Student Stories

Travel is a thrill. It’s an adventure. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime memory in the making.


Going to France opened my eyes to the world and made me realize I wanted to travel with my job. I am willing to relocate anywhere for work now because of this trip. This year I leave for Germany for a year for a dual-degree study abroad program between Illinois State University and the University of Paderborn in Paderborn, Germany. If it wasn’t for my ACIS trip, I’d have no clue where I would be today or what I would be doing. This trip jump-started my college career. If I could do it again, I certainly would. I would recommend this for anybody.”

ALLIE, ACIS Participant

Student Spotlight

Nick’s Costa Rican Adventure

We’re shining a spotlight on Nick, who traveled on an ACIS trip to Costa Rica. What did he think about his adventure abroad? Find out in this exclusive interview!

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Scholarship Winners

Artwork, Photography and Writing

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A Glimpse of Cultures, by Aleena Alvi from Virginia

Grand Prize, High School – $1,000 Scholarship

Aleena’s thoughts:
Since the beginning of time, cultures have merged to transform the world. My piece displays the role of cultures in my world; From the Arabic tapestries representing my religion, to the lanterns representing my Chinese heritage. My studies descend from different cultures as well: Math concepts derived from Indian and Muslim thinkers are still used today. English literature and French fill my courses. Music transports language across the world. A Persian rug adorns the floor. All of these cultures come together to make up the world today.

One Traincar, Hundreds of Stories, by Nina Kropf from New York

Runner-Up, High School – $500 Scholarship

Nina’s thoughts:
New York City is one of the most culturally diverse places in the world, especially on the subway. The color scheme of each passenger is that of that person’s national flag.

Welcoming World, by Emma Bell from Ohio

Grand Prize, High School – $1,000 Scholarship

Emma’s thoughts:
The beauty of the inuksuk is the idea that it symbolizes. Originally used by the Inuit people of North America, its purpose is to serve as a point of navigation and to guide travelers to safety. As I have grown up, I have been on the move, all the way from the southern end of the United States, up north to Canada, and then back again. My culture and view of the world are influenced by all of the places I have lived and all of the wonderful, and diverse people I have met and learned from along the way. On my mother’s side, my family is Canadian. This photo of an inuksuk was captured by me while I visited them and it has special meaning to me because of how being Canadian and learning of the different cultures of Canada have impacted me. Among the chaos of life, I always think back to the inuksuk and trust it to guide me down the right path.

Music in my World, by Kristin Ventricelli from New York

Runner-Up, High School – $500 Scholarship

Kristin’s thoughts:
Music is my world. Through this glass ball, there is an image of classical piece of music on my piano, in my home. The glass ball represents the globe, a world of music that can be mine. As a musician I explore other cultures, folklores and traditions. I have learned to sing in Italian, German and French. Music is a shared language. I find it fascinating that a High School music student from France or Germany can read the same piece of music that I read and play it on a piano or sing it just as I do. My school choir incorporates songs from all over the world into our repertoire. We make sure we understand the culture before we perform the music. It makes the performance more meaningful when we know what we are singing about. Music is a universal language and is enjoyed on every continent. It brings people together no matter where they reside.

Streetsmarts, by Theo Preston from North Carolina

Grand Prize, Middle School – $1,000 Scholarship

Theo’s thoughts:
I love books. To me they be portals into places I cannot access on my own. The monuments popping out of the book represent the different cultures that color my world.

Possibilities, by Jennifer Theriault from Massachusetts

Runner-Up, Middle School – $500 Scholarship

Jennifer’s thoughts:
Many young adolescent middle schoolers like myself view the world as a place full of many influences on their future. Without a clue of who they currently are, they can either doubt or believe in their potential and inspirations.

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A Small Turquoise Wooden Bead, by Nadja Bartlebaugh from Colorado

Grand Prize, High School – $1,000 Scholarship

Nadja’s thoughts:
Cultures intertwine inevitably through travel, interaction and even indirect combinations. My name represents the impact of two different cultures colliding, as well as my impactful interactions while traveling.

The All-Embracing Global Patchwork Quilt, by Alika Ting from California

Runner-Up, High School – $500 Scholarship

Alika’s thoughts:
This piece illustrates the challenges as well as the benefits of moving to a different country and experiencing new cultures. I reveal how the combination of Taiwanese and American cultures influence my outlook on life, and how a multicultural mentality has brought me closer to my community.

The World in Your World, by Katie Shaw from Georgia

Grand Prize, Middle School – $1,000 Scholarship

Katie’s thoughts:
My piece relates to the theme ‘The World in Your World’ because I say that this is our world and we can do so much more than just live in it: We can be an integral part of it.

Tiny Suburban Neighborhood Produces Great Global Perspective, by Annabel Zhou from Connecticut

Runner-Up, Middle School – $500 Scholarship

Annabel’s thoughts:
This piece talks about how the conditioning I have been given from the Chinese community shapes my perspective on the world.

Student Spotlight

Johnny Vrba

Johnny Vrba, a high school senior from Illinois, traveled with his classmates to France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany. We interviewed Johnny about his experience traveling to Europe, what it was like making new friends and how his tour manager, Jerome, completely made his experience what it was.

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Video Contest Winners

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First Place ($500)

Gavin V.– Pennsylvania

Second Place ($300)

David C.– New York

Third Place ($200)

Emily R.– Louisiana

Honorable Mention ($50)

Hanah N. and Audrey H.– Virginia

Honorable Mention ($50)

Michaela L.– New Jersey

Honorable Mention ($50)

Rio G.– New Jersey

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#Tag Along

Get a taste for what’s really happening on tour. Browse recent participants’ photos and posts by visiting instagram.com/acistours. Then when you travel, tag along with us on Twitter or Instagram using #ACISTours. You may even see yourself here one day!