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Travel contest sends recent PLU graduate to 5 continents in 3 months

Travel contest sends recent PLU graduate to 5 continents in 3 months

Posted by:
June 17, 2016
By Zach Powers '10
PLU Marketing & Communications

TACOMA, WASH. (June 16, 2016) – Just three short weeks after graduating from Pacific Lutheran University, Denae McGaha ’16 will embark on the journey of a lifetime. The communication major will travel for three consecutive months, visiting five continents and more than 10 different countries.

McGaha’s summer sojourn is made possible by a partnership between StudentUniverse, Flypside, and United Airlines. She’s the 2016 winner of Snap Gap, a contest presented by the four businesses to promote student travel.

McGaha was shocked when StudentUniverse notified her that she had won the contest to which she applied. She was ecstatic that she had been selected from a field of students from all over the country. “It all sounded too good to be true, to be honest,” she said.

The contest granted McGaha complete autonomy to plan the trip of her dreams. She created the itinerary for the entire journey, choosing every city and how long she will stay in each place.

“It was completely open for me to choose where I wanted to go,” McGaha said. “They pledged up to $10,000 in airfare and in basically every place I will be staying with people via (a travel lodging service similar to Airbnb).”

McGaha’s journey will begin June 22. She flew to Tokyo, Japan. From there she will circle the globe, visiting: Sydney, Australia; both New Zealand islands; San Francisco; Cusco, Peru (where she will visit Machu Picchu); Lima, Peru; New York City; Copenhagen, Denmark; Budapest, Hungary; Barcelona, Spain and various cities in Portugal. After a final stop in Washington D.C, she will will fly home to Washington state on Sept. 21.

McGaha says she’s especially excited to visit Budapest because “it’s so steeped in culture and legend, yet I feel like it’s still a bit of a mystery to me.” She’s also excited about Machu Picchu. “I’m looking forward to experiencing the amazing scale of it,” she said, “to stand next to something so breathtaking and enormous.”

McGaha, a Whidbey Island native, says she wasn’t bitten by the travel bug until late high school, but PLU’s commitment to study away programs and ample study away scholarship opportunities were a big part of her decision to become a Lute. McGaha spent one semester studying away in London and another in Copenhagen. She counts both among the highlights of her undergraduate experience.

It was while studying in London and Copenhagen that McGaha developed a passion for travel photography and videography. Using just her iPhone and her computer’s default video editing software, she taught herself the nuances of capturing engaging video footage and how to edit large volumes of video clips down to energetic, shareable video montages.

McGaha is also a capable blogger and photographer. Her knack for creating do-it-yourself digital travel content, along with her infectious personality and wide variety of extracurricular interests (all of which she showcased in her 60-second video application), made her an ideal fit for the Snap Gap contest. The winner is required to partner with StudentUniverse to share and document the journey as it happens.

“I will be posting on my personal blog, as well as the StudentUniverse blog, and also taking over the StudentUniverse Snapchat account three times per week,” McGaha said.

Throughout her summer travels, McGaha plans to focus on being in the moment and being available to spur-of-the-moment changes in plans. Part of the anticipation of a momentous adventure, she says, is knowing how life changing the experience is sure to be.

“I know the Denae who will come back in three months will be different from who I am today,” McGaha said. “It’s exciting having no idea what those differences will be.”

Follow Denae's journey on Instagram

Denae's PLU study away videos