Professor Polack
Professor Polack, a distinguished computer science professor at the University of Mary Washington, possesses a deep curiosity for global exploration. Driven by a desire to broaden her understanding of different cultures and technological landscapes, she aspires to study abroad in countries across the world. Professor Polack's ambition to study abroad exemplifies her commitment to enriching both his own academic perspectives and the field of computer science as a whole.
View UMW Trip 2024
Iceland, where we spent weeks exploring the stunning landscapes of this Nordic island. One of the highlights of the trip was driving around the famous ring road, a 1,332-kilometer highway that circles the entire country. Along the way, we marveled at cascading waterfalls, rugged coastlines, and towering glaciers. We had the chance to immerse yourself in Icelandic culture, sampling traditional cuisine and learning about the country's history and geology. This unforgettable journey through Iceland's dramatic beauty left a lasting impression all of us.
View UMW Trip 2023
After leading a study abroad trip to Brazil and Argentina, where the students explored the wonders of the Amazon Rainforest, embarked on a captivating river cruise along the Amazon, and marveled at the breathtaking Iguazu Falls from both sides of the border, Professor Polack decided to create a photo book. With meticulous attention to detail, he curated a collection of photographs capturing the vibrant landscapes, fascinating wildlife, and joyous moments of the trip. I aimed to provide a visual narrative that would forever remind the students of their remarkable journey.

The Adventures of Lancifer the Brave (our cool van driver)

At the beginning of our journey in Iceland, I was a bit nervous about spending a large amount of time in a van with people that I did not know well. I’m not much of a small-talk fan, and I’ve always struggled to find the right words when silence needs to be filled. However, this ended up not being as big of a problem as I thought it would have. Before the trip, Lance gave everyone in his van the opportunity to add songs to a master playlist that he would be playing during our long drives between points on the trip. This was a great icebreaker and led to us talking and all getting to know each other pretty quickly. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about someone based on what kind of music they listen to. 

Though this is not the playlist that Lance made for our DIY car radio, here is a playlist that I made of songs that I listened to while we were in Iceland! Whenever I listen to ANY of these songs, I always think back on my time in Iceland 🙂

After the first few days, everyone in the Lance van began to learn more about each other. Rather than having specific “unspoken-assigned seats” we all alternated and shifted around the van each day, so we all had our turn sitting up front with Lance. Naturally, when it was my turn to sit up front, I was excited but still nervous. Everyone else seemed to know exactly what to say to keep the conversations interesting, but I truly was just excited to finally have an unobstructed view of the road ahead. After the first few minutes of co-piloting the van, Lance asked me “So how long have you been taking photos?” 

This singular question was all I needed to kick off a conversation that lasted hours. 

Lance also had a strong interest in photography and told me about several of his other photography and travel experiences. We talked about various techniques, photographers we admired, and many other things related to photography. It had been quite some time since the last time I had such a fulfilling conversation about photography. I was pumped and I was so happy to know that I would be spending a lot of time with someone who understood and appreciated the intricacies of photography. Throughout the rest of the trip, I would frequently show Lance some photos that I was particularly proud of. 

Lance was a man for the people. Despite being on a tight schedule and sticking to a packed itinerary, Lance still made sure to pull over and stop at scenic locations on the side of the road and gave us plenty of time to take in the beauty of Iceland in its entirety, not just at the bucket list “must-see” locations. 

I loved all of the conversations that I had with Lance, and I learned a lot from him. One of my fondest memories was the day we hiked up a volcano after relaxing in the Myvatn Nature Baths. The hike was steep, horrifically windy, and nearly freezing. We all had to put on our cramp-ons to keep from sliding down the slope. By this point in the day, I was exhausted, sore, and cold. But I had FOMO… y’know how that goes. So I started my trek up the volcano, with Lance not far behind me. I stopped frequently for breaks, and Lance would stop with me while I caught my breath.

“I don’t mean for this to be a personal question, but what makes you angry?” Lance asked me.

I was caught off guard. I didn’t fully know how to answer. Why was he asking this? I’m not a very angry person so I responded, “I don’t know, honestly. There isn’t much that makes me genuinely angry.”

“Hmmm, well the reason I ask is because if you think of something that makes you angry, maybe it will motivate you to get to the top of the volcano.”

I laughed. What a calculated response. Simple, yet smart.

“If you don’t get angry, then maybe let the possibility of some amazing pictures motivate you to get to the top! You got this, keep going!”

This photo is of me at the top of the volcano.

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