St. Olaf Magazine | Fall 2023

The 40th Annual Gimse Global Engagement Photo Contest

For more than a half century, St. Olaf students have learned around the world as part of the college’s renowned study abroad and study away programs. And for nearly that entire time, they have shared the stunning images they’ve captured during their travels as part of the annual Gimse Global Engagement Photo Contest.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the contest, which encourages students to document their experiences of exploration and self-discovery through photography. The photo contest is named in honor of Professor Emeritus of Art A. Malcolm (Mac) Gimse ’58 and his wife, Jackie. Together they planned, led, and taught 35 study-abroad programs and a dozen international January term programs, helping hundreds of Oles achieve an informed global perspective. Gimse chronicled their international travel through photography, and he encouraged students to do the same.

Advisors in what is now the Smith Center for Global Engagement launched the contest in 1983. When Helene Stellmaker MacCallum ’73 joined the office several years later, she took on the role of facilitating the contest — and continued for nearly three decades, working with Gimse to shape it into what it is today. The goal was to encourage students to share a glimpse of their travels with the St. Olaf community. Oles responded in force.

“Some years there would be as many as 400 photos to choose from,” says Gimse, who still serves on the panel of judges that reviews the submissions and selects the winning photos.

While travel slowed in the wake of the pandemic, the demand for study abroad/away today is as strong as ever, says Smith Center Director Jodi Malmgren ’92. In 2022–23 694 St. Olaf students studied abroad or away in 33 countries, including the United States. And despite the travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic over the past few years, 51 percent of the Class of 2023 still participated in at least one study abroad/away program during their time as a student.

At St. Olaf, the options for studying abroad and away are robust. The college offers programs in nearly 40 countries, including more than 70 semester or year-long programs and nearly 30 courses each January term. Faculty-led semester programs include Global Semester, Semester in Jerusalem and Athens, and Environmental Science in Australia and New Zealand. The team in the Smith Center for Global Engagement works with students to find a program that fits their goals, and the college provides more than $1 million in study abroad/away scholarships each year.

Malmgren says the enduring power of the Gimse Global Engagement Photo Contest is the way it engages not only the students who are participating, but also the broader St. Olaf community.

“Selecting an image to submit for the Gimse photo contest is one way to reflect on the learning and community building that occurs during study abroad/away,” Malmgren says. “Sharing the images offers the entire community a window into the programs and partnerships offered by the Smith Center as they change over time. Alumni can think back to their own study abroad experiences as well as connect with current students.”

Enjoy this year’s Gimse Global Engagement Photo Contest winners below.

“Seated in the Sky” by Lars Askegaard ’23
Program: Global Semester
Photo Location: Pichincha Volcano · Quito, Ecuador

“While on a hike up Pichincha Volcano on the outskirts of Quito, I stopped to admire the view from the comfort of a large mountaintop swing. My childhood self had always dreamed of finding a playground in the sky! This photo highlights the interconnectedness between Ecuadorian peoples and their vibrant natural surroundings — a theme that endured throughout our stay in the country.”

“Been There, Dune That” by Mattea Gines ’24
Program: Global Semester
Photo Location: Dune 7 · Walvis Bay, Namibia

“Dune 7 is the highest dune in Namibia and has been measured at over 1,256 feet. Our group took an excursion to the Namib Desert to climb it and had the most spectacular time and enjoyed the views from above.”

“We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Gretchen Ellis ’23
Program: The General Course at the London School of Economics and Political Science
Photo Location: Pyrgos · Santorini, Greece

“On the island of Santorini, Orthodox Easter is one of the most sacred holidays. On Good Friday, every town starts at the top of their village with the ‘epitaph’ or the ‘Jesus Coffin’ and has a funeral procession. In the town of Pyrgos, they also light up the entire town with thousands of small bonfires or candles following the procession.”

“Trinity Alps Wilderness” by Ruby Hoeschen ’25
Program: Oregon Extension
Photo Location: Snowslide Lake · Trinity Alps Wilderness · Northern California

“This image was taken on my first-ever backpacking trip. After our first three-week long segment focused on nature, our professors took us out into the wilderness for a six-day backpacking trip to relax, reflect, and experience amazing sights such as this rock formation reflecting on the lake water.”

“A Scottish Highland Summit” by Kaitlin Johnson ’23
Program: University of Dundee
Photo Location: Peak of Beinn Mhùrlaig Mountain · Arrochar Alps · Argyll, Scotland, United Kingdom

“This photograph was taken on the best hike I have ever been on! I was studying abroad at the University of Dundee for a semester, and this was the first of many Munros (a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3,000 feet) I had the opportunity to summit. The weather conditions on this day were perfect as it was clear and sunny, which is extremely rare in Scotland. What meant the most to me on this day was connecting with my newfound study-abroad friends. Everyone on this summit hike was from a different country, yet we were all together, bonding over our love for the outdoors and the Highlands. I will always remember this day!”

“Symmetry” by Gretchen Ellis ’23
Program: The General Course at the London School of Economics and Political Science
Photo Location: Giant’s Causeway · Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

“In Northern Ireland, 40,000 interlocking basalt columns create a beautiful pathway to the sea, known as the Giant’s Causeway. It is named from a legend where the Gaelic Irish giant Fionn Mac Cumhaill challenges a Scottish giant to fight and builds the causeway for protection. Now it is simply a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”

“The FCC (Funky Carrot Collection)” by Cassidy Schnell ’23
Program: Environmental Sustainability in Japan
Photo Location: Asian Rural Institute · Tochigi, Nasushiobara, Japan

“When our class stayed at the Asian Rural Institute, an organic farm in Nasushiobara, Japan, we helped out every morning and afternoon with farm chores. As part of Team Vegetable, I helped de-stem and wash hundreds of carrots by hand. We had competitions when sorting the vegetables for who could find the quirkiest-looking carrots. Oftentimes these types of imperfect foods get thrown away, but they’re still perfectly delicious and nutritious. This is a great reminder to opt toward ‘imperfect’ produce when you shop for your groceries!”

“Lifta” by Manal Zaman ’24
Program: The Bible in Context: History, Geography, and Culture in Israel and Palestine

“Our group visited Lifta, an abandoned Palestinian village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. We were led through the village by Yacoub, a Palestinian refugee who was forced to flee from Lifta. Yacoub reminisced about the time he spent as a child in this beautiful village, and described the sense of love, hospitality, and volunteerism of his community while he was growing up.”

“A Helping Hand in the Cloud Forest” by Ian Derauf ’23
Program: Global Semester
Photo Location: Santa Lucia Cloud Forest · Ecuador

“Emma gets a helping hand from our guide, Noé, on a rainy hike in the cloud forest of Santa Lucia, Ecuador.”

“Soweto Towers” by Luanga Kasanga ’25
Program: Global Semester
Photo Location: Orlando Power Station · Soweto, South Africa

“This photo was taken at the Orlando Power Station, with the prominent decommissioned Cooling Towers in the background. They form an iconic part of the Soweto skyline, and after seeing them featured in various South African TV shows and movies, I am glad I got to see them in person for the first time!”

“Dancing in the Desert” by Lars Askegaard ’23
Program: Global Semester
Photo Location: Wadi Rum Protected Area, Jordan

“During Global Semester’s visit to Jordan, we stayed in Wadi Rum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to numerous Bedouin and nomad communities in the southern region of the country. The desert’s rich red sand and rock formations remind its visitors of the Martian landscapes pictured in movies, as Hollywood directors have filmed numerous space odyssey films in Jordan’s ‘Valley of the Moon.’ While on a hike up to the top of a plateau, Freya Gordon ’24 and I performed a dancing lift that we had practiced in salsa class during our previous stay in Quito, Ecuador. We clearly have room for improvement, but are happy to have captured this moment!”

“Agua Fresca” by Andrew Mendez ’25
Program: Puerto Rican Politics and the Environment
Photo Location: Crash Boat Beach · Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

“A day of snorkeling, bridge jumping, and sea fishing.”

“A Look Back at My Semester Abroad in Paris” by Kylie Sieben ’23
Program: French Studies in Paris (IES)
Photo Location: Palais-Royal · Paris

“This site was really unique as many use the different sized pillars as a playground, and it houses a cute city garden in the middle of a palace to read a book in or soak in the sun on a nice day.”

“Copenhagen with Olaf Friends” by SooHyun Kim ’23
Program: IES Milan — Italy Today
Photo Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

“This photo is from Nyhavn in Copenhagen. We walked through the canal while drinking hot wine. Even though the weather was cold, the light and hot wine made us warm.”

“Church of the Holy Sepulchre” by Olivia Beach ’25
Program: The Bible in Context: History, Geography, and Culture in Israel and Palestine
Photo Location: Church of the Holy Sepulchre Old City of Jerusalem

“After a 5:30 a.m. Latin mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the magnificence of the shrine built over the traditional site of Jesus’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection towers over the heads of worshippers. Inside the temple-like structure, visitors can stop for a moment to pray by fragments of the stone that was rolled away from the tomb and kneel before the stone slab upon which Jesus’s body was laid. The church itself is a place of indescribable reverence, and the smell of incense mingles with monastic chants in the vastness of the church’s main sanctuary.”

“Tiandi Temple | 寶湖宮天地堂地母廟” by Miriam Clapp ’24
Program: Term in Taiwan, National Taiwan University
Photo Location: Puli Township, Nantou County, Taiwan

“This temple is home to one of the four emperor gods of Taoism. The green roof is a striking and unique characteristic that I hadn’t seen before on any other temples in Taiwan. I wouldn’t have visited this temple if not for the recommendation of some local workers in a cafe where I ate lunch.”

“Infinite Voyage of Dreams” by Alliance Umutoni Ishema ’25
Program: Engaging Asia: San Francisco
Photo Location: Umbrella Alley · San Francisco, California

“This tourist attraction is a place full of so much creativity and warmth.”

“Wadi al-Mayya” by Noah Elbaor ’23
Program: The American University in Cairo
Photo Location: Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley) · Wadi El-Rayan Protected Area · Fayoum Governorate, Egypt

“These beautiful shapes are created as clay and other fine sediments are bound together by water before curling as the water dries. The essential element, water, is scarcely found in a desert, yet a recent two inches of rainfall proved more than sufficient. While I admired the pottery it crafted, more frequent rainfall can bring drastic change to the desert environment as well as erode the hundreds of whale fossils left uncovered nearby in open air for public viewing. When initially designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, rainfall was originally not considered typical enough to be a serious threat to the fossils. Wadi al-Mayya, meaning ‘Water Valley,’ refers to the valley’s prehistoric past as well as its potential future.”

“The Sea That Continually Gives” by Freya Gordon ’24
Program: Global Semester
Photo Location: The Dead Sea · Jordan

“The salinity of the Dead Sea has continually increased as the mineral deposits upstream pour into the body of water while simultaneously releasing water into the air through evaporation. This abundance of salt in the sea provides an unfamiliar feeling of support and floatation in an unexpected geographical feature. I found the Dead Sea symbolic of the community I had the opportunity to be a part of in Jordan as they continually gave to me in the way the Dead Sea continually gives up its water. I was continually welcomed, supported, and offered meaningful insight throughout my exploration of Jordan.”

“Friend, Food, Pollution?” by Helen Olson ’24
Program: Andean Field Studies in Ecuador
Photo Location: Isabela Island · Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

“A small cigarette for a human becomes a huge obstacle for a small lizard. Leave no trace and pick up after yourself, as animals do not know the difference.”

“Sunset Over the Front Arch” by Jesse Laursen ’23
Program: Trinity College Dublin
Photo Location: Trinity College Dublin · Dublin, Ireland

“My view at the end of every school day as I left Trinity College Dublin and began the 20-minute trek back to my apartment in the city center. This is one of the first pictures I took in Dublin, and also perhaps the best sunset I saw while abroad.”

“White Rhino” by Carter Schafer ’24
Program: Global Semester
Photo Location: Etosha National Park · Namibia

“I shot this photo on a game drive in Etosha National park in Northern Namibia. Up close, these 3,000-7,000 pound beasts are absolutely breathtaking. Once thought to be extinct, white rhinos are no longer endangered, thanks to conservation efforts. Not many white rhinos live in Etosha, however, making this a rare and exciting sighting.”

“Somewhere in Norway” by Greta Nackerud ’23
Program: Gender Equality in Norway

“This photo was taken on one of my absolute favorite days of my study-abroad program in Norway, during the train ride taking us from Oslo to Bergen. The entire seven-hour-long trip had me awestruck, my camera practically glued to the window the whole time. I remember holding hands with my friends and trying to take it all in as every corner we turned showed us something more and more beautiful. A very surreal moment.”

“Day Trip” by Ella Stremler ’24
Program: Webster University in Vienna
Photo Location: Hallstatt, Austria

“A photo of the beautiful mountains that surround the small city of Hallstatt, Austria.”

“Klotild Paloták” by Celia Olson ’23
Program: Discrete Mathematical Reasoning in Budapest
Photo Location: Klotild Paloták (Klotild Palaces) · Budapest, Hungary

“On our last night in Budapest, we walked out of the coffee shop after doing our end-of-class presentations, and it was snowing these beautiful, fluffy snowflakes. It felt like a very fitting end to our program.”

“Lost in the Highlands” by Lakaia Thornton ’23
Program: University of Aberdeen
Photo Location: The Great Glen Way · Scotland, United Kingdom

“We stopped on the side of the road while driving west from Aberdeen because we saw a trail where we could climb into the Highlands. We went up these hills and the views were breathtaking. The wind was also breathtaking, but it didn’t stop me from taking a few photos!”

Are you one of the thousands of Oles who participated in the Gimse Global Engagement Photo Contest in the last 40 years? Share your photo with us! We will highlight previous winners on the college’s social media channels. Submit your photo and a description of your experience using this form.