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  • Emily Mendonsa: Last summer, while traveling around Utter Pradesh, India, doing research on women's health, I visited the Taj Mahal one afternoon with a group of Stanford students. Within minutes of our arrival, the sky filled with dark clouds and a powerful rainstorm began. We joined the hundreds of drenched, incredulous visitors running toward the Taj Mahal for shelter and eventually settled under the sandstone mosque to the left of the Taj Mahal to wait out the storm. After a few minutes, a little boy stepped forward to survey the scene – a Wonder of the World, drenched against a cloudy sky – and it was his silhouette that I intended to capture in this photo. When I look at the photo now, though, my eyes are drawn elsewhere: to the women walking across the center of the photo, the only spots of color in an otherwise monochrome scene.
  • Jett Hayward: I took this image of a man jumping from Mostar's famous "Stari Most" (Old Bridge) while visiting on a weekend trip from Sarajevo. Just 15 years earlier, the iconic bridge, which stood for 427 years, was destroyed during the Bosnian War. Now rebuilt, the bridge serves not just as a tourist attraction but also as a reminder of what was lost during the war, the divisions that persist and the many ways in which Bosnia is still trying to rebuild.
  • Daniel Huang: A church sits on the tiny, tear-shaped Bled Island, surrounded by the tranquil, dark-blue waters of the eponymous Lake Bled, located in northern Slovenia. In middle school, I had hung a picture of Lake Bled on my wall, never thinking I would actually get the chance to visit, but when I was interning in Brussels, Belgium, last summer, the irresistible opportunity presented itself. Getting to this spot involved a bumpy, pre-dawn bus ride from my apartment in Brussels to the German city of Cologne, where I caught a Munich-bound train and transferred to another train to Austria, where I switched to a regional bus headed toward the Slovenian capital, where I was finally able to catch a local bus to the town of Bled. Hiking up the unmarked mountain trail was daunting, but the view I got over the entire lake and surrounding region was well worth it in the end.
  • Alexander Boulton McKeehan: We had the opportunity to live with a group of Chinese rangers in a mountain hut at the very end of the road. We worked closely with the rangers to find the best way to leverage modern tools such as AI and solar power to catch poachers hunting pandas and other animals in one of China’s largest dedicated nature reserves. On our treks through the mountains of China the rangers would occasionally guide us to stop and take in the world around us, whether the gentle baying of panda cubs from far away or the gentle rushing of the rivers that we crossed. There is great beauty to be found in even the most simple and unassuming of moments.
  • Leigh Pomerantz: I captured this image of St. Johann Church in Santa Maddalena, Italy, in July 2018. While there on backpacking trip, I was captured by the juxtaposition between the church's classical architecture and the magnificent natural landscape behind. The Dolomites cradle the church in a way that felt perfectly peaceful.
  • Kira Smiley: Southern Patagonia is one of the few places in the world I have visited where I have witnessed such stunning beauty by such raw and urban art, beautiful in its own way. After a long run along the coast, I came upon an abandoned building, breaking down and filled with glass shards and graffiti. The contrast was stark, but as I turned around, I noticed one doorway perfectly framed the sunset over the mountains and the fjord. This illustrated clearly to me the theme of my Bing Overseas Study Program overseas seminar, "Human-Natural Coupled Systems." The broken and colorful building was covered in action statements like "no more coal!" and reflected the economic situation and views of the town. It both clashed and combined perfectly with the stunning view just beyond, a simultaneously vibrant and (a little) melancholy juxtaposition that perfectly embodied my perception of Punta Arenas.

Student photographs worth a 1000 words

The results are in for the 8th annual Stanford Global Studies Student Photo Contest, and the winner of the popular vote is an evocative image of a rainy day at the Taj Mahal captured by senior human biology major EMILY MENDONSA while she was traveling in Utter Pradesh, India, conducting research on women’s health in an overseas program with Stanford’s Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice.

40 photos were submitted to the contest in five categories: animals, people, photojournalism, the natural world, and travel. All undergraduate and graduate students affiliated with Stanford Global Studies’ 14 centers and programs were eligible to submit photographs of their experiences at home or abroad. Winners in each category and the popular vote receive up to $150 in cash and other prizes.

This year the winning photographs were taken in six countries and the subjects, in addition to the Taj Mahal, were: a recreational jump from iconic Stari Most (Old Bridge) in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, taken by international relations senior JETT HAYWARD; a church on tiny, tear-shaped Bled Island on Lake Bled located in northern Slovenia taken by junior economics major DANIEL HUANG; a butterfly in the mountains near Baixiongping Station in Sichuan Province, China, by physics and computer science double major junior ALEXANDER BOULTON MCKEEHAN; St. Johann Church cradled in the Val di Funes in the Dolomites of Santa Maddalena, Italy, taken by international relations senior LEIGH POMERANTZ; and a graffiti covered doorway framing the sunset over the mountains and the fjord of Punta Arenas, Chile, taken by earth systems graduate student KIRA SMILEY.