2018 Winners

Writing Contest Winners

Transformative Cultural Experiences at Miami

Winners

1st Place: Way Home on R2 by Haining Wang

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R2 was the bus that goes between Miami University’s Middletown Campus and the Oxford one. It was grey and smaller than the buses which started with “U”. R2 had twenty seats for its guests. It had the left back two rows which can be folded and a door in the right back can become a flat pathway, and because of these parts the guest who is in a wheelchair could also be able to get into the bus conveniently and have space. R2 had two drivers, and it was an old woman who takes charge of it in the afternoons. She wore a neon Lucifer yellow polo shirt and grey-brown shorts. There was a tattoo of a blue and purple butterfly that sat on her calf. This old woman was a wild driver, sometimes the passengers could feel the bus leave the ground a little bit, and when it went back on the ground, the whole bus made a huge “Squees”. The red huge box set beneath her was full of food. She would open a jar of mashed fruits when she was waiting for the traffic signal lights and finished it quickly or put some canned chips on her right thigh then ate them while driving the bus. However, most of the time, she loved to talk with her passengers. She shared her breaking news, “My son just had an interview this afternoon in Pizza Hut, the whole family is happy for him. His uncle even told him, ‘We want double sausage pizza!’”. Or some social news, “A woman lived here passed away last week, she was just thirty-five.” Several times before I always told her where I wanted to be dropped off, but at that time I finally knew how to use the wire above the window. I pulled the wire, then a sharp “Beep” noise came out and a red light popped out from a button near to the driver's right hand. She stopped the bus at the closest station then dropped me off. After I got off the bus, the bus restarted and went away with the sound just like a motorcycle.

On the R2, I could truly feel that I am in a different country. Because even the rules and system on the bus were different from China, not to mention the views outside of the window. I used to feel very nervous and even fear getting on the bus, for I was worried about having awkward conversations with the other people on the bus or having improper behaviors that would make people think that I am a weirdo. However, both the other passengers and the two bus drivers were polite and warmhearted, they never lost their patience with me, and always helped me at once when I had problems. One of the bus drivers even said to me, “Everyone here is gonna help you, that’s what we do”. I was deeply moved. R2 also gives me a feeling of home. Last week on R2, I was so tired and had fallen in a deep sleep on the bus, and even did not wake up at the bus stop near my home. When I was blinded with sleep, a person woke me up tenderly. I woke up and saw a stranger smiling shyly. “Hi, Honey!“ the bus driver said, “You get off at this stop right? I don’t want you to miss your stop.” Suddenly, I felt so happy that someone noticed me and my station, and woke me up for my own good. It felt like home.

2nd Place: Try to Express Myself by Qiuqiu Zhao

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According to Chinese traditional culture, people who prefer to express their ideas are likely to be biased as they would never put it into action. A prevalent stereotype among schools is that students who frequently volunteer answers in class are a teacher’s pet, and those students might be discriminated or even isolated by a majority of students. Under such circumstance, of course, we Chinese left a profound impression to foreigners that we are silent, cautious, and unwilling to participate in the class discussion.

I was also a particularly representative Chinese student, having all of the typical characteristics of Chinese people: timid, reserved, emotional, and introverted. The reason why I could not actively express my thoughts and needs was because I did not have a good expectation of a positive response, which should have come from countless positive experiences. Every experience of rejection evoked all sorts of feelings of shame, embarrassment, and disgrace. Out of the nature of pleasure to avert such suffering, I was afraid to experience those painful feelings again. To be specific, the education I have received discouraged me to express my thoughts freely. The only answer that teachers anticipated was the absolutely right answer, the same as the reference source. Otherwise, the student volunteer might be criticized severely and mocked by the classmates. Consequently, students would really rather be dead than speak in public, even just in front of the classroom. Trapped in the dilemma that they were unable to dig into an in-depth study, teachers have no choice but to forcefully ask someone to answer the question, which is viewed as a frustrating misfortune, totally ruining a good day.

However, I have been given various opportunities to participate in class at Miami University, allowing me to feel that I am really making a difference to this small classroom. During the beginning of every class, professors would give chances for us to speak freely. No matter what opinions we hold or which example we give, they would take them seriously, give deep thoughts, and provide deliberate feedback. More importantly than all of that, nobody feels ashamed to raise their concerns and share their unique perspectives, whether correct or not. Fact is, trying new things and taking a risk never opens us to criticism.

After grasping the skill to dare to express myself, another turning point came in my business law course. In that class, our innovative professor created a special rule for us to express our opinion on the true or false questions, which is either giving a thumbs up or a thumbs down on whether we suppose it is true or false. Having been told the question which related to the intentional law, all of my classmates gave a thumbs up while I hesitated and was afraid to express my unique idea. Now that everyone except me had the same answer, there is no doubt that I stood no chance of having the correct answer. Since it is so, why would I take a risk to say something different? Having determination wavered for a decade, I did not make a choice until the professor noticed that I absolutely stayed out. The moment he asked for my opinion, a myriad of thoughts crowded into my mind: overwhelmed, anxious, trapped. Why am I so afraid of expressing different ideas? What will happen if I say something wrong? However, I was conscious of what must be done right now: express myself. Finally, I mustered up my courage, stuck to my original thoughts and gave my thumbs down. In return, I received an amazing thumbs up from professor and gained applause from peers because my answer was definitely correct.

Overseas students are always confronted with the same question that what we have learned abroad. The most beneficial and rewarding aspect is not language or a diploma. The first tremendously influential ability is the willingness to autonomously learn until midnight; the second one is the peaceful mind to pursue a simple dream among the luxury lives of others; and the most important skill I have mastered in Miami University is the bravery to express my thoughts, whether I’m sure or not. All of these will benefit for a lifetime.

Top ELC/ACE: My Transformative Cultural Experiences in Miami by Hongyu Chen

Honorable Mentions

Up Up Up by Dehang Yuan

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Nothing happens but one familiar voice suddenly comes into my mind. “Here we go. Up, up, up”! Like the end of the world, everything is gone with the vanishing of the voice. Then I open my eyes and sigh with emotion: “What an impressive nightmare!”

It goes without saying that “Up, up, up” has not only been the symbol of Miami University, but also been an unavoidable part of my daily life. Since I have studied at Miami for two months, gradually, I have figured out why I am struggling with the activity. No experts doubt that all the problems start from the concept of education and ends for the way of education.

To begin, as we all know, both China and America’s study career is a long process from elementary school to university. Unfortunately, I have to say that everything is different at the very early stage because of the concept of education is different. Besides, what children learn at their early age will plant inside children’s heart and influence their whole life. Three years ago, an announcement of the Chairman Xi said: “Don’t let the kids lose at the starting line”. This saying can perfectly describe the notion of education of every Chinese person. To my own experience, I was not active at all since I was an elementary school student and I did have incredible pressure when I was studying because my parent had infinite faith in the saying I mentioned above. Like other parents in China, they have a strong desire to make me study in a good school. To achieve the goal, they signed me up for lots of tutorial classes, which made me suffocate and have no extra time to develop my own hobbies. However, my parent thought it would benefit me and forced me to be a learning machine. Therefore, the situation repeated again and again through my whole study career. Although it made my grades better, meanwhile, it also greatly affected my interest in learning. On the other hand, American parents prefer children who are fully developed so that they can have extra time for some interesting extracurricular activities which helped them to be a communicative person.

Furthermore, what makes the situation irreversible is the way of education. Contrary to studying at Miami, in China, closed education can be seen in most classes, which means you are a robot more than a student in such kind of classes. All you should do is recite everything that your teachers told you, whether it benefitted you or not, especially in English class. Ridiculously, Chinese style of education seems to forget the essential purpose of making students get higher grades. For that reason, I used to study in a closed class where you only should listen to the teacher, note everything from the teacher and remember that when you come back home, such a awful machinery learning. Nevertheless, I really abhor this kind of education. It has already been an anathema in my life, and as a consequence, it suppresses my all-around ability such as imagination and creativity. All I want to get through to you is I desire to be a man who is stocked with thought, not a robot which is full of order.

Here, I change my mind and begin to take the experience of studying at Mami as a great fortune. The previous pain and the reluctance which is got from the “Up, up, up” have been replaced by the energy to move forward and have confidence regardless that “Up, up, up” is still a tremendous challenge to me. Even so, I still need to up to a new studying level. As an old saying: “No pains, no gains”.

Time is running out, I am going to check my news and prepare to the “Up, up, up” for going up, up and up.

Transformative Cultural Experience at Miami by Chenlin Yuan

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As an international student, I have studied in Miami University for a year. During this period, I participated in different activities, and met different people which made my school life more interesting. For example, the school organized volunteer work for students to make friends with the native residents. The most memorable experience was that I carved the pumpkin with children for Halloween since I could assist those lovely children and make friends with them. Although it was cool in that night, the children who presented happy faces made me warm. In addition, I met different students from different schools in the class and we shared our own cultures to each other. These activities gave me the opportunity to know more people and made friends with them.

In class, I did some group assignments with different classmates. In these projects, we had exact divisions for each member to make sure everyone could exert their advantages. Therefore, the work was completed more efficiently. On the other hand, when I asked professors for help in the studying, they were patient and explained the knowledge carefully. For instance, I did not keep pace with my professor’s teaching in anthropology course since I missed the first class. Thus, I went to his office and asked him for help. When he heard that I could not take whole notes in the class, he told me that he posted the notes to Canvas and I could print it in the class. When he taught in the class, I could utilize the notes and added some additional information he mentioned. Meanwhile, the professor recommended recording what he said during the class. Then, I was able to review after class. Through these methods, I learned more easily than before.

In addition, I thought I became more brave and independent than before because I needed to overcome the difficulties and challenge myself. Studying abroad required me to be self-disciplined without parents’ supervision. I needed to arrange a reasonable schedule to balance studies and entertainment. For instance, I did not do assignments until the deadline was closed. Sometimes, several assignments were overlapped, and I was too busy to complete them on time. Thus, an explicit plan was necessary for me to avoid accumulating work which was hardly accomplished in a short time. If I needed to deal with a problem, I need to contact people and asked them to help. At first, I was timid and did not dare to talk with them because I would too nervous of forgetting what I wanted to say. However, people were kind and patient to listen to me. It made me more confident to talk to talk with them. Gradually, I spoke fluently and felt less anxious.

In short, the university life was interesting and relaxing. I could learn diverse cultures and expanded my knowledge. I adapted new study and life style in here. Studying in Miami was a valuable opportunity for me to promote myself.

Life is a Circle by Haoran Wang

Invisible Wall by Henan Liu

Transformative Cultural Experiences Abroad or Away

Winners

1st Place: A Brief History of Assorted Souvenirs Whispered to an Old Tree, 1099-Present Day by Delaney Heisterkamp

2nd Place: Learning to Dance by Jessie Hicks

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We departed the heart of the city, flowing down one of its many cobblestone-lined veins into the winding outer limbs that comprised Verona’s industrial district. Wiping my palms nervously on my skirt, I tried to imagine the map of Verona in my mind: The smooth arch of the Adige River pulling the city in close, encircling the grid of streets that date back over two thousand years. I had never yet left that cozy embrace to explore the southern reaches of the Verona “Comune.”

Despite my efforts, I had been unable to find anyone in my study abroad program who was free to join me for that evening’s swing dance. And so, exiting the bus into the cool February night, I squared my shoulders and lifted my chin in a confidence I prayed desperately to feel.

“This is exactly what you came here for,” I thought quietly to myself: “To try things that scare you. To meet new people. To escape the tourism and discover the heart of Italian life.” With fresh determination, I drew open the door and entered the ballroom. My heart leapt for joy as I silently named each familiar dance I saw play out on the floor: From East Coast, to Lindy Hop, to Charleston, each new move widened the grin on my face as I remembered learning these dances over four thousand miles away in Oxford.

And yet, my joyful remembrance was tinged with sorrow; I missed the familiar faces of the Miami Swing Syndicate. My loneliness mingled with self-doubt as I came to a sinking realization of just how little I still knew of swing dancing: Even if someone does ask me to dance, I wondered, What if I completely blank and make a fool of myself?

It was at about this point in my melancholy reverie that I saw a woman approach from the corner of my eye. She looked to be about fifty, with dark hair gathered elegantly around a face that reflected both kindness and mischief.

Taking a seat beside me, she asked simply, “Do you dance?”

Shyly, I replied, “Yes, but not very well, unfortunately.”

A grin crossed her face as she assured me, “That’s ok – The girl doesn’t have to dance well. As long as the man leads well, you’ll be fine.” Before I could offer an amused answer, the woman rose from her seat and proclaimed, “I will find one for you – The best dancer in the whole room!”

She turned away to embark on her mission before witnessing the look of terror on my face. Before I could hatch an escape plan, my would-be matchmaker returned with a handsome gentleman at her side. His pale blue shirt matched the soft, reflective blue of his eyes, which I had only a moment to examine before he offered me his arm and lead me to the dance floor.

Whatever anxieties had flooded me a moment before quickly melted away under the thumping beat of the orchestra and the confidence of my new partner. Enrico lead strongly, with such precision and energy that I felt myself being guided through maneuvers I was certain I had never learned. As the final notes of the song echoed through the ballroom, Enrico’s arm caught my waist and tilted me back into a perfect dip.

Breathless, I rose to my feet and released a laugh of pure delight. Having finally shaken my nerves, I danced with a handful of other partners throughout the evening, enjoying each person’s unique style and energy. Maneuvers I thought I’d forgotten came effortlessly with a strong lead to guide me through.

As the evening drew to a close and the final dancers exited the ballroom, I lingered at the edge of the dance floor. Reflecting on my first month in Verona, I realized that my brief time there had been but the first halting steps of my semester-long waltz with Italy. Certainly, there had been a few missteps along the way (like getting off at the wrong bus stop and walking almost two miles home alone at midnight). But there had also been glorious triumphs: Diving head-first into an unfamiliar language, making friends with local college students, and finding the courage to take risks all gave me the familiar, giddy rush of elation that comes with executing a perfect maneuver.

As I reluctantly turned to depart the ballroom, I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. Perhaps…, I thought hopefully, Perhaps I am finally learning how to dance.

Honorable Mentions

A Hiker’s Love Letter by Sarah Kingsbury

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Red and blue lines intersected and diverged on the paper map that I ran my finger over. Alpine city stops? Check. The aerial tram lines? Check. My mind clicked along trains of thought that mirrored the timely rail I was riding from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland. An activities coordinator for a Disney cruise would have been proud of the speed that I was considering where to walk, what to eat, when to board the train back home- and then I felt a light touch on my arm. One of my travel companions gestured to the wide train window.

My mind stopped. My breath deepened. My heart swelled.

I was surrounded by the Swiss Alps.

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The Lauterbrunnen Valley is home to 72 waterfalls that run from the craggy slopes during late spring and summer. Literally meaning “many fountains”, this destination is a short 20-minute train ride from Interlaken, a more populated city where the majority of tourists stay when visiting the Bern Region of Switzerland. Nature lovers will rejoice in the flora and fauna of Switzerland, and I think it’s a safe bet that every hiking enthusiast will experience the strong urge to scale the faces of the Alps.

There is no one way to describe the effect of the Alps on the human heart. The beauty is palpable. It was the kind of awe that made me savagely grab a handful of snow, just as a reminder that I was there. The mountains swallow the trails, and when hiking, I felt as though I was in the peaks, not just near them or close to them.

The air was cold, clean, clear, and every other purifying adjective that crackles in the ear and refreshes the mind. The nearby water is so wonderfully cerulean that you wonder if somewhere upstream, a little faun is pouring blue Kool-Aid mixture into the creeks.

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The sheer amount of natural beauty is a conservationist’s dream. The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs recognizes that Switzerland’s people must continue to strive for measures to ensure air quality, water safety, and biodiversity protection. Switzerland’s first national park was founded in 1914, and for the past 100 years has had the strictest measures to ensure nature is untouched and uninterrupted by the desires of intrepid travelers.

The Swiss people have a strong understanding of the heavenly terrain they have been given. With a backpack slung over my back, I pressed on uphill, pausing every two minutes to take in a new perspective of the mountains; honestly, the view never gets redundant. Stopping in Murren is a well-deserved treat for any hiker; the small town is populated with some vacation homes, ski shops, and hotels, but no cars.

I felt a small tug on my heart as I reflected on one of my favorite hiking and vacation destinations in the United States: Yellowstone National Park. While the US has 60 national parks, protections for these areas are potentially going to be decreased, leaving the already-fragile environment open to greater threats from visitors.

I recalled the cigarette butts that were thrown into the Morning Glory thermal pool in Yellowstone, and wryly juxtaposed it to Murren where people wouldn’t so much as tolerate emissions from cars. The National Park Service and the US Department of Energy have started some initiatives to decrease the amount of petroleum use and vehicle emissions in national parks, but I think that a more comprehensive approach that starts at the grassroots level is needed.

It will be my generation that will have the task of deciding the fates of our national parks and environmental beauties. A day’s hike in Switzerland opened my eyes to the power of a culture that is based around an appreciation of the outdoors. Whatever the citizens do for the environment is paid back with dividends because they have the sheer joy of living in such a place.

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As I descended from Grutschalp to Lauterbrunnen, I felt a deep well in my soul become filled to the brim with joy and satisfaction. There is inspiration enough for any visiting hiker to leave the trails and towns the same way they were found. Precious. Pure. Perfect.

When I stopped in a small coffee shop for a warm cappuccino, the owner’s smile was a reflection of my own joyful expression. She summed up hiking through the Alps with a weathered smile that removed years from her face: “It’s a special feeling.”

She’s right.

The Making of a “real Italian” by Mackenzie Rossero

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My dad was always told that his grandfather died in a hunting accident.

It took his mother years to admit that the fatal hunting accident involved the police, not deer.

My great-grandfather was an Italian immigrant living near Pittsburgh, Pa. He was killed by the ­­­­police in the 1940s because of his associations with the Italian mafia.

He’s nearly one third of my Italian heritage.

I’ve done some basic calculations, and I’m pretty sure I come in at about 45 percent Italian, all on my dad’s side.

When I was younger and realized I wasn’t as Italian as my dad was, I felt disconnected from my Italian background. But there were some redeeming moments during my summer in Florence, Italy.

First, I thought I was used to explaining the pronunciation of my Italian last name – “rho-ser-oh” – to other people, until the refreshing moment when I suddenly didn’t have to.

Second, the Florentines treated me like an Italian. With my long, dark hair, I seemed to fit in. I’m hesitant to say that I did fit in, because who knows what those real Italians thought, but it felt that way.

See, there it is. “Real Italians.” Who qualifies for that?

I remember calling my dad one day and mentioning how the “real Italians” walked too leisurely.

Before he could comment, I clarified, “You know, the ones who live here.”

What will he think when I tell him that sometimes I prefer American-Italian food over the authentic stuff? That sometimes I could really go for some Alfredo sauce, or the meat pepperoni, not the peppers?

Is this the difference between a “fake Italian,” and a “real” one?

When asked if my dad considers himself a “real Italian,” his answer is immediate: “Oh, yeah.” To him, Italians don’t have to be born in Italy.

My mom is a jumble of things – German, Native American, Irish. So many little scattered pieces that she doesn’t feel any particular allegiance to anything but her American roots. But she feels quite an allegiance to those roots.

She never lets us miss fireworks on the Fourth of July. She uses patriotic dish towels. She subconsciously touches her heart when she talks about the United States.

When my mom’s kindergarten students neglect to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance, she passionately asks them, “Would you rather live somewhere where they don’t have our freedoms?” Or, when they only mumble during “America the Beautiful,” she reminds them that “people died so [they] could sing [that] song.”

But, when I was about to leave for my trip, my mom was terrified that I’d be targeted because I was American.

The first time it came up, my parents and I were in our kitchen in a tiny Cleveland suburb – my mom at the sink, my dad in a stool, and me, shuffling around on the hardwood floor.  

My mom glanced over at me and began refolding the dish towel next to her.

“You know,” she began, “you have to be careful [in Italy]. People don’t always like Americans.”

My dad threw his hands in the air, exclaiming, “She’ll be fine! She’s Italian!”

My mom exaggerated an eye roll and tossed the dish towel down. “She’s American.”

There were plenty of American students and tourists in Florence, and we weren’t hard to find. At the beginning of my trip, that was comforting. Later, it didn’t feel like enough.

On July 4, I wanted to be home in America for reasons beyond missing my family, boyfriend and dogs. I wanted to be home to celebrate Independence Day.

But, because that wasn’t an option, some friends and I opted for the next best thing: lunch at a mock American diner.

Inside, we were surrounded by American license plates and American pop music. I couldn’t help smiling.

As we got up to leave and unstuck our thighs from the vinyl chairs, we passed the British owner hanging a celebratory American flag.

“Happy Independence Day,” he said, in his English accent. “Even if it’s from us.”

I chuckled at the irony. As I stepped back onto the Italian cobblestones, the world around me shifted as the close-but-not-quite copy of stereotypical America faded away.

I’m not a “fake Italian.” My family came from that beautiful country. I have roots there, and I’m proud of that.

But I’m not a “real Italian” either. Those Italians just don’t have Italian roots – they have Italian trunks, leaves and branches, too.

Mine are American, and I think I prefer it that way.

From Fear to Freedom by Annie Lazarski

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My first time leaving the country was my departure for study abroad, and as I paraglided off the French Alps, looking at Mont Blanc in the blue sky, I remember thinking to myself, how am I ever going to want to go back home? However, I was not studying abroad in Chamonix, France, I was studying abroad in Glasgow, Scotland. And when the plane touched ground in Glasgow, it was not the grassy earth of the French valley I felt, it was the cold and wet pavement of a perpetually soaked city. I like rain, so I kept reassuring myself. I’ll be fine. We landed after dark, and upon getting into our cab at the airport, realized the hearty Glaswegian accent was about as easy to understand as the entire French language. After asking our cab driver to repeat himself four times, he slowed his speech and laughed at us. Feeling grateful for his light-heartedness but nervous about my semester, I looked out the window and began to question my decision to study abroad for the first time. The fear that I let sink into my skin, however, would soon be replaced by rain, and my doubts would soon turn into energy.

When you look through the social media of study abroad, you see the posts of sun, food, and beautiful views, something I am also guilty of doing. Those students seem to spend all of their time on beaches, hugging elephants, and drinking coffee on the Seine. What they don’t seem to do is struggle. Because they don’t post the picture of their tear-stained face, falling asleep on their first night alone. They don’t want people to know how tightly they hold their phone as they await a call from home. Because of this, I had no warning of the struggle. And for a few weeks, that bothered me. I called my friend who was studying abroad in Paris and asked her why no one told us how hard it would be. Why did we come in so optimistically? She was upset too. This question stuck with me. It stuck with me when I was sick in bed for a week, when my phone lost its data, and when I was struggling to understand a language that was supposedly English. I eventually realized that while the lows were much lower while abroad, the highs were much higher and more frequent, and that the entire experience was inimitable.

I was learning more than I had ever learned, and while much of this learning was done in the classroom, I had become a student of the world. I learned when I traveled to Sweden, to Germany, to Ireland. I learned when I returned home to my flat mates from Denver, Singapore, and China. Every conversation in a pub, airplane, or coffee shop brought a new lesson. Everyone seemed to be nice, and everyone wanted to share their story. As all of this was happening, I learned why I was so drawn to the Scots – they don’t wait for their situation to change, they make do with what they have. It rained most of the time, and I wondered how people could go so long without having fun outdoors until I spoke to my Glaswegian friend. “If you wait for the rain to stop to live, you will always be waiting,” she told me. This advice came at a time when I had been putting off lugging my laundry through the rain, and I realized she was right. A Glaswegian wouldn’t wait for the rain to stop to meet up with friends or go to the store. A Glaswegian would put on a raincoat, go to the store, and stop to make some friends at a pub on the way home. So, as I carried my laundry through the rain, I felt more free realizing that something as silly as rain would no longer hold me back. Study abroad liberated me. Every experience carried more weight and every day reassured me of my freedom.

So, I left my semester in Scotland with more than just a Vitamin D deficiency, I left knowing how much more there is to know, how little I actually know, and how to take control of my own life. And on rainy days in Oxford, I don’t despair, I put on a jacket and find a friend.

An Adventure in Oz Sends Me Sailing Toward My Future by Helen Reid

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When I decided to go back to school in my 40s, it was because I was in transition - newly divorced, looking for direction. I had a son to support and a career that needed revitalization. I was no longer sure what my future looked like, and I knew the next few years would be difficult. 

But I also knew this was a chance to break out of my old and tired routine. I wanted to be inspired by the world around me. I wanted to find some way of charting the path for the second half of my life. I wanted to do good. And I wanted to get out and explore.

So I ended up at Miami University’s Project Dragonfly, studying biology. Here, I’ve found myself reinvigorated by my studies even while I continue living my soccer-mom life in the suburbs of Chicago. I continue to be fascinated by everything I’m learning - including issues surrounding ocean conservation. 

That’s at least partly because I’m a Kansas girl at heart. I’ve been landlocked for the better part of my life. Oh, I’ve spent brief periods of my life near the ocean when I went to school in Boston and New York, and when I interned with NPR in Los Angeles. I’ve taken occasional cruises and beach vacations. Still, I’ve lived most of my life in the Midwest, where we have majestic Great Lakes but no salty sea breezes. Maybe that’s why I’ve always been so intrigued by everything about oceans, from the silver gleam of sunset on the waves to sea creatures that reside in places so deep and dark, they generate their own light sources.

When I joined Project Dragonfly, I had no idea I’d get such an amazing opportunity to leave my comfort zone, to try new things and have a unique adventure. I was thrilled to be accepted to the Australia I Earth Expedition in 2018 to learn about coral reef ecology. I don’t believe in bucket lists because I just want to have all the experiences I can with no regrets for the things left undone, but I’ve always known that if I wrote such a list, exploring the Great Barrier Reef would be the top item (and possibly the only thing) on it.

My Earth Expedition allowed me not only to accomplish that, but to do so more more. I’ve now seen koalas and kangaroos and crocodiles in the wild. I’ve watched platypuses hunting for food in their secluded watery habitats. I’ve talked to traditional owners on their cattle station about how their history has been shaped by European settlers who arrived to commandeer their land, their culture, and even their physical presence. I’ve finally learned to duck dive (a move I’d never been able to master before) so I could help restore reef habitat. I’ve even tasted green ant butt. Seriously - it’s sour and citrusy.  

In giving me these chances, Miami University opened up my world and helped me find a direction for my life. In the short term, my 10-day visit offered a whirlwind of activities that accelerated my education in an exciting, hands-on way. It offered me adventures I wouldn’t otherwise have had, in a place I might never otherwise have seen.

In the long term - well, we’ll see what the ultimate effects will be. I’m not entirely sure yet. I’m still a student, and transformation takes time. Things have definitely changed, though: I know what I’m working for now. Although I’ve always wanted to travel more, I now have an objective for that travel. It isn’t just that my wanderlust has been ignited - it’s that I need to be places where I can make a difference. And now I know what that looks like.

I’m going to let my love for the ocean, and my desire to work for the good of the environment, determine where I go from here. I no longer doubt that I’ll get to where I want to be, because not only can I see it on the horizon, I’ve BEEN there. I just need to make it back. I have a goal, and I’m determined to meet it. I’m still not exactly certain what I’ll be when I grow up, because life has proven to be unexpected, and unexpectedly interesting. But I no longer doubt that I can steer my boat in that direction, and I am working to get there just as quickly as I can.

Unity in Diversity by Madelyn Smith

Literary London Prize

Winners

1st Place: Happy Birthday on Mary Arden's Farm by Anna Maltbie

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“Oh, William dear, you’ve lost your head.”

The shoulders slumped under an absent weight and Mary could practically hear the words currently missing a mouth to voice them. “Yes, I’m well aware of my missing cranium. Must you speak the obvious at every chance? This is a rather distressing time for me.”

Well, perhaps the language would be a bit more poetic and old-timey, but Mary had gone to university for English Literature, not lyrical thinking, so her rough interpretations would have to do. At least she still had a head to think with.

“Well, nothing we can do about that now. Go on and sit, I’ll visit the cook and bring out your favourites.”

The staff knew well to have everything prepared and to leave in the early afternoon on April 23rd every year. 2016 was no exception. Only the live-in residents essential to running the farm were permitted to remain, but it was an unspoken understanding they would remain sequestered in their rooms unless called upon. It was always a stressful day for Mary Arden, and the current Mary was determined everything would go to plan.

Nothing would ruin Shakespeare’s birth and death day, not even a headless Shakespeare.

Mary led the unsteady body to the seat at the head—ahem—of the table while vocalizing her well-practiced motherly “tsk.”

“Oh my, it must have been quite the trouble to navigate your way here without, well, sight. Or the ability to hear. You poor boy, sit, sit.”

 Shakespeare’s fingers on his right hand twitched in a familiar gesture, but Mary ignored the request for a writing instrument. She didn’t remember where they had stowed the quill and ink. Regardless, their annual conversation was easy enough to recreate without a verbal partner. “I was baptized in Holy Trinity Church, I worshipped at that church, and I am buried at that church. I very well know my way around, I’ll have you know.”

 Thank the Lord for the heating systems built in June of 1991. She’d read records of former Mary Ardens waiting all day for her “son” to wake up, shovel in hand to help him claw his way to the side of the church where only soft soil kept him from the outside. The following frantic run to the car and the drive through Stratford-upon-Avon with a pillowcase over Shakespeare’s well-publicized head was commented on in detail by her predecessors. Mary appreciated the new way of things: one of the grates constructed to heat the church passed directly in front of Shakespeare’s grave. A generous donation from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust ensured an additional underground passage connected the church to the farm. When his time came, the deceased poet would kick out the false bottom of his tomb, drop into the passage, and walk the seven kilometers to pop out of the trapdoor installed just in front of Mary Arden’s house under a straw welcome mat.

Honestly, the journey did not seem too arduous to her. However, Mary was paid to fret and croon over the aptly named “Immortal Bard,” so fret and croon she did.

“Indeed, you’ve had such a hard go of it, hmm? Stay here and I’ll go check on how your food is coming along. Relax, relax…”

Mary continued to make comforting noises as she exited the kitchen, ducking her head to avoid the wooden beam obviously installed in an era when a lack of proper nutrition kept people shorter and unhappier. Once out of ear shot, Mary dropper her shoulders to a slouch and quickened her pace. There was no need to keep up the theatrics since there were no eyes to perform for or ears to orate to, but the persona was a habit. Guests came to the farm expecting a taste of the sixteenth century; the proper matron was a role Mary perfected but was always relieved to shed.

Although the Trust originally started to ease Shakespeare’s resurrections and keep his yearly visits clandestine—the last thing they needed was another religion starting over a figure who had too many worshippers to stay dead like every other human—it had made a smooth transition into a business. The charity hired actors like herself to maintain the façade of authenticity and entertain tourists. Shakespeare fans could experience their hero’s childhood for the bargain price of £13.50—only £9.00 for children! Mary Arden’s farm was used for its true purpose only once a year, and every other day it was just another job with hourly pay and little vacation time. The twice-daily cigarette breaks hidden behind the dumpster near the pigsty reminded Mary of her former employment at Nando’s. It certainly smelled the same.

Stepping out into the yard, Mary approached the enclosed fire and the frowning man tending it.

“Time’s up. He’s here. Is it done?”

“I know what you need, Janet, I’ve been working all day on roasting the meat just right. You made me start over three times! That’s most of the cow wasted, I tell you.”

“We are still working, cook.”

“Excuse me, Mary. When are you ever not working?”

“I’ll not work when the paychecks stop getting signed or I’m dead.”

“So dramatic.”

“That’s my—our—job. When will the food be done?”

“If I could use an oven I would tell you, but as it is all I can do is keep rotating the spit and pray I figure out when the meat is done before it falls off into the fire.”

“You’ve been doing this for five years.”

“And yet I’m still a really bad cook. Funny how that works. Speaking of funny, I saw him stumbling through the front earlier. What happened to, well… you know.”

“Occupational hazard.”

“That doesn’t even make sense.”

“He’s dead. Decay happens. I read an article on necrosis in last week’s paper, nasty stuff.”

“Huh?”

“Never you mind. It’s not like he can eat any of it. Sans mouth and all that. Just give me what you’ve got.”

Taking a dish of mostly-cooked beef, Mary returned to the dining room—ducking her head under the beam—and placed the meat in front of Shakespeare.

“Here it is! Well-done, just as you like it! That cook sure is something else, isn’t he? Well, dig in!”

Mary sat at the other end of the table, folded her hands in her lap, and pressed her lips upwards.

Shakespeare raised his hand but missed the utensils and hit the edge of the plate instead. The meat flipped over the table, bloody beef landing on the floor.

Mary smiled kindly.

Five minutes later, Mary considered saying a motherly phrase or humming a nursery rhyme. Her vast repertoire of compliments left her in the moment, however, so she settled into the silence and stretched her lips wider.

When a quiet alert went off—her iPhone set for 21:00—Mary clasped her hands and stood up.

“William dear, it has been a pleasure having you over for dinner. I can’t wait until next year. I do hope to see you’ve grown taller by then. Ha ha! I joke, of course. Oh, and Happy Birthday.”

Mary helped Shakespeare out of the chair and out of the door, slightly jealous he didn’t have to bend underneath the beam. Her abbreviated goodbye belied the welcome mat she tossed over her shoulder as she ushered her “son” back into the ground.

Once the trapdoor slammed shut, Mary sighed in relief. Another year, another success. Most people marked their calendars with January 1st as the herald of the new year; for Mary, her countdown began on April 24th.

Slipping back inside, she locked the door behind her and made her way to Mary Arden’s bedroom. Once again, she closed and locked the door, swung her legs over the red rope partition, and then pulled out the chest underneath the drawing desk. She unlocked it with a key from her apron pocket and opened the lid. Mary smiled with teeth showing for the first time that day.

 “Yes, this will make an excellent display for the summer crowd. Shakespeare’s 400th Anniversary: A Look Inside the Poet’s Head. ‘Hold Shakespeare’s skull, only a pound a minute!’ So many possibilities...”

2nd Place: A Brief History of Assorted Souvenirs Whispered to an Old Tree, 1099-Present Day by Delaney Heisterkamp

3rd Place: Reenactment: A Series by Meg Matthias

 

Photo Contest Winners

Cross-Cultural Moments

Soccer in Western Ghana by Paul Johnson

Soccer in Western Ghana by Paul Johnson

Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. One of many highlights, coming together on the pitch with new friends.

Uptown Oxford, Ohio in winter time, holiday lights

Christmas Uptown by Jugal Jain

The environment during Christmas is just amazing! Coming from an urban city, I have not experienced like this because the roads are always busy and messy. Christmas is not celebrated that widely in India as it is here. The experience of Christmas and feeling like being with a family of friends to celebrate it with has truly been amazing! It is just not that people have different beliefs but also the fact that they understand and believe in someone who they truly trust. This has made me grow in different ways. These interactions and wandering help me understand the culture better than just reading about them.

little girl with camera on her face, trying to take a photo

Seeing the World through Young Makushi Eyes by Lianne Thompson

The young girl in the photo is part of a North Rupununi Makushi community. Our Earth Expedition was visiting for a cultural exchange day and she was thrilled when we started taking photos. She decided she wanted to take photos of her own, so she stole one of my classmates cameras and proceeded to take around 2000 photos of the afternoons events. I captured this photo which sums up our westernized need for photography, along with the traditions of the Makushi. These photos have offered a unique chance to see the world through her eyes.

Miami student  in front of colorful buildings in Venice

A "Rainbow Island" in Venice by Nan Luo

In Venice, there are many houses painted in different colors. People live a leisure life here.

First Place

Soccer in Western Ghana by Paul Johnson

Soccer in Western Ghana by Paul Johnson

Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. One of many highlights, coming together on the pitch with new friends.

Second Place

Uptown Oxford, Ohio in winter time, holiday lights

Christmas Uptown by Jugal Jain

The environment during Christmas is just amazing! Coming from an urban city, I have not experienced like this because the roads are always busy and messy. Christmas is not celebrated that widely in India as it is here. The experience of Christmas and feeling like being with a family of friends to celebrate it with has truly been amazing! It is just not that people have different beliefs but also the fact that they understand and believe in someone who they truly trust. This has made me grow in different ways. These interactions and wandering help me understand the culture better than just reading about them.

Third Place

little girl with camera on her face, trying to take a photo

Seeing the World through Young Makushi Eyes by Lianne Thompson

The young girl in the photo is part of a North Rupununi Makushi community. Our Earth Expedition was visiting for a cultural exchange day and she was thrilled when we started taking photos. She decided she wanted to take photos of her own, so she stole one of my classmates cameras and proceeded to take around 2000 photos of the afternoons events. I captured this photo which sums up our westernized need for photography, along with the traditions of the Makushi. These photos have offered a unique chance to see the world through her eyes.

Top Votes

Miami student  in front of colorful buildings in Venice

A "Rainbow Island" in Venice by Nan Luo

In Venice, there are many houses painted in different colors. People live a leisure life here.

Global Classroom

Miami students marching in a women's march in the UK

The Suffragettes Return by Laura Dudones

While in the UK, I got to experience the women's march, lead by Processions, held in multiple big cities. I was able to see the march in Edinburgh, as women marched in one of the three original colors of the suffragettes, purple, green, and white, forming a walking banner throughout the city. This march was in honor of 100 years since the first women in Britain first got the right to vote, and I even got to write an article about the history and planning of the march for the newspaper I interned for in London. It was a unique experience to see all of these women come together after lots of hard work and detailed planning to make a piece of moving art celebrating women.

innovators section of the EPIC Museum in Dublin, Ireland. Blue lights, globe, black background, silhouette of person

A World Inside a Mind by Danielle Nehring

In the innovators section of the EPIC Museum in Dublin, Ireland, the representative mind of the lights frames the earth in a poetic sense of preservative.

students studying geology on field, green grass, yellow flowers, blue skies with fluffy white clouds

Another Day at the Office by Reno Gregory

Taking a field geology course, we are blessed to have the world as our classroom. Every day we spent time amongst sublime mountains, but more than just getting to soak in the view we had the privilege to study the very landscape itself. When you're a geologist, you'll never look at the land in front of you the same ever again, especially after field geology. You will see the clues and patterns hidden within the soil and rock, that upon inspection, will reveal the annals of a former world. And it is from these clues that we are able to understand the history of, and more deeply appreciate the unique nature of our planet.

six children overlooking scene with fence; you only see the backside of each child; in school uniforms

Hope by Alexxa Crosby

This picture was taken at my internship at a local elementary school in Heredia. I would go there twice a week to teach the kids English. In this specific photo the kids are looking through the fence and gazing at the mountains and overlooking the city. This is my favorite picture because the kids were so willing to learn and loved trying to speak English. No matter if they were right or wrong they never stopped trying. The students always had hope in doing better and I feel that this picture really captures that. Their optimism and big hearts inspires them to improve whether in the classroom or in life. This was something that always brightened my day while abroad.

First Place

Miami students marching in a women's march in the UK

The Suffragettes Return by Laura Dudones

While in the UK, I got to experience the women's march, lead by Processions, held in multiple big cities. I was able to see the march in Edinburgh, as women marched in one of the three original colors of the suffragettes, purple, green, and white, forming a walking banner throughout the city. This march was in honor of 100 years since the first women in Britain first got the right to vote, and I even got to write an article about the history and planning of the march for the newspaper I interned for in London. It was a unique experience to see all of these women come together after lots of hard work and detailed planning to make a piece of moving art celebrating women.

Second Place

innovators section of the EPIC Museum in Dublin, Ireland. Blue lights, globe, black background, silhouette of person

A World Inside a Mind by Danielle Nehring

In the innovators section of the EPIC Museum in Dublin, Ireland, the representative mind of the lights frames the earth in a poetic sense of preservative.

Third Place

students studying geology on field, green grass, yellow flowers, blue skies with fluffy white clouds

Another Day at the Office by Reno Gregory

Taking a field geology course, we are blessed to have the world as our classroom. Every day we spent time amongst sublime mountains, but more than just getting to soak in the view we had the privilege to study the very landscape itself. When you're a geologist, you'll never look at the land in front of you the same ever again, especially after field geology. You will see the clues and patterns hidden within the soil and rock, that upon inspection, will reveal the annals of a former world. And it is from these clues that we are able to understand the history of, and more deeply appreciate the unique nature of our planet.

Top Votes

six children overlooking scene with fence; you only see the backside of each child; in school uniforms

Hope by Alexxa Crosby

This picture was taken at my internship at a local elementary school in Heredia. I would go there twice a week to teach the kids English. In this specific photo the kids are looking through the fence and gazing at the mountains and overlooking the city. This is my favorite picture because the kids were so willing to learn and loved trying to speak English. No matter if they were right or wrong they never stopped trying. The students always had hope in doing better and I feel that this picture really captures that. Their optimism and big hearts inspires them to improve whether in the classroom or in life. This was something that always brightened my day while abroad.

People and Portraits

 Miami international student from China in traditional Chinese clothing standing outside on Miami's campus in the fall, trees and leaves surround her with yellow and green colors

Chinese Customs at Miami by Ruisi Luo

A Chinese girl with her Chinese customs in the fall at Miami.

ride and groom in India

The Bride and the Groom by Nikita Vadhani

The shot was taken during a marriage in India. It is a candid shot taken right after the marriage. I like this photo because it shows the pure bond between them. I also love how the bride looks so beautiful and happy. The relationship I have with him is that he is my brother and have given me the consent.

Robert with fern tattoo on skin

Fern Tattoo by Marissa Blackburn

Robert toured us through the forests of the Community Baboon Sanctuary in Belize, where he lives. At the Community Baboon Sanctuary, land has been preserved in an effort to protect the native black howler monkey and other animals that inhabit the forest. Robert showed us a plant that you can naturally "tattoo" yourself with, using its white spores. After he "tattooed" himself, he then "tattooed" me, which was a really neat experience.

students walking through the Louvre in Paris

Strolling Through the Louvre by Claudia Vollman

As we were admiring the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, we made two friends from England that we ended up hanging out with for the rest of our time at the Louvre and then we got dinner with them.

First Place

 Miami international student from China in traditional Chinese clothing standing outside on Miami's campus in the fall, trees and leaves surround her with yellow and green colors

Chinese Customs at Miami by Ruisi Luo

A Chinese girl with her Chinese customs in the fall at Miami.

Second Place

ride and groom in India

The Bride and the Groom by Nikita Vadhani

The shot was taken during a marriage in India. It is a candid shot taken right after the marriage. I like this photo because it shows the pure bond between them. I also love how the bride looks so beautiful and happy. The relationship I have with him is that he is my brother and have given me the consent.

Third Place

Robert with fern tattoo on skin

Fern Tattoo by Marissa Blackburn

Robert toured us through the forests of the Community Baboon Sanctuary in Belize, where he lives. At the Community Baboon Sanctuary, land has been preserved in an effort to protect the native black howler monkey and other animals that inhabit the forest. Robert showed us a plant that you can naturally "tattoo" yourself with, using its white spores. After he "tattooed" himself, he then "tattooed" me, which was a really neat experience.

Top Votes

students walking through the Louvre in Paris

Strolling Through the Louvre by Claudia Vollman

As we were admiring the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, we made two friends from England that we ended up hanging out with for the rest of our time at the Louvre and then we got dinner with them.

Love and Honor

student in field with Miami t-shirt on, holding a dish of dessert with gummy worms on top

Worms in Dirt by Faith Walker

This photo was taken on our last day of the excavation. On this day, we backfill our trenches (all the soil we took out we have to put back in). It is a grueling, labor-intensive process that nobody likes, and so I baked a Happy Backfill Day cake to cheer everyone up. I made a chocolate cake with chocolate icing and covered it in gummy worms - worms in dirt, an archaeology joke. It was a hit.

Miami international students at football game, holding cans of Sprite, smiling, and holding up peace signs with their hands

I am MIAMI by Ngoc Xuan Dung Nguyen

Group of Miami students holding Miami flag in front of a gorgeous scene on their study abroad program

Love and Honor on Top of the Mountains by Caroline Heitmeyer

This photo was taken after hiking the Organ Pipes trail in Dunedin, New Zealand.

First Place

student in field with Miami t-shirt on, holding a dish of dessert with gummy worms on top

Worms in Dirt by Faith Walker

This photo was taken on our last day of the excavation. On this day, we backfill our trenches (all the soil we took out we have to put back in). It is a grueling, labor-intensive process that nobody likes, and so I baked a Happy Backfill Day cake to cheer everyone up. I made a chocolate cake with chocolate icing and covered it in gummy worms - worms in dirt, an archaeology joke. It was a hit.

Second Place and Top Votes

Miami international students at football game, holding cans of Sprite, smiling, and holding up peace signs with their hands

I am MIAMI by Ngoc Xuan Dung Nguyen

Third Place

Group of Miami students holding Miami flag in front of a gorgeous scene on their study abroad program

Love and Honor on Top of the Mountains by Caroline Heitmeyer

This photo was taken after hiking the Organ Pipes trail in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Grand Prize Video Winner

My Journey Through The Golden City by Brittany Hallberg

 

 View the fully accessible, audio described version of this video