
  6. If your piece has already been published elsewhere, please let us know.

For photo essay submissions: Photographs must be sent digitally at a minimum resolution of 300 dpi. Please also include detailed location information for each photograph.

Email submissions to the Study Abroad Communications Manager at nap@uchicago.edu. The deadline for the 2023–24 contest has been extended to Monday, May 13, 2024.


Study Abroad will award up to three prizes.

  • First Prize: $200
  • Second Prize: $150
  • Third Prize: $100

The prize-winning submissions will be featured on the UChicago Study Abroad website.

Important Advisory

All submissions become the property of the College of the University of Chicago, which will enjoy full, non-exclusive rights of use and circulation (with attribution to the author). If you submit writing it is understood that you have granted this right.

Further Information

Please email any questions about the writing contest to the Study Abroad Communications Manager at nap@uchicago.edu.

Writing Contest Winners

    • First Prize 
      “Fuera del hogar, ya estoy aquí (Away from home, I am already here)” by Sophia Rodriguez-Bell, Class of 2024 (Direct enrollment program at Trinity College Cambridge) 
      This is a chronological set of moments exploring my identity as a Chicana in an environment where there are few to no people with the same cultural background. Each piece has some reference to Chicano history, culture, or iconography, although some references are far more transparent than others. I have done a lot of thinking about what it means to be from a culture not present where I am right now. How does my relationship to my culture change when I am distanced from it? How can I continue to engage with it from afar? Each moment is also accompanied by a short commentary on a related linguistics or language phenomenon. I came to Cambridge specifically for the linguistics curriculum, so this serves as a grounding motif not only within this piece but also in my overall experience here.
    • Second Prize 
      “Tranquillo” by Crystina Windham, Class of 2025 (The Bernard J. DelGiorno Civilization Program in Rome) 
      My time abroad floods back in an assortment of fragmented memories, blurry iPhone photos, and never-ending journal entries. But what has remained unshakeable is the profound contentment that I experienced over those 10 weeks. It was the first time in my life that I had felt such a feeling. Meeting so many people, absorbing so much knowledge, and embracing a culture completely different from my own brought me pure happiness and gratitude. My hope with this piece is to convey even a morsel of these sentiments to whoever reads it.
    • Third Prize 
      “maybe i will learn.” by Tiffany Akinyoade, Class of 2026 (Intermediate French in Paris) 
      In this piece, I recount the lessons learnt, sights seen, and memories made throughout the 2 months I spent in Paris, in the form of a response to the first person I conversed with upon arrival – the immigration officer at the Paris-CDG Airport. In a way, I ascribe some level of ownership to her as she is the one who, both technically and literally speaking, opens the door to Paris for me; I see her as a piece that represents a whole, and refer to many things Parisian or French as 'hers'. Thus, as I write the letter to her, though less explicitly, I am also writing the letter to the city, Paris, and as I thank her in this letter, I am also thanking Paris – for the treasures of a lifetime it gifted me with.
    • First Prize
      Si tu voudrais te sentir chez toi (If you would like to feel at home) by Hilary Shi, ’24
      “What’s study abroad like?”
      Throughout the past month, I have gotten asked this one particular question several times—during an internship onboarding meeting, in text messages with classmates, while Zoom calling my friends back home. In between these forms of communication, however, I felt like the answers I gave never did justice to reality. Now, in writing, this is my attempt to answer in a way that better encompasses the myriad of emotions I’ve experienced over the past few weeks.
    • Second Prize
      Amaranth by Makayla MacGregor, ’24
      My piece is a nonfiction reflection on the connection between some of the travel I had the opportunity to do while in England, and the British literature I read for my classes. Jane Austen, George Eliot, and the Brontë sisters are some of my absolute favorite authors, so the privilege of reading their works while exploring the landscapes that they describe in their writing was a phenomenal experience. My understanding and appreciation of British literature was vastly impacted by the travel that I did while here, and I’m so grateful for the new perspective that I have on the relationship between place and the novel. Above all, my time studying abroad has made me hope that in the future I can travel to the settings of my other favorite books, all over the world.
    • Third Prize
      The Places I’ve Carved Out For Myself by Emma Janssen, ’24
      In this creative nonfiction piece, I describe vignettes of notable places in my time at Trinity College, Cambridge. These aren’t the ‘typical’ places a visitor to Cambridge would see; instead, they are windows into my specific routines and the communities that I’ve become a part of. My piece explores the significance of place and nature, and the joys of study and conversation within beautiful and meaningful places.
    • First Prize
      Bitter Sweet by Jerusalem program participant

      I wrote a poem called “Bitter Sweet.” The setting is a backyard in the Israel suburb Modi’in, where I visited my roommate’s family and family friends for Pesach. Her uncle showed me his garden, which he was so proud of, and it was filled with all kinds of fruits and vegetables. In my poem I aim to contrast sweet moments like these, with the bitter and constant back and forth in my head about the political situation here in Israel. I reference the Holocaust, the establishment of the state of Israel, and the 6 Day War as a way of including tragedies that affect/ed both sides of the conflict. In my time here I feel like I’ve come to empathize with both sides and I hope my poem reflects that. It’s meant to show the impossibility of the situation and the sweet and bitter moments that go on despite that.
    • Second Prize
      Bus 40, forever by Esme Hernandez, ’23

      On a chilly morning on the last week of study abroad in Paris, two girls decide to catch the sunrise in Montmartre and then ride the bus. At the time, it was a whimsical sort of carpe diem moment, but now it ranks as one of my favorite memories to draw upon.
    • First Prize
      El intercambio by Cinque Carson, ’21

      A microwave room discussion of race and identity in Spain and reflections upon an unforgettable exchange.
    • Second Prize
      Pork Belly Prayer by Maya Osman-Krinsky, ’21

      It is the story of a night I spent in Oaxaca with a friend I’d made on a market walking tour, discussing Mexican food and drink systems. It is also the story of how I began to think about the relationship of Mexico to the United States through my own lens of a food-obsessed writer and American student in this particular moment in space and time.
    • Third Prize
      Ndànk-ndànk, mooy jàpp golo ci ñaay by An Trinh, ’22

      For a long weekend, two of my closest friends and I went to Kédougou, a little town on the other side of Senegal from Dakar. This is a story about us. And this is also a story about more than just us.
    • Honorable Mention
      El amor en los tiempos de corona (Love in the Time of Corona) by Sarah Kwon, ’22

      My piece details how I fell in love with Oaxaca and its people, and how this love, like all others, was at times painful. In particular, it explores how I reckoned with my Asian-American identity abroad at a time of heightened xenophobia as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.