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The Road Less Traveled Washington and Lee’s Class of 2023 includes nine recipients of the Certificate of International Immersion awarded by W&L’s Center for International Education.

DSC01690-800x533 The Road Less TraveledThe Class of 2023’s Certificate of International Immersion recipients, from l-r: Kit Lombard, Andrea Rojas, Benji Hess, Allie Stankewich, Lily Mott, Finn Connor, Jillian Gallardo, Kaylann Adler and Eric Evionson

“While each recipient has a unique experience and tells a different story about time abroad, they all share and manifest an appreciation for embracing the opportunities provided by global education. When they return to campus, their energy is clearly transformative as they draw upon their time abroad to promote global education, pursue new research, seek out graduate opportunities abroad, or offer new and different perspectives on life at W&L and the world.”

~ Mark Rush, Waxberg Professor of Politics and director of the Center for International Education

Washington and Lee’s commitment to preparing graduates to be engaged in a global and diverse society is evident in the approximately 70 percent of W&L students who participate in an experience abroad. For nine members of the Class of 2023, those international experiences will hold a place of distinction alongside their other academic honors and achievements.

Students who show significant commitment to global learning during their time at W&L may apply to have their experiences recognized with a Certificate of International Immersion, noted on the transcript and in the listing of honors at Commencement. Eligible students must have invested more than a 13-week term in a study abroad program ­while living with native speakers, taking coursework in another language, and participating in community service or an internship. International students who meet these requirements may also include reflections on their time in the U.S. and at W&L as part of their application. W&L’s Center for International Education assists students with finding a variety of paths to living and studying abroad during their time at W&L, including a full term abroad, faculty-led Spring Term Abroad courses, summer programs, international internships, international research opportunities and service learning.

“Each year, we are ever more impressed by the recipients of the Certificate of International Immersion,” said Mark Rush, Waxberg Professor of Politics and director of the Center for International Education. “While each recipient has a unique experience and tells a different story about time abroad, they all share and manifest an appreciation for embracing the opportunities provided by global education. When they return to campus, their energy is clearly transformative as they draw upon their time abroad to promote global education, pursue new research, seek out graduate opportunities abroad, or offer new and different perspectives on life at W&L and the world. It is inspiring to see how the recipients embraced their time abroad and an honor to participate in the process of awarding the Certificates of International Immersion each year.”

The International Education Committee awards the certificate after considering a student’s overall academic record, a submitted essay and a presentation to the committee. Yanhong Zhu, chair of the committee and associate professor of East Asian languages and literature, said the purpose of the application process for the certificate is to encourage students to think about the value of their international experiences during their time in college.

“It is really touching to hear students reflect in their presentations on how their experiences abroad helped them understand their own potential and capabilities as they navigated an entirely different culture and educational system,” said Zhu.

Meet some of the recipients from the Class of 2023 and discover where they went, how their travels informed their education and post-graduation plans, and how W&L supported their experiences:

Andrea Rojas completed a Spring Term Abroad in Bologna, Italy, before spending the following Fall Term studying abroad in Santiago, Chile. During her time in Chile, Rojas interned with the international nonprofit organization Good Neighbors Chile; she credits the experience with enhancing her skills as a volunteer translator with the Immigration Rights Clinic at Washington and Lee School of Law. After graduation, Rojas will be in teaching English in Mexico through a Fulbright fellowship.

After completing a Spring Term Abroad in Spain that examined the multi-religious history of Spanish culture, Eric Evonsion studied abroad in Lisbon, Portugal, for Fall Term 2022. Before and during his academic term in Portugal, Evonsion traveled widely throughout the region and attended “La Vuelta,” a Grand Tour race in the world of international cycling. After graduation, Evonsion will work for Vanguard in their Investment Management Development Program in Malvern, Pennsylvania. 

Through a CIE grant, Allie Stankewich completed an eight-week public health internship in Jinja, Uganda. She also studied in Nicoya, Costa Rica, during a Spring Term Abroad and stayed an additional week after the conclusion of the course to complete a photo essay project funded through the Bryant S. Kendrick Memorial Outdoors Fund award. Stankewich’s third study abroad experience was a 15-week stay in Arusha, Tanzania, through the American Council’s Flagship Language Initiative, with assistance from the Boren Scholarship. Stankewich is the 2023 recipient of the grant, which will allow her to return to her host community in Tanzania this summer to implement a grassroots project on nutrition education through school gardens. She was also this year’s recipient of the Global Learning Leadership Prize, awarded annually by the Center for International Education to a student in the undergraduate senior class who has contributed the most to the cultivation of global learning on W&L’s campus. In the fall, she will work as an English language teaching assistant in Uganda through the Fulbright program.

Benji Hess completed a Fall Term study abroad in 2020 in Athens, Greece, at the International Center for Hellenic and Mediterranean Studies; spent Winter and Spring Term 2021 studying at the New College of the University of Oxford in Oxford, England; and studied abroad again in Rome, Italy, during Fall Term 2021 at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies. Additionally, he spent the summer of 2022 abroad in Athens, Greece, where he worked on archaeological excavations at the Athenian Agora with the American School for Classical Studies. He recently completed a Spring Term Abroad in Graz, Austria, studying German. This summer, Hess will undertake on-campus research in medieval Latin for Melissa Vise, assistant professor of history and head of the Italian studies faculty cohort, as well as serve as a resident assistant for the Virginia Governor’s Latin Academy at Randolph Macon, before beginning a year in Athens’ Post-Baccalaureate Fellow program at the International Center for Hellenic and Mediterranean Studies in Athens, Greece.

Finn Connor studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, from August to December 2021 and then completed a 2022 summer internship in Berlin, Germany, at a refugee services NGO. He recently returned from a Spring Term Abroad course in Ireland. Connor has post-graduate plans to participate in a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Germany, where he will teach in a school in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, and engage in a supplemental project supporting refugees that builds on his work in Berlin.

Kaylann Adler studied abroad at the University of Sydney in Australia during Fall Term 2022 through the IES Sydney Study Abroad program. As part of her internship, she attended local conferences and talked with community leaders about how to better integrate the region’s growing immigrant and refugee population into the local economy. She plans to pursue a career in international relations.

Kit Lombard sociology and politics at the University of St Andrews in Scotland during Winter Term 2022, where he lived and interacted with local students in his residence hall. While at St Andrew’s, Lombard embraced the Scottish traditions of running in all types of weather, exploring the medieval streets of St Andrews, and venturing beyond to the further reaches of the country. Lombard embraced many aspects of Scottish culture, from learning to dance the Ceilidh to group hikes along the coast. After returning, Lombard participated in panels for admitted students and served as an international student orientation leader, drawing on his experience of being far from home to help new students at W&L. He is currently exploring career opportunities that involve travel or living abroad.

Jillian Gallardo interned for EasyLeapp Tech Corporation in Seville, Spain, during summer 2021; studied abroad at the Instituto Lorenzo d’Medici in Florence, Italy, during Winter Term 2022; and completed an internship with the Community Foundation of Ireland during summer 2022, an experience that also served as her internship for her Poverty and Human Capability Studies minor through the Shepherd Program. Gallardo pulled many of her experiences abroad into her creative writing minor. She was recently accepted into an MFA program in creative writing at Columbia University and hopes to pursue innovative approaches to travel writing through the creative nonfiction genre.

Lily Mott participated in the Mansfield Visiting Student Programme at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England, from October 2021 to June 2022. She then spent the summer of 2022 interning for News Over Audio, an audio journalism company in Dublin, Ireland, where she had completed a virtual internship the prior summer. Mott accepted a Fulbright and will be attending graduate school for an M.A. in digital media and society at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom this fall.

Cindy Irby, assistant director of international education and study abroad advisor, said that W&L was uniquely positioned to make study abroad opportunities possible for this year’s graduating class despite the challenges of the pandemic. She added that the global perspective that these students brought back from their individual experiences was a significant contribution to the campus community.

“The word that best describes this year’s class of recipients is ‘resilient,’” Irby said.

Stankewich said she is grateful for her study abroad experiences at W&L and the support she has received to pursue opportunities that align with her passions.

“I never could have imagined the trajectory of my educational path when I first started,” Stankewich said.

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