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Julie Velez

Julie Velez


Inspired in Malta

I've always been a bit of a hobbyist documentarian, so when I saw that the Washburn University Art Department was offering a study abroad in Malta focused on "Documenting Art and History Abroad" I knew I had to go. I was sure this experience would form a gestalt with repercussions that would be too large for me to pinpoint as it was happening and that has certainly been true. I'm not trying to imply that I am able to come up with a concise summation of my time in Malta and what it means to me intellectually and personally, but over time and through this essay, I am hoping to gain a better understanding of why foreign travel leaves such a remarkable impression on my psyche.

I don't think that it is just the rarity of the event, although, that certainly plays a role. I think the introduction of different lifestyles and modes of thinking can influence us in subtle, wordless ways. I think that just being in the presence of architecture so old that our minds can't properly conceive of that kind of passage of time has to have an unspoken effect  on who we are as people and how we feel about where and what we've come from as humans. That gazing across the Mediterranean sea and eating seafood that has been caught that very morning can touch us in deep and soul enriching ways.

I loved Malta, but in reflecting on the experience, I have come to realize how much of a homebody I am. That's okay with me. Honestly, it makes the trip more special and memorable. It imbues it with a certain uncommonness. My life has been complex since I made it back home. I was only gone ten days, but so much changed while I was away that I felt like I was walking into a completely different place. Or perhaps I am feeling the subtle ways that my experience in Malta has changed me. I certainly see the world differently.

I find myself noticing things back at home from the perspective of a tourist. Remarking on little details that wouldn't have caught my eye before. Taking a gross amount of photographs and assessing the things that I'm seeing. If anything, I've found that there's a lot to love and treasure here at home and I am making it a point to keep that attitude of appreciation that I had in Malta. I learned so much and met so many fantastic people that I hope to have lasting friendships with. The best part is that I got to document the experience to enjoy over and over again! And, believe me, I intend to!

Life is certainly busier here and I find my to-do list is unrelenting, but even so, I still take moments to sit at my favorite local coffee shop, drink an Americano, and think about Malta.



Image 1

There were tons of academic opportunities in Malta. Here, my friend Ashley is learning about the prehistoric carving of the Sleeping Lady.


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The Hypogeum was one of my favorite places. I felt like I was in a sacred space. The way they presented the history made me feel as if I was experiencing the cave as it was meant to be experienced - with movement, sound, and portable light.


Image 3

My fellow travelers and I relished the fact that at every stop on our adventure, a new set of experiences awaited us. Here we were visiting the ruins, but when we turned around we found a beautiful cove just waiting to be explored!


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The water was so clear and blue that we were mesmerized by the schools of fish that would swim beside our boat at the Blue Lagoon on the island of Comino.


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Ichabod Washburn enjoyed Malta as much as I did! He's even wearing the Maltese Cross!


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