20. Croatia – The Universal Language of Tragedy

Intercultural Communication, Networking, Thirty by Thirty, Travel

If only it was rare for regions of the world to be devastated by war as much as the former Yugoslavia. In the mid-1970s, a young woman by the name of Kamea traveled north from her home on the Dalmatian Coast, to Norway, where she would enroll in Folk School and meet an American girl by the name of Cordee. Their friendship flourished, and following their international student journey, Cordee visited Kamea in Split to meet her family. From there, life would take different directions for each of them. Though they longed to remain friends, they lost track of one another. Then, war ravaged Kamea’s homeland for a decade, from 1991 to 2001.

19. Italy – When In Roam

Intercultural Communication, Thirty by Thirty, Travel

Milan was the cheapest place for my brother to fly from the US to Europe, and I was on an island in between Italy and Spain, so we rendezvoused at the airport. Twenty-four hours in the city included his first-ever hostel stay, a waltz through it’s fashion-renowned streets in the best outfits a backpacker has, and a stop to admire the Milan Cathedral, or Duomo di Milano. They were some of the more leisurely hours of our time, considering the following three weeks roaming Europe would include unforgettable experiences, nights with little sleep, exhausting our brains trying to speak new languages, and countless times chasing down buses, (the first of which would be three days later).


Anton (Tony) and I outside Duomo di Milan in our fanciest backpacking clothes, July 2015.

18. Spain – Mermaids of Menorca

Intercultural Communication, Thirty by Thirty, Travel

If ever you long for a seaside escape, keep in mind the hidden gem called the island, Menorca. Surprisingly, all you’ll need is a moped and a map to reach some of the more isolated beaches, where it is more than acceptable to slip off even your bathing suit and into the calming, crystal blue waters.


17. England – “Show Me the Night That I Dreamed About Before”

Music, Travel, Words

The riskiest part of the music festival endeavor was shipping my £75 wristband to the hotel of another traveling friend. I hoped its arrival aligned with his two day stay, and that our paths would cross to complete the exchange. Birmingham, Oxford, London, Middlesex, Salisbury, Gillingham in Dorset, and finally Barnstaple.

Ever since I’d first heard the jaw-drop-inducing harmonies of the sisters who make up “The Staves” play in Denver, I had longed to see them perform live more. Naturally, this led to a cross country journey once I had embarked a quarter of the way across the world and found myself in England. Though my work application was well received, my lack of an EU passport meant I was disqualified from volunteering in exchange for my ticket. I was by no means deterred from finding my way to those festival grounds. With a heart full of enthusiasm and my mind filled with YouTube clips of Somersault, (in all it’s outdoor adventure, flower-child, heartfelt music glory), I bought the ticket and had it mailed to a hotel where I knew a fellow traveler would be staying.

Since I was staying with a different friend, I had prepared everything necessary for a weekend away at my soon to be campsite: tent, food, and an ungodly amount of wet wipes for the muddy bare feet I was bound to come home with each night… the only way to see The Staves was to attend the entire weekend, and I was thrilled for the new music and culture I would be exposed to for the following three days. From what I had seen on the many video blogs and slideshows, it was going to be an extraordinary experience. My mind had danced with the dream of using the weekend as a retreat of solitude with no cell phone reception, hours tucked away writing in my journal, and meeting new acquaintances at food trucks and trapeze workshops.

Waking up the morning of departure proved to be difficult. Cool breaths of wind oozed through the cracks of the window panes and seemed like frigid fingers clasping around my throat. Tears of the sky slipped down the glass, and not the inspiring kind. The day was dreary.

Apt to bouts of depression, the sudden shift in the weather had made me feel sick, if not merely weary. In the first moments of the day, I veered my planned course of attending the festival solo as if it were a deer in the headlights to avoid.

An intense fear overcame me, and I now dreaded an entire weekend away. When the time came to solidify my plan, I decided I would only go for the day, so as to make it worth the British lad’s time for driving me (though I was paying him gas and should have felt empowered to decline his offers to spend a few hours together). On top of it all, the over-friendly gentleman who had offered to drive me as a favor to my friend and host did not read or honor my firm displays of disinterest in any romance. This lead to an anxious two hour car ride for me as I attempted to remain composed and grateful, rather than annoyed and admitting I felt manipulated by his flirtatious and amorous conversation. But alas, under pressure and guilt, I accepted his offer to receive a tour of the surrounding areas rather than enjoy the fairgrounds for the entire day. We walked through English gardens and even stopped to drink a proper tea, but something in me was agitated all the day long.

As the concert drew closer, my chauffeur brought me to the entrance of the  I walked through the fair grounds, I saw various tents and felt a vibration of excitement and thrill and belief in possibilities rise up in me once more. Sadness stroked my cheek as the events began closing down for the night while concert goers flocked to the main stage. Hobbies of circus emphasis or body painting or forest dancing or bow and arrow targets… all said goodnight as flickering torches were put out while the dusk drew darkness up from behind itself like a blanket.


The Staves performing at Somersault Music Festival, 2015.

One month prior, I thought I would leave these grounds entirely differently. I had wanted to interview festival goers and write up a piece on Somersault. Instead, I had cowered at the insecurities from within my trembling soul. The memory is bittersweet for me now. I learned so very much. It taught me that I must fight for myself; that assertiveness should much more often be applauded that I was raised to believe.
I discovered how often we defeat ourselves before putting ourselves in the arena; our greatest opponent can often be our own inner voice.
I began to speak to myself in an uplifting and encouraging manner, and surround myself with individuals who remind me I am capable of achieving things I set my mind to.

So, although my write up is late, I can say with utmost sincerity, the Somersault Music Festival in England’s stunning countryside is an electrifying and uniting musical and exploratory excursion, and one that should not be missed.
P.S. remember your rain boots.

Read more about Thirty by Thirty here

16. Netherlands – For the Love of Beer

Thirty by Thirty, Travel

Long gone are the reverent chants for one church in Haarlem, Netherlands… they have been replaced by the clinking of glasses in Jopenkerk, a beautifully restored church turned modern-brewery. Complete with vibrant aesthetics and intentionally preserved mementos of its sacred past, you can’t visit the outskirts of Amsterdam without stopping in to sample fantastic beers with a front row seat to their entire brewing system.

Study Abroad – A Grateful Gilman Scholarship Recipient

Creative Nonfiction, Education, Gilman International Scholarship, Study Abroad

“Study abroad is a special experience for every student who participates. Living and learning in a vastly different environment of another nation not only exposes our students to alternate views, but also adds an enriching social and cultural experience. It also provides our students with the opportunity to return home with a deeper understanding of their place in the world, encouraging them to be a contributor, rather than a spectator in the international community.”
-Benjamin A. Gilman

For those of you who are just stumbling upon my blog, HI! my name is Kelsey.
For the last ten years I have been pursuing a round-about education through community college, overseas volunteer projects and backpacking trips, and, most recently, through a “Degree Called Me” at the University of Colorado.

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I will be studying abroad at the University in Oslo, Norway for the Spring 2018 Semester. During my application process, I became familiar with various scholarship programs, losing count of my submitted applications somewhere around thirteen. But today I am incredibly grateful to accept and thank the Gilman Scholars Program for their generous award towards my dreams of studying abroad. Below you will be able to read my Statement of Purpose Essay, as well as the ideas I will be moving forward with for my Follow On Service Proposal.

As a wholehearted advocate for education by immersion and developing empathy and cultural sensitivity by traveling and studying abroad, I hope that my posts continue to inspire and lead others to taking opportunities to study and travel to new nations and fall in love with various cultures, traditions, and perspectives about life.

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, is one of the most esteemed and competitive scholarships offered to U.S. Citizens who long to study abroad. Recipients of the award must meet requirements specified on the website

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.


  • Be a citizen of the United States;
  • Be an undergraduate student in good standing at an accredited institution of higher education in the United States (including both two-year and four-year institutions);
  • Be receiving a Federal Pell Grant or provide proof that he/she will be receiving a Pell Grant during the term of his/her study abroad program or internship;
  • Be in the process of applying to, or accepted for, a study abroad or internship program of at least two weeks for community college students and three weeks for students from four-year institutions, in a single country and eligible for credit from the student’s home institution. Proof of program acceptance is required prior to award disbursement;
  • Be proposing to study in a country not currently under a Travel Warning issued by the United States Department of State* or otherwise determined ineligible for program participation.


In the following paragraphs, I will share my Statement of Purpose Essay, as well as some of the ideas I have for promoting and thanking the Gilman Scholar’s Program with my Follow On Service Project.

It is a tremendous accomplishment to follow in my sister’s academic and otherwise inspiring footsteps, as I am a first generation college student. My brothers and I are all in college because of her influence, due to a family tragedy where we lost our parents. My sister was twenty-two when our bi-polar mother unexpectedly took our father’s life. In turn, she selflessly filled the role, not only of an older sibling, but substitute mother and father to myself (eighteen at the time) and our then sixteen-year-old twin brothers.
After our dad died and our mom was incarcerated, my sister canceled her study abroad semester in France to stay in Minnesota and keep our family from falling apart any more than it already had. One year later, she had established stability for us, to the point where she was able to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad. During this time, she told me stories over Skype about meeting new friends, delicious foods she was tasting, languages she was learning to speak, and unique trips she was able to take while living and studying overseas. Looking back, it’s unfathomable how much Raina overcame to attend her semester abroad, and this is just one way she imparted to me the importance of perseverance through difficult times.
Raina has always propelled me to strive to be a more genuine person. When we volunteered with Prisoner’s Assistance Nepal in 2009, her words and example taught me firsthand to love well, respectfully observe cultural differences, and to be inspired by everyone I meet. For five weeks I learned about the social repercussions of the lack of a foster care system as we worked with a Nepalese organization who aids children whose parents are in prison. Simultaneously on this trip, my eyes were opened to the beauty of differences in religious and cultural traditions. Many of the practices and habits I observed in my Nepalese acquaintances incorporated their way into my life on that trip, and my curiosity for international study was ignited.
Now, predominantly because of my sister’s example, I believe I can graduate college, take advantage of a semester abroad, and meet people who could direct me toward the international career I long for. The chance to study abroad in Norway, the place where my family emigrated from, brings me tremendous joy, and I look forward to learning more about my identity and heritage during this semester abroad. Presently living in Colorado, I am a member of the Sons of Norway organization, which connects and instructs people about our Scandinavian background. Upon returning, I will be able to give back to my community in an incredible way. Whether contributing to the communications and culture department, sharing a unique recipe at a bake sale, or calling out Bingo numbers in Norwegian, this scholarship and study abroad semester will have an effect on a great number of people.
Though I have the emotional support of a loving family, my schooling and other basic financial expenses are up to me to provide. As I am employed full-time, attending school full-time in addition has presented its challenges. That being said, I am proud to have made the Dean’s List with my 3.85 GPA. Awards like this encourage me to continue dedicating myself to excellence, and opportunities like studying abroad are the types of adventures that allow me to learn through life experiences and become the best version of myself to offer the world, which is one of the deepest goals I possess.
My dedication and passion for a greater understanding of cultural diversity make me a promising applicant for the Gilman Scholars Program. My ideal degree is not merely Communications, but one emphasized with international focus. I dream to join a company that does business in the United States and Norway, because there are large Scandinavian populations in Seattle, the Midwest, and New York, and I have family in those locations. By making myself an asset to a company through my studies in Norway and the US, my work may allow me to travel between these “hubs” and stay connected with my family while developing an understanding of my Norwegian heritage.
Studying abroad in Norway will allow me to observe global and regional economic change, as well as absorb Norwegian values on sustainability and respect for nature. Through this opportunity, I will be able to reflect on the standards and methods of my home country while simultaneously learning procedures and systems of greater Scandinavia and the international world. One outcome in merging my love for culture and communication is that I dedicate myself to describing what I learn in relatable ways to other people.
By choosing the semester abroad option, I believe I will have the chance to be heavily immersed in the Norwegian language and lifestyle. Specific courses I have requested admission to will tie into both my Communications degree, as well as provide me with insight to the Norwegian philosophies I am so fascinated by. In addition to being granted access to the intellectual community at the University in Oslo, I am looking forward to reconnecting with my extended family in Norway. One of my greatest obstacles in studying abroad is being distanced from my brothers and sister and their families. We have developed very precious relationships with one another based on our life experiences. However, through an extraordinary occurrence, I was introduced to an entire branch of my family tree that I have never officially met. As I plan to study abroad in Norway, my relatives and I have made plans to spend time together when our schedules permit. This is just one example of how my study abroad will help me achieve my personal goals of internalizing this culturally rich opportunity.
As one who applies myself wholeheartedly to giving and receiving from learning experiences, I am hopeful for the chance to join the Gilman Scholars Alumni and make the most of this remarkable academic adventure.

As a Junior, I have begun to create a social media persona, “CitizenPushpin,”  to be used as a portfolio following my graduation from UCCS. With the goal of remaining locally invested and globally enchanted, I hope to network whilst dedicating time and efforts to my education programs. My Follow-on Service Project will tie into this portfolio seamlessly, as I consider myself at heart to be an advocate for education by exposure, volunteering abroad, and immersing ourselves internationally to study culture and comparative religions. I love this world and the people and perspectives that fill it, and one of my passions is developing my ability to help individuals communicate cross-culturally to focus on what we share in common, rather than avoid each other because of the ways in which we differ.
Another reason I started this social media persona is to motivate people to grow their list of places they desire to visit and learn about, while simultaneously “pinning” locations as they achieve those goals; “CitizenPushpin: A home for bucket-lists and been-there’s…” By weaving a thread of uplifting, earnest media concerning global awareness, I am building a network that unites hopeful travelers with those who have experienced traveling. Utilizing platforms such as Instagram and a blogging website, I am working with and writing for brands that emphasize sustainability and promote the “Leave No Trace” cause locally in Colorado. My posts and presence on social media revolve around adventure, education, and intercultural communication, and I believe that engaging with Norwegians and other international acquaintances I make will strengthen what knowledge and outlooks I am capable of sharing with my developing network.
My Follow-on Service Proposal targets students interested in worldwide education who are unsure if they are prepared to live and study abroad. By incorporating a specific blog series into my CitizenPushpin portfolio about living and studying in Norway, learning the language, and interacting with local people, I hope to help students see that intercultural studies and immersion are incredibly rewarding and worth their efforts and investment. An increase of social media connections in recent years presents the opportunity to influence the world in unique ways. Because of my affinity for the diverse lifestyles and approaches taken by countries and people around the world, I feel my observations will spark interest and affection for learning about international matters. I long to help students pursue international study and believe sharing insights to my experience will encourage other students to become involved with the Gilman Scholars Program and benefit from studying abroad.
Storytelling is a value of numerous cultures I admire, and I aim to strengthen it as a skill of my own. By using my blog to articulate the excitement I feel as I navigate through a new city, I hope to foster intrigue in someone who wonders what it is like to wander foreign streets. In presenting what I learn about engaging properly with new traditions or norms I experience, I trust it will make an impression on one who has yet to consider that not every nation operates identically. Through posting a picture of my journey abroad, I hope to draw in like-minded explorers who will relate to my stories. There are reflective, humorous, and informative tales to be told concerning life overseas, and I desire to use CitizenPushpin to inspire others to make the most of every learning experience.
Blogs, podcasts, and photographic poetry are quickly climbing to the top of the market for relating and engaging with one another. Balancing being present in the moment and exhibiting a presence of positivity online is a challenge I am intentional about respecting. My conversations with peers and professors at the University in Oslo, or grocery store clerks and bus drivers, are all interactions with people whose lives add so much to my own. Describing these exchanges are ways I anticipate giving back to the local and global community.
It is my hope to impact the world as I am molded by and gifted with the wisdom and experiences that others share with me. I have delivered a one hour program to the Sons of Norway lodge in the past about a trip I took to Norway, and it was warmly received. Upon returning from my semester abroad, I would have speaking opportunities in this community, as well as through Student Leadership Conferences and other programs at UCCS, to promote education abroad opportunities and the Gilman Scholars Program.


In conclusion, I cannot express my gratitude to the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, not merely for selecting me as a recipient, but for the vision they have in sending U.S. Citizens out into the world to deepen their understanding of the way things work internationally. As globalization spreads, it is important to me that we value and respect cultures in their most authentic forms, all the while learning to work together for the common good of our planet and the people, plants, and creatures that call it “home.”

I hope you’ll join me for my study abroad journey.
Advice and insight from previous experiences is warmly received!

Yangon, Myanmar

Read more about the vision for CitizenPushpin here

15. Germany – Drunk King, Sober Saunterer

Thirty by Thirty, Travel

Jet-lag surrendering first to adrenaline and then routine, I was one week into my summer backpacking trip through Europe. The difficult task before me would be hitting as many countries en route to visit friends throughout the EU, but I was eager to see my first real castle. Following a whirlwind tour of Paris and Strasbourg in France, I discovered that the ruins of an ancient castle were close to the border, in Heidelberg. I booked a hostel and journeyed east with my French friends. We spent the day at an amusement park before they dropped me off as close as possible to the 16th-century remnants… by no means empty handed. With a heart full of memories and home-baked chocolate brioche in my hands, I embraced my friends farewell and turned to venture into the city of beauty, history, and architectural gems.

Leave No Trace – Let The Mountain Keep Her Crown

Colorado, Education, Outdoors, Sustainability

The art of making a flower wreath was one I worked hard to conquer. It was one that embodied my hippie-soul and allowed me to express my affinity for peace and love and all things flower child. All that changed when I realized I was stealing the crown from its rightful owner. During my time at the University of Colorado, I have become informed of the dangers of picking wildflowers in our alpine mountain climate, and want to talk a little about it with you here.

As an avid Colorado hiker, it is necessary to research trails and mountain hikes in the Rocky Mountain region before a trek. Most resources are supplemented with wilderness manners or, as they are better known, Leave No Trace principles. Living in Colorado opens all of us up to an incredible opportunity to participate in honoring nature and contributing to the legacy that our state has in preserving the wilderness world, so today I will share how picking wildflowers is actually an act with long-term consequences on our natural world. It is imperative that we respect the Leave No Trace principles to protect and preserve the great outdoors.

14. France – Fromage with Friends

In The Kitchen, Thirty by Thirty, Travel

I met Florimond in Hawaii. We were students in a program there and traveled together to Mexico and the Dominican Republic for the volunteer portions of the school. But four years had past by the time I finally visited Flow in France and was introduced to his darling wife, Nelly. After much anticipation, and years of efforts to stay in touch, I kicked off my summer Euro-backpacking trip by boarding a one way flight to Paris… everything (and everywhere) else, would fall into place in due time.

With embarrassment I admit: I had prepared myself to dislike Paris. From my social conditioning, a stereotypical Frenchperson was expected to loathe the stereotypical American. To my professor’s demise, I had enrolled in one semester of French in college to attempt to prepare myself for the trip. It didn’t click.

But traversing throughout France surprised me. The architecture was stunning, and my interactions with people was endearing. I stayed at through AirBNB in the Latin Quarters, and my host treated me to excellent conversation, an evening of cooking together, and a bottle of wine to send me off.

It was also in France that I learned about BlaBla Car, a website for organized rideshare in Europe! After days of waltzing through Paris, I met Camille for our drive to Strasburg, in the east of France. It was there that I was reunited with my friend, Flow, able to finally meet his wife. Some of the delicious cheeses they treated me to were Munster, Comté, and Fromage de chèvre. We paired them with breads and fruits, and laughed about different flavors we all liked or disliked.

Sadly, I lost the majority of my pictures from the trip, but I’m glad for the epic photo that documented the day where I was taken on a culinary tour of French cheeses at the table of a long-lost friend and his sweet and funny wife.


Read more about Thirty by Thirty here

13. Norway – Reality Show or Reality Check

Norwegian Pride, Thirty by Thirty, Travel

In 2015, I was one of twelve American contestants on the award-winning Norwegian TV series, Alt for Norge, also referred to as “The Great Norway Adventure.” Over the span of ten episodes, viewers followed a dozen of us Norwegian-Americans on our journey through Norway, where we were to dive into their culture by competing in a series of challenges. Ultimately, contestants are eliminated and the winner meets their Norwegian relatives that the show’s genealogy researchers have tracked down.

The purpose of the show is to re-introduce Norwegians to their own country, and to give all of us a sense of identity in teaching valuable things about our Norwegian history and background. For this blog post, I’ve pulled a few examples from the episodes, including historical facts, fun cultural traditions, and some of the linguistic lessons we filmed in Norway.