The Story Behind our 2016 Photo Contest Winner

Our annual Transformed By Travel photo contest is open again to former and current participants on Cultural Vistas programs. Like last year, this means that one entrant is going to win a trip to Washington D.C.!

We recently caught up with Matthias Glass, the winner of our 2016 photo contest. A former J-1 intern and now Cultural Vistas alumnus, Matthias snapped our grand prize-winning photo in Santa Barbara, California last year. Matthias has been back in Germany since February, and he shared some of the experiences that transformed his time in the United States, including the inspiration behind his winning picture.

Transformed by Travel Cultural Vistas Photo Reception
Matthias addresses attendees of the 2016 Transformed by Travel reception in Washington D.C.

On Interning in the United States

What has stuck with you about your time in the U.S. since returning home?
American work culture. The first time I got [to Santa Barbara], I put my phone on flight mode and didn’t want to have it laying around anywhere so people can see it. And after the first week, I realized it wasn’t a really big deal. I wasn’t as scared of my boss as I would be in Germany. One thing I noticed was when I had a question, I would always go straight to the question but [Americans] would ask how your day was or what you did over the weekend

I’ve [now] seen benefits of working on relationships and not just putting work first.

Advice to future interns:

Matthias said he really liked living in California because of the access he had to outdoor activities.

Breathe the air of the culture you’re in. Don’t be the typical tourist or try to just be around people from your own culture. Go on adventures, meet new people, do stuff that you cannot do at home, make friends with locals and blend in with the new culture. Always remember that you are a guest and that you are a representative of your own country as well.

On Winning the Contest

What was it like winning the contest and a trip to D.C.?

I’ve never been a part of photo contest before! I was definitely super surprised and pumped because I’d never been to East Coast, I also had a friend in D.C. and she showed me around, so I saw a whole lot.

Matthias said one of his favorite parts of coming to D.C. was taking pictures at night.

The whole trip was planned out very well so I always knew what do , everything worked out with hotel and flights and metro tickets.

The story behind the winning photo:

Matthias’s photo won our 2016 Transformed by Travel photo contest.

One weekend I had a friend visit me in Santa Barbara. It was a full moon and I had always wanted to look at “my city” from above. As we made our way up the mountains we started to realize how great of a view we were going to have up there. Once we found what seemed to be the “perfect spot” we just hung out for a couple of minutes and enjoyed the breathtaking view. Since I love the outdoors, I had been up in the mountains almost every weekend, but this view was just so much better than what I had seen before. We grabbed the camera that we had brought with us and used the trunk of the car and a backpack as a tripod and a flashlight to get the focus right. It took us a while and some reparking the car to get a good shot, but once we saw it on the laptop it was quite a surprise as to how well the pictures turned out to be.

Advice to future photo contest entrants:
Do not think your photo is not good enough! You might be surprised about the way other people see it. Also, do not be disappointed about the outcome of the contest. Ultimately, your picture has a unique story with you as the author and it will always be there for you to bring back memories.

Enter This Year’s Contest

Show us how you were #TransformedByTravel! We’re accepting unlimited entries until August 31. In addition to the grand prize trip to D.C. with a photo itinerary, other finalists will win cash prizes as well as a Pro account on Exposure.