Tellus: (tel’us), n. 1. [Latin] earth, soil, and the land; a country; the world. 2. a collection of Willamette University student’s insights, stories, photos and thoughts from their experiences studying abroad.

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A Day at Art Basel Hong Kong »

IMG_1353This is one of the many installations I saw at Art Basel Hong Kong ’17 and is called Not a Shield, But a Weapon, by Filipino artist Pio Abad.

I mainly wanted to study in Hong Kong to better understand the growing art market, see how museums were curated there, and to witness what was going on in the local art scene. My 5 1/2 months there definitely allowed me to satisfy all my curiosities. I think my biggest discovery was finding out that the Hong Kong government lumped together ‘art’ with ‘entertainment’. There was definitely less of an emphasis on art and art education in the past, so the government neglected to fund many art organizations/allocate funding for art. This is why many local artists were enraged that art seemed to be put on a sort of societal back-burner. Nevertheless, the local art scene still perseveres.

However, ever since annual Art Basel shows started up in Hong Kong, local artists and artists of color alike have been able to get more and more exposure. Although some people are quite against the commercialization of art and the idea of Art Basel as a giant, glorified showroom (I’m one of those people), I thought it was still a step in the right direction in exposing the world to contemporary artists from Hong Kong (and the rest of the world).

This picture sums up a bittersweet moment. I was so happy to see a huge amount of amazing art produced by artists of color from around the world, and I was happy I had the privilege to attend such an event. At the same time, it also made me wonder how long it would take for the government to finally wake up and provide adequate funding for local artists/organizations. Someday I hope that the joy of art is spread and made accessible to the 7 million people living in Hong Kong.


Seeing New Places with New People »

17155967_10212384994488350_8624121083518225411_nThis photo was taken in Oxford on a day trip I took with the friends I made while abroad in England. We climbed up a ton of stairs to get to the top of University Church of St. Mary the Virgin and was amazed by this view. It was great to share one of those wow-I-can’t-believe-I’m-here-right-now moments with great people like my friend in this photo (funnily enough also named Emily) and the friends taking this picture. I am so lucky to have had this opportunity to not only live out my dream of going to England but to be able to do that with great, like-minded people.

Memory in UK »

It might be too late to upload. But this photo was taken at last Thanksgiving in University of Leicester. An American exchange student and I celebrated this festival with students in Leicester with different nationalities, mostly British, and also including Italian and Asian. They never celebrated Thanksgiving, so they were so excited about it. We each brought one dish of food and shared with each other. We then played some games and talked a lot. Everybody is so nice and funny. I made many new friends that day. After that day, I felt less unfamiliarity of  U.K. and wanted to make more British friends there. Even though I went back to Willamette for one semester, I can still clearly remember what was happened that night. I missed them a lot, and they are precious in my study abroad experience!

London Honeymoon »

This photo was taken during my first week in London, I was still in the honeymoon phase of my abroad experience, very bright-eyed and excited for what was to come. About halfway through my time, I looked back at this photo and I suddenly felt nostalgic for the moment. I thought it was strange that I was feeling nostalgic for an experience that I had not yet concluded, but that was when I was able to acknowledge the rollercoaster of emotions and cycles of acceptance that come along with traveling and studying abroad. I love this photo and will remember this moment and this day forever!

#FMF2016 in Grahamstown, South Africa »

Powerful experience »

When I was in Prague I took a course called Comprehending the Holocaust. At the end of the semester we took a trip to Auschwitz. This was the most powerful and educational experience I had abroad. My entire life I had learned about the Holocaust in school and from my grandparents , but to finally walk on the ground were so much of it happened was a completely different and powerful experience. 

Reflective Study Abroad Photo »

This photo was taken the week that our London abroad program went to Edinburgh, Scotland for a few days. A few friends and I stayed in Scotland a few extra days, and I ended up with an afternoon alone in Scotland, unsure of what to do. So, I looked up scenic areas in Edinburgh and found this little unknown space of land called the Pentland Hills. It was an hour bus ride out of the city, and a thirty-minute trek through rural farmland after that, just to get to the base of the hills. I spent most of the afternoon climbing, but it was worth it when I reached the top of the hills. The view of Edinburgh was indescribable. Because I had gone alone, and because there wasn’t a single other person around for miles, I felt a sense of peace that I had never before experienced, just by being surrounded by this vast green scenery. I tried to take a photo to capture the beauty of the scene, but I don’t think any photo could do it justice. The fact that I had made this journey all by myself, in a town (and a country) I had never been to before, and the amount of freedom that I felt once getting to the top — that completely made my study abroad experience. It showed me how far I had come in my independence, and it showed me that truly beautiful things can come out of that. While I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to escape to the Pentland Hills again, that experience has inspired me to try and step out of my comfort zone a bit more and take more independent trips around Oregon.

First Day in Korea »

I took this photo upon my first morning in Seoul. Looking at it now brings me nostalgia because of the unique geography and composure of Seoul. Seoul’s alleyways are characterized by their slope, abundance of signs in both English and Hangeul, and plethora of wires and cables. My favorite part of this photo is the sign that reads “Mother In Law Bagels.” I went there a few times in the morning. I didn’t know how to tell the employees which bagel I wanted, so my breakfast was always a surprise.

Photo in Greece »


This is a picture of a rock I took while I was in Greece. Greece is really famous for its rocks, especially the ones believed to relate to the people inhabiting Greece around 2,500 years ago. People like to look at these rocks because of all the stories told about Ancient Greece. I wasn’t really feeling anything when I took this picture because I have no soul, but maybe you’ll enjoy it.

Prague Sunset »

I lived on the other side of the river away from all the commotion of downtown with some of the best people I have ever met. I loved our cozy apartment. Just below us was a cafe by day and a bar by night filled with the most hip people you will ever lay your eyes upon. It was important for me to live outside of the center. Instead of the loud commotion of the excited tourists hustling and bustling about, I felt a sense of calmness across the bridge. We established a nook there just for us where restaurant waiters recognized us, and cat cafe owners practiced Czech with us. I often sat on my windowsill looking down at the trams passing by and then up at the sunset. Untainted calmness.


This is one of my favorite pictures of all time.  Ecuador was the most amazing experience and I wouldn’t change one thing about it.  Like these kids, Ecuador was full of heartbreaking yet the most inspirational people I have ever met. I cannot wait to return.

Dachau Concentration Camp – Germany »

I was visiting Germany and it was the first time I had ever visited a concentration camp. As I looked out the window of one of the barracks I couldn’t take my eyes off what I saw. It was a bronze sculpture made to look like barbed wire but the barbed wire was made to resemble the victims who died in the camp. It is the most powerful sculpture I have ever seen and something I will never forgot. To be in a place of so much pain is sobering and a reminder of a dark time in history. It’s an indescribable feeling to confront such a place but I think very necessary because it is my belief that “those who fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” (Churchill).

From Sweden to Istanbul »

My week in Istanbul post-finishing classes in Sweden showed me the two extremes of human nature; the disheartening and the inspiring. After being in Sweden, the events in Istanbul allowed me to see how the beauty of a place and its people truly can outshine the bad in the world when you choose to look for it. These stunning umbrellas I found when walking past an alley in Hacımimi, Istanbul reminded me of a lot of the lessons I learned from my experience abroad.

Auschwitz »


As I drove away from Auschwitz, I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. I felt angered. This type of beauty should not be in a place filled with so much despair. Going to visit one of the most deadly concentration camps was an experience I will never forget. It is the only place I have ever been to that I have no desire to return. As we pulled up, tears rushed down my faced. But as we took our tour, I felt a sense of numbness. I remember distinctly telling myself over and over, “Over a million people died here.” But my mind just couldn’t comprehend it. I couldn’t feel the pain I thought I should feel. I have never encountered anything before that held so much pain. Auschwitz is a dark place full of horror and it should always be a place of despair. However, I like to think that the sunset was a way to honor and acknowledge all of the victims who unfairly lost their lives at Auschwitz.

Cordoba »

The mosque in Cordoba represents years of change, and transfer of power. It is an example of how religion has been the driving force of wars from a very early time. It was originally a small Islamic Arab mosque that grew as the city did, but in the conquest it was taken over by the catholic kings and created into a cathedral. The structure was kept, but certain things were replaced and added to make it catholic. To this day, people who practice the muslim religion are not permitted to pray in this structure. We took a class on this city before we went to see it, and all I can say is that no stories will do it justice. It is one of the most wicked things I have ever seen. It is enormous and hosts so much incredible arquitectural culture. It’s composition is as impactful as the history that has led to what it is today. I felt overwhelmed, but super impressed being there. I heard stories about people that consider this monument a huge part of their life bucket list, and I could not believe I did not even know about it until Spain. It is still incredible to think that I was there, and I got to experience it all. 

Paris at a glance »

A city overflowing with experiences and cultures.

A Morning in Toledo »

I took this picture when my program took us on an excursion to different cities in Spain. Toledo was the last city we visit before heading to Granada. The picture shows the entrance to the city and its rich history. Toledo is a rural beautiful city and the streets are just amazing. Every street you are on there is art on the walls or small shows with beautiful hand made jewelry and treats. Even though I prefer the city I felt in love with Toledo.

Last Day in London »

The dreary weather was reflecting my mood! I was sad to leave this busy city.

Granada, Spain »

I took this photo during a program visit to the Alhambra in the town I was living in, Granada, Spain. These intricate wall carvings were so striking and beautiful and I was so glad I captured the moment. It was a special moment of standing in a really old building and thinking about all the people who had walked on these floors and the lives they had lived there; I especially thought of how different those lives must have been. During my time abroad I reflected a lot on the great luck I had to follow the steps of people so many years before me who had built monuments, started wars, and worshipped in the places I now walked. I’m so glad for the experience I have had to look at the places around me in a new light- even back home.

Thanksgiving 2016 »

Home is where you make it.

Memories Abroad! »

This picture is of me and my roommate and was taken by our host mom on my birthday celebration! I am reminded of the delicious french food and warm atmosphere of my home stay when reflecting this image.

Cymru »

Dwi’n hoffi dysgu Cymru. I learned so much in my time at Aberystwyth, but the most impactful came through learning the language. It is so entrenched with history and culture: every word isa representation of the culture. Welsh is beautiful. Wales is beautiful. Cymraeg yn hardd. Cymru yn hardd.

A Monument to Blood »

A personal goal of mine has always been to see the wonders of the world. I have been conflicted recently, as to what should and should not count, but there is one which I know for certain. The Flavian Amphitheater, the largest of its kind across the Empire. We spent half a day in this structure in Rome, and you could feel the grandeur. My time abroad was a challenge, especially academically. However, seeing sights like this, the ruins of an old world, made it worthwhile. I will always remember my time in Rome.

…It won’t let me rotate it.

International Interviews and Internships »

During my regular life (meaning, not living in Rome on a semester abroad), I overburden myself. I thrive when I am over-committed, so I work multiple jobs on top of being a full-time student. So I told myself that going abroad would be time for me, and I would focus on relaxing and just having fun. This is important context for what comes next.

The Career Center at John Cabot University in Rome sends internship opportunities by email every few days. One of the opportunities they shared caught my eye: “For international contemporary art/photography/street art publisher: correct, edit, write pieces like press releases, book descriptions, social media, and website.” Repeating myself, I did not want to work during my semester abroad. But the habits of an workaholic are too strong in me.  So with low expectations (and not even knowing if I wanted this internship), I sent in my resume. In less than 12 hours, the executive director of Drago Publishing called me directly to schedule an interview.

Thursday at 12:30pm, only in my third week in Rome, I sat down for an interview with an Italian publishing company. Domitilla, the executive director, was concise describing what she was looking for, and told me that my resume and experience looked perfect. Instead of asking me why I applied for the job or what my strengths and weaknesses were, Domitilla said she could much better see if I was a good fit by viewing me in action. In a blur of English with Italian sprinkled in, she explained my work for the afternoon: research some advertising options for two new books, rewrite some copy on the company’s webpage, and compile information for a call she would be having later that day. A bit overwhelmed but up for the challenge, I settled into work. Before I got too far, though, Domitilla asked me if I had eaten lunch yet (I hadn’t, since I had rushed to the interview from class). She introduced me to Ninja (a nickname used far more often than his real name, Paolo), another employee of the company, and gave him money to buy lunch for the two of us. Ninja’s English was not excellent, but nevertheless I loved talking with him and eating pizza at Piazza del Popolo before heading back to the office.

That’s when I really began to work. Domitilla was in meetings until 5:30pm, when she asked to see what I had come up with. I showed her the consolidated options for advertising with one of Drago’s distributors, and a list of questions to ask their advertising representative during her 6:00pm call. After reading through the questions I had listed, she exclaimed, “This is fantastic. I want you on. You’re going to be on this call with me.” Wondering what I had gotten myself into, I sat down with Domitilla to prepare for the conference call. After she spoke with the distributor for a few minutes on another issue, she passed the phone to me and told me to go for it. In a sink or swim moment, I wouldn’t say I was an Olympic swimmer, but I was definitely above the doggy-paddle level. Essentially faking it ‘til I made it, I directed the remainder of the call with my questions about the advertising options.

When the call ended, Domitilla asked me to come back the next day. She said the internship would be paid, and gave me one of her old bikes so I could get around the city easier. I biked home past Saint Peter’s Basilica in the fading light, and wondered to myself if any of the past 6 hours had really happened. But it did happen, and I returned the next morning to continue working.

As part of my internship in Rome, I attended the opening of a contemporary photographer’s exhibition.

My internship with Drago was one of the most valuable parts of my semester abroad. Especially rewarding was working on the release of Just for Passionthe newest book of contemporary photography for the publishing house. In November, nearing the end of my time in Rome, I attended the VIP gallery opening of Letizia Battaglia’s Just for Passion exhibit at the MAXXI Museum of Contemporary Art. Seeing the printed book for the first time, I noticed a small detail in the back of the book which made my heart leap: my name was published in the book.

If I accomplish nothing else in my life, at least I can say that I contributed to the media and marketing of a contemporary photography book by an Italian mafia photographer. Who else can say that?

Note “Bryn Culbert” listed under Drago Publishing’s Media – I’m published!

Otium cum dignitate »

Otium cum dignitate. Leisure with dignity. This was the very first phrase I learned in Latin my first day of college. It describes a way of life for the ancient Roman elite: one should always work hard, and if one takes leisure, it should be a dignified activity, something that improves the mind such as reading and studying. Our professor proclaimed that this should be the model by which we lived our lives. Over the next two years, I fell in love with the Latin language and the Classical studies as a whole. Yet in visiting Rome, I did not realize how much I would be affected by the birthplace of the language I had so vigorously studied. I was overcome upon entering the Roman Forum, where all the great orators and politicians of the past had spoken. And, of course, I was taken in by the Colosseum. I was struck by how, having this experience abroad in London, visiting other places I had never imagined I would go, I was also expanding the bounds of my worldview. By doing this traveling, I was learning. I was experiencing a pure form of otium cum dignitate. I immediately made my friends snap a picture to capture the moment. It is one of my favorite and most precious experiences from abroad.