Let’s Just Be Honest With Each Other OK?

Hi there, my name is Braden and I’m a junior working towards a degree in philosophy, Spanish, and a minor in Communications at Seattle University. I’m currently on the SU-led program in Puebla, Mexico for the next 5 months, where I hope (and am so eagerly trying) to develop a fluency in Spanish and a deeper appreciation for Spanish culture.  

               Here’s a little bit about me, because we need to get to know each other better, and I could benefit from getting to know more about myself too. I am the guy that buys an inspiring book at Elliot Bay bookstore for $15, and then gets halfway through or doesn’t even open it because he gets too busy (I’m looking at you autobiography of Malcom X). I am the guy who, throughout much of high school and even college, would change his personality based on his current company to be well liked. And yes, I have been the guy that thinks he’s got something special going on and the world just needs to discover it. I’ll happily admit these character traits as if it were a sigh of relief.  I am guilty of having been those people, heck sometimes I still am those people. I could open this blog and tell you what I like about myself or my hobbies, but I’d rather orient these entries around a different theme. This is not an exercise in showing my fantastic adventures cavalcading around the beautiful country of Mexico, nor is it going to be a photo blog about picturesque vistas that I capture at salient moments. I want this to be a blog about growth.

               I have been those people I described and many others, and while they’re faults I jokingly expose, they are also qualities I would like to change. Throughout my time at SU I’ve been making changes in my lifestyle, my behavior, and my self-image to grow into a person that I can admire. Call it unsolicited youthful wisdom from a college junior, but it seems to me like life is a process of seeing what works and what doesn’t. I feel grateful to be living in a time where this search is my main focus. I know that Puebla will force me to grow and learn about life and myself in ways that I could not have imagined, and so taking this search into a different culture has been a thrilling leap of faith.

 I have been in Puebla about 1 week now, and it is a fantastic city. This is something that I want to get into detail about later on, in a depth and scope that only a liberal arts education could truly do (that was self-deprecation folks). I’ll save that prose for another day. For now, I’m starting this exciting yet short chapter of my life, and I enter it with a hunger for growth, challenge, disappointment, and elation. I am starting in a new country with a different language. Customs are different here, Spanish can sometime be frustrating, and every interaction is an exercise in the unfamiliar. I am learning this all, and much like the bigger scope of one’s 20s, I am actively figuring out what works, and what doesn’t. I do not know what awaits in these next coming months, or in the next 10 years, and that is what makes this all so exciting!



Humans of Granada

For the longest time, when I travel, I have always wanted people out of my photos and just wanted the location or well known places. I would have halves of heads, bodies chopped off, or fingers poking their way into my frame.


I would always try my hardest to get a shot that looked like the ones we have seen before, the seemingly perfect scope of a location that only lives in the back of our minds.


I have started to realize that I like the images I make more with the ones of people in them.


My life is shared with the people of the world and this life is impossible to play without others in it.


While on an ISA excursion in Granada, I found myself photographing the people I would see in moments of pure living. There was no mold I wanted to shape or one pose I specifically looked for. All these humans were discovered in the way they were. I believe the best images speak in ways our words cannot because they make you feel a bit closer to the moment I relay to my viewer.


The images I’ve chosen to share below are my representation of Granada. The people in them are the spices, that so many times I have overlooked.


People live in these memories, and these memories live in these images.


Our experiences are our own but they’re most definitely shared.


The Permanence of “I am” in Spanish

While in Spain I have been joyous, surprised, sick, nostalgic, worried, elated, confused, tired… the list goes on. I could cycle through all these emotions in one day, one week, and now, one month. Emotions are constantly changing and sometimes I can’t even put a word to what it is I feel either in my body or my soul. Sometimes they can definitely be out of alignment, and that is normal. Experiencing two different sensations, in two different languages, leaves room for exploration and understanding of what is actually going on.

I move through my days in the wake of my heart, meaning what’s on my mind, will show. When I want to share my glee or my sorrows, I have two choices. In my Spanish homestay, I have the choice to retreat to my room, or work through them with those around me, in Spanish. Sometimes the emotions have been so obvious, my host Mom will want to know what made my day or knock on my door and ask what it is on my mind and if I want to talk.

I have always chosen to share.

In Spanish there are two verbs that we conjugate to mean, “I am.” One is permanent (ser) and one is temporary (estar). The “two meanings” can be noted between “I am from the United States” (Soy de los Estados Unidos), and “I am very excited” (Estoy muy emocionada).

When I say I’m from the United States, that’s something that is a characteristic of mine that won’t change, so we use the verb, ser. On the other hand, my emotions will. When I think about what I will say to someone when we’re conversing about a feeling or state of being, in this one particular moment, we use the temporary verb, estar.

Sometimes all it’s taken for me to let go of the unease or discomfort from the feeling of being hopeless is to think about what I’m feeling, in Spanish. When I realize that my state of being and the adjectives I’m using to describe myself are something that is in constant motion, I stop and remind myself;

everything is temporary.

Spain and Spanish continue to remind me of this, each day I wake up here.

Emotions are temporary and can change in a minute. This is why I have chosen to devote my time while I spend abroad to embracing what I can, while at the same time letting it go. Both the good and bad, the easy and challenging, the sweet and sour. We cannot have one without the other, so we might as well try to make friends with both.

Studying abroad is pushing me to live each moment like it’s fleeting, because it is. I only have so much time in Spain, and this, this is absolutely the time to have the most positive attitude I can. I want to soak in all the delight and learn from the trials.

xo, Hallie

Natural Meditation

Just about an hour and a half drive from Valencia, Peñiscola (peninsula in English) is an old town known for its castle, Greek & Roman history, and its appearance in Game of Thrones. The buildings are white, the mood is calm, quiet, and the Mediterranean extends as far as the eye can see. We enjoyed a relaxed day touring the castle and hanging on the beach.


I realized on this day-trip, I love listening to the sound of the waves with my eyes closed because it’s a guided meditation in itself.

Water, specifically salt water, the thing that is most ample on Earth, connects to the pattern that makes us live when it reaches land, (our home).


It almost feels as if the water holds us when we swim.

A car passes the group on a thin cobblestone street in Peñiscola.

Passing through the castle of Peñiscola.

A sailboat passed by the coast of Peñiscola under the Mediterranean heat.

Two paddle boarders on the Mediterranean Sea and the curve of the Earth.

My friend, Haidyn, and I look into blue space, the two shades separated by the horizon.


Hello From My (New) Home


My name is Hallie and I am third year double majoring in Photography and Spanish at Seattle University. For the next three months I will be in Valencia, Spain with ISA which is an SU Sponsored Program. I am taking five classes completely taught in Spanish which will satisfy a majority of the major requirements.

Travel, for me, is the broadest term, encompassing adventure outside the place I keep my belongings. Home is where I am. In Spain, I want to experience the lifestyle, adapt to the Spanish routine, and feel comfortable in another home. I hope to explore parts of the world and show people where I find joy in the dreamy imagery I create with words that bring them into my experiences. I usually center images around people, so while abroad I aspire to incorporate photos into stories that bring out the vibrancy of the moment as I experience it in adjectives both in English and Spanish.

I dream of photographing people all over the world, and having ease with the Spanish language would greatly influence how well I could do this. I am passionate about the ways we are connected by human nature and the inherent value of each individual life. We are more similar than we are different. I believe I am able to portray this through portraits of people in the places around the world that we can all call home.

While studying at Seattle U, I have unraveled a side of me that is passionate about issues both social and political that influence how we move in the world and what people or places we consider to be home.

When I hear people say:

“I cannot wait to go home,”

I wonder, what IS it that makes your home, HOME?

Is it the place, the people, the activities, the memories, the freedom from due dates?

Today I find myself on a journey,

in this body,

in search of home,

wherever I may find myself on the globe.

I hope you find your best friend under your chest, always reminding you that

you are home,

in this very instant.  

I want to remind you that each day you don’t feel “at home,”

is an allowance you give yourself,

to notice,

you have the opportunity,

to carve out time to do something you find peace and joy in,

and find yourself,

at home.

Our first home is our body.

Let us not forget to find


before we go

asking the world for a singular room we find harmony.

What a shame it would be,

if we only considered one place home,

in a world of abundant beautiful spaces

awaiting our discovery.

Notice, you are already home.


Preparing for the Unknowable

My final days of summer have been spent in the backyard of my parent’s house, soaking up the last bit of sun I can before I leave for my first European winter. In my previous study abroad experiences in Tijuana, Mexico, and Santiago, Chile, the weather was never an issue; Tijuana reminded me of the summers spent in southern California with my family and Santiago was enjoying its spring-summer transition when I was studying abroad during the northern hemisphere’s coldest months. Of course I’m not studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, for the weather. I have been an artist since my parents first noticed my desire to draw and the culmination of a young adult life of art-making and studying has led to where I am today.

Self portrait with cactus flowers, oil pastels on wood, made in the summer of 2017

My parents have always encouraged me to follow where my passions lead me. Since attending Seattle University, my relationship with my family has become even more complex, leading up to the serious discussions we had this summer about my studies and where I see myself fitting in the future. Our talks led to the realization that my academic and professional career will lead to more international exposure in the future and my parents reaffirmed their commitment to helping me achieve what I set out to do. My parents never had the opportunity to study abroad in college so I feel immensely grateful for their support.

As the summer before my semester in Prague comes to a close I look forward to the new experiences I am bound to have. Around this time last year I was just transitioning to my new life in Santiago and I can still remember how strange and new everything was in the beginning. I especially remember the feelings of doubt I had on the plane over and how I could never reassure myself that I was doing the right thing because I had never done something like this before. I felt like I was preparing for the unknowable because even if people reassured me that I was doing a good thing for myself, I could not accept it fully until I had had the experience for myself. It reminds me of leaving for college, too, in that I had many mentors that told me that higher education was the right thing for me, but I couldn’t accept that advice blindly, without knowing what college was really like. That discomfort in not knowing is something that I have had to get used to during the past few years of my college life. The Trump presidency, the growing state of unrest across the country, and other moments of conflict since returning to the U.S. from abroad has led me further into a state of not knowing. This limbo state of not knowing what is and what isn’t has led me to the comfort of books. I have read The Metamorphosis and Amerika: The Missing Person in order to be more well-versed in the works of Czech writer Franz Kafka, but I have also delved into more diverse books like One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), SchoolGirls: Young Women, Self Esteem, and the Confidence Gap (Peggy Orenstein), Revolutionary Suicide (Huey P. Newton), The Fall (Albert Camus), and Myra Breckinridge (Gore Vidal). By delving into various difficult topics like family, solitude, gender, injustice, pride, and pleasure I feel a sense of openness to life’s quirks. Whether it be nonfiction or fiction, works of literature allow me to ponder things that may not even have concrete answers in a more creative way. Like how art-making challenges me to be innovative, reading challenges my ability to accept new phenomena and react in a logical way. I guess that this is the best preparation I have for studying abroad in Europe for the first time. By reading about literary and artistic masters of the region and the world I believe I have prepared myself as best I can for a semester in Prague, attending one of the oldest universities in Europe.


The riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma

By Rafael Morseletto, 2015 Gilman Scholar

Russia and the Russian way of life has puzzled Americans and Western Europeans since at least the time of Churchill–whose bewilderment of our neighbors to the East is quoted in the title of this post.  A cultural, political, economic and geographic mix of Asian and European traditions, the American visitor will find Russia to be a deeply stirred melting pot of the ancient and the modern, the familiar and unfamiliar, and the reasonable and the completely unacceptable.  Though ideological differences have kept and continue to keep Russia and The West at odds, my recent travels to St. Petersburg, Moscow and Veliky Novgorod may help shine a light on a world that many in America consider, sadly, to be a dark mystery better left unexplored.

Besides curiosity and a love of exploring new places, Russia has personally attracted me in its commitment and long list of accomplishments in Art and Science.  Russia is the motherland of the traditional 19th century Realist landscape painters Ivan Shishkin and Ivan Aivazovsky.  St. Petersburg (known in Soviet times as Leningrad), specifically, is the birthplace of the Leningrad school of Painting, and of course, the city hosting The Hermitage–one of the most well known and largest museums of art in the world.  In the field of science, Russia has nearly incomparable achievements in the area of space research and exploration.  Russia is also a significant global scientific contributor both historically and in the present.

My deep appreciation for Russian culture would simply be that if not for the generous contribution that allowed me to travel there in the first place.  I am deeply grateful to the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Committee for financially supporting a large portion of my travel and program fees.  As a low-income student and person of color, I encourage everyone interested in travelling to apply for this scholarship.  This blog is a testament to just how within reach it is for anybody on the rocks about studying abroad.  If you want to experience a new country and culture, know that the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship will work with you to make this happen.

My first destination, and the city in which I had spent most of my time in Russia, was St. Petersburg.   I was lucky enough to choose a study abroad program (SRAS–School of Russian and Asian Studies) that accommodated me remarkably close to the city center.  The international student’s dorms of UNECON–the St. Petersburg State University of Economics–was less than one city block from Nevsky Prospekt, the city’s famous main street, and less than three city blocks from the world-known Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.  Its approximation to St. Petersburg’s main artery allowed for impressive access to most of the world famous attractions–including a short walk to The Hermitage Museum of Art and Culture.

One thing that stood out about St. Petersburg that I was not aware of until I became more comfortable travelling around Western Russia was the very pronounced European cultural influence.  The city boasted Classical and Baroque style palaces, 18th-century style French gardens, and pastel colored buildings that contradict the concrete, steel and rust of brutalist and Stalinist architecture more expected of by the western eye.  Of course, the visitor keen on seeing the dusty, weather-worn relics of the Soviet era need not worry, as they are typically further from the center and can be seen on the ride from Pulkovo airport.  In the three months I spent there, I opened my mind (and taste buds) to Georgian and South Russian cuisine, experienced the typical Russian rural life in Gryazno–a very small village about 79 km south of the city center–and, of course, practiced my Russian language speaking skills in a typical antikafe.  Unlike a regular café, an antikafe is a fusion café-game room-lounge space where tea, coffee, and cookies are free and patrons pay by the hour.  It is a Russian invention likely created to encourage long, comfortable stays in a fast moving city.

The second Russian city I visited was Veliky Novgorod (“Great” Novgorod, as opposed to Nizhny, or “Lower” Novgorod) during a day trip organized by my program.  Veliky Novgorod is a destination where one would expect to find the historian traveler.  The ruins of medieval Orthodox churches and historical plaques and markers scatter the serene, woodland outskirts of the city.  Before the Russian Tsardom and well before the Russian Empire, Veliky Novgorod represented the very beginnings of the Russian identity under the rule of the Varangian Chieftain Rurik.  Along with containing many sites and landmarks from before the discovery of the Americas, in more recent history, Veliky Novgorod is the birthplace of the famous Pianist and Composer Sergei Rachmaninov.

After some time had past from the trip to Veliky Novgorod, and I had once again grown accustomed to large city life, I was arranged to travel to an even bigger city–Moscow.  Russia’s capital and the second largest city in Europe, Moscow offered something that one had to actively look for in St. Petersburg–Communist iconography.  As mentioned earlier, St. Petersburg was very much influenced by European architectural standards of elegance.  In contrast, Moscow’s architecture appeared to be directly and deliberately opposed to any such influence.  Instead of the looming baroque palaces and grandiose Orthodox Christian steeples, Moscow’s horizon is dominated by intimidating Stalinist buildings–such as Russia’s equivalent of a Harvard, Lomonosov State University, and the famous Hotel Ukraine.  Additionally, Lenin and Karl Marx statues stand confidently in public areas mere blocks away from the world-famous Red Square and one has to look much more diligently for English-speakers and even just signs written in the Roman alphabet.

In a way, Moscow represents an active resistance against Western-style globalism with the city being difficult and even hostile for the American and European traveler.  As an American, it is clear that any political tensions between Russia and the US can be seen here.  Not simply the consequence of being a capital city, the atmosphere of Moscow has, as I’d been told, always been deeply political.  This could explain the much heavier presence of modern-day Communists (even occupying a notable 14 percent of seats in the state Duma) as opposed to, more logically, the birthplace of the Russian revolution in St. Petersburg.  An even bigger surprise being their coexistence with the second largest concentration of billionaires in the world–after New York City.  Whether considered good or bad by some, my experience in Moscow was generally very positive.  It was a city where I had enjoyed getting lost in, speaking to friendly and shady strangers alike, finding my way, setting out on a photo-hunt completely alone with no map, getting locked-in after-hours on the negative seventeenth floor of an old Soviet nuke bunker, getting lost again and finding my way again–all in the three days I had visited the city.  Moscow was definitely worth visiting, especially for the traveler with the “St. Petersburg” picture of Russia still fresh in their minds.

My return to St. Petersburg after the Moscow trip marked the final month of my overall stay in Russia but the beginning of a month of incredible autonomy.  Due to Spring quarter at SU overlapping with the entry date in my SRAS program, I had to arrive in St. Petersburg a month late–and consequently, leave a month late.  This meant I would be staying a month after the rest of the Americans in my group had left.  Though I would remain in my dorm for the period of time I had left, I would be free to explore the city with no guidance by any of the remaining English speakers, no itinerary, and with minimal obligations–the exhilarating experience I had always hoped for.  I had spent this time making friends, visiting local art galleries, a butterfly conservatory, a trashy basement punk rock venue, equally trashy late night shawarma stands, and of course the best places to pick up souvenirs.

The days following my return to Seattle became gloomier and greyer as I prepared myself to leave behind a city and country that had treated me so well.  Of the things I had worried about while preparing for this life changing journey–such as fear of hostility in my being American or a person of color or simply a foreigner–none came to fruition.  Either due to luck, good judgement or simply a misjudgment on my part, the Russian people made my experience in their country a wonderful and exciting one.  For this reason, I would gladly return to Russia and encourage any apprehensive Westerners to look past the political and historical biases and explore this wonderful country for themselves.