Student photo contest showcases scenes and stories from around the globe

Bondi Icebergs Swimming Club in Sydney, Australia

Bondi Icebergs Swimming Club in Bondi Beach, Australia. Photo credit: Tom Gorman.

Stanford students captured awe-inspiring snapshots of their travels abroad, from the sights and sounds of bustling city streets to the extraordinary views of Earth’s natural wonders.

A striking image of the iconic Bondi Icebergs Swimming Club in Sydney, Australia, is the grand prize winner of the 13th annual Stanford Global Studies (SGS) Student Photo Contest. “This specific image was captured during personal exploration and stood out to me because of the juxtaposition of the breathtaking scenery surrounding the two women’s seemingly routine conversation,” said MBA student Tom Gorman, who took the winning photograph while visiting Australia as part of a travel study program.

The spectacular shot beat out 80 other entries submitted by students affiliated with SGS' 14 centers and programs who ventured abroad to participate in research, language study, fieldwork, and internships.

This year’s categories included: Arts and Architecture; Scenes from Abroad; Cultures and Traditions; Global Classroom; and the Natural World. Taken from diverse vantage points in more than 25 countries, the photos were judged based on their composition, originality, technical quality, impact, adherence to the theme, and ability to convey a sense of place.

The category of Arts and Architecture featured images of public art, sculptures, cityscapes, historic landmarks, and urban scenes in communities around the globe. International relations major Angelina Rivas took home first place in this category for her image of a rainbow painted staircase in the heart of Valparaíso, Chile.

In the Scenes from Abroad category, contestants submitted photos capturing unforgettable moments from their international adventures, from a stroll through the cobblestone streets of Tallinn, Estonia, to a trip to a night market in Osaka, Japan. Political science major and co-terminal communications master's student Gabriella Garcia’s lively image of downtown San Juan, Guatemala won first prize.

“In this vibrant photograph capturing the essence of downtown San Juan in Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, the streets come alive with a kaleidoscope of colors,” said Garcia. “Traditional Mayan textiles adorn the market stalls, their intricate patterns and vivid hues a testament to Guatemala's rich cultural heritage."

Electrical engineering major Jaden Redhair showcased his skill in astrophotography through his captivating image of the Milky Way Galaxy, which he took on a trip to Big Sur, California. The image won the Natural World category, which also featured images of intricate rock formations, crashing ocean waves, and tranquil vistas.

A beautiful scene of red and yellow lanterns swaying gracefully from the trees of a temple in Taipei, Taiwan, during Lunar New Year celebrations took first place in the Cultures and Traditions category. Taken by Sarah Leibson, a master’s student in East Asian studies, the photo beat out other snapshots portraying cross-cultural interactions, traditions, local customs, and celebrations in places around the world.

Finally, epidemiology master’s student Zahra Fazal’s photo “Albinism in Africa” captured in Kigamboni, Tanzania, won the Global Classroom category, which features photos of students’ transformative learning experiences in places outside the classroom.

“I took this picture when running a study to understand the barriers that people with albinism in my home country of Tanzania were facing in accessing life-saving vaccines,” Fazal shared. “Albinism is mystified in many countries across Africa and often overlooked in public health research.”

"Albinism in Africa" also won the Popular Vote contest on social media.

View the winning images, as well as those that received honorable mentions, below. Photos will be on display at Stanford Global Studies in Encina Commons starting in June 2024.


Grand Prize Winner, "Bondi Break"

Tom Gorman (Stanford Global Studies)
MBA, '25

 

This is a picture of the iconic Bondi Icebergs Swimming Club in Bondi Beach, Australia featuring two anonymous women chatting at the edge of the pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I was in Australia as a part of GSB-sponsored travel in March of 2024 for a group of MBA students to learn about public policy and regulation in the country’s media and entertainment market. This specific image was captured during personal exploration and stood out to me because of the juxtaposition of the breathtaking scenery surrounding the two women’s seemingly routine conversation.

Arts and Architecture

Winner, "Rainbow Steps in Valparaíso"

Angelina Rivas (Program in International Relations)
International Relations, '26 

Rainbow steps in Valparaiso, Chile

 

This was the first spot I visited during my study abroad in Chile. This photo offers a snapshot of the vibrancy of the city — almost all of the buildings are rainbow colors. The murals and graffiti are political expressions presenting a glimpse into Latinidad.

Honorable Mention, "The Blue Pearl of Morocco"

Saba Weatherspoon (Program in International Relations)
International Relations, '25 

Blue walls and murals in Chefchaouan, Morocco.

 

I took this photo in Chefchaouan, a small town in the Northern Moroccan mountains. This town is special because many of the walls and buildings are blue! It was the most beautiful town I had ever seen, and several streets were filled with art capturing this beauty.

Scenes from Abroad

Winner, "San Juan"

Gabriella Garcia (Stanford Global Studies)
Political Science and M.A. in Communications, '24

Colorful streets of San Juan, Guatemala

 

In this vibrant photograph capturing the essence of downtown San Juan in Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, the streets come alive with a kaleidoscope of colors. Traditional Mayan textiles adorn the market stalls, their intricate patterns and vivid hues a testament to Guatemala's rich cultural heritage. Against the backdrop of the shimmering lake and the towering volcanoes, the bustling energy of the town creates a captivating juxtaposition of tradition and modernity. This image encapsulates the lively atmosphere and cultural richness of downtown San Juan, inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the sights, sounds, and colors of this enchanting lakeside community.

Honorable Mention, "Where Fates Collide"

Gepeng Ding (Center for East Asian Studies)
M.A., East Asian Studies, '25

Man and woman on park bench looking out at vista in Lima, Peru.

 

This photograph was captured during my spring break journey in 2024, along the coastal line of Lima, Peru. As part of an expedition, I found myself strolling beside the rolling waves, engaged in leisurely conversation with classmates from the Center for East Asian Studies, and colleagues based in Lima. Our conversations wove through the topics as the path wound along the cliff's edge. After a lengthy amble, we took respite on the seats nestled under a nondescript tree. Gazing towards the shore, I observed the ebb and flow of passersby—some pausing for a breath, others hurrying on. In that instant, I seized the scene with my camera. It was a vivid tableau of life's rhythm, an echo of our own fates—intersecting without warning, parting without notice, much like the fleeting convergence of our steps by the sea.

Natural World

Winner, "Big Sur Milky Way"

Jaden Redhair (Stanford Global Studies)
Electrical Engineering, '23

Milky Way Galaxy at night.

 

I took a weekend trip with my best friend that I made at SSEA 2018. Stanford brought us together, and here we are taking a trip to Big Sur for astrophotography. We were here this past summer before starting our last year at Stanford.

Honorable Mention, "Sunrise on the Red Nail"

Nazrin Garibova (Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies)
M.A., Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies, '24

Sunrise over the Transcaucasian Trail.

 

As the sun rises from behind the Caspian Sea, the mighty Caucasian giants awaken in the brilliant morning light. This photo was taken at an elevation of 2,426 meters, just above the village of Yergi Kek, Azerbaijan's highest altitude settlement. In developing the Transcaucasian Trail across the Southern Caucasus, I've met wonderful families and made dear friends in and between the valleys and peaks of Azerbaijan's mountains. Visiting Elshad and Liza in Yergi Kek always means a hearty dinner of Lezgi tskan, getting lost among constellations during evening stargazing, and waking up early to the most glorious sunrise. This photo was taken on an iPhone and has not been retouched.

Cultures and Traditions

Winner, "Zhishan Temple Lanterns"

Sarah Leibson (Center for East Asian Studies)
M.A., East Asian Studies, '25

Red and yellow lanterns floating in the air at a temple in Taiwan.

 

I took this photo of the lanterns at Zhishan Temple in Taipei in February 2024. I was in Taiwan to do some research on Taiwan’s renewable energy projects. I visited this temple during the Lunar New Year celebrations. The temple sits atop a small hill and is lined with lanterns on the pathway up and all around the temple grounds. The front square offers a great view of Taipei, and visitors come from all over to take photos of the sunset and the lanterns.

Global Classroom

Winner, "Albinism in Africa"

Zahra Fazal (Center for African Studies)
M.S., Epidemiology, '24

Four people sitting on steps in village in Tanzania. Two of the four people have Albinism.

 

I took this picture when running a study to understand barriers that people with albinism in my home country of Tanzania were facing in accessing life-saving vaccines. Albinism is mystified across many countries in Africa and often overlooked in public health research. This picture was memorable as they were my first participants amongst 250, and the family welcomed me into their homes with open arms despite the marginalization many families with albinism face.