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W&L Around the World Washington and Lee students explored the world this summer thanks to grant funding opportunities through the Center for International Education.

IMG_0276-WP-800x533 W&L Around the WorldRenna McNair ’25 sightseeing in Merida, Mexico

“There can be a fear of going outside of your comfort zone, especially in thinking about adjusting to a foreign country, but there is also so much growth that comes with that.”

~ Bridget Osas ’25

From scuba diving in Belize to exploring the Yucatan Peninsula, Washington and Lee students spent this summer in far-flung places. For many students, these opportunities were made possible by summer grant funding through the Center for International Education.

The Center for International Education offers a summer grant that allows students to either pursue faculty-directed research or complete an internship through W&L-approved third-party providers in a variety of countries, allowing many students a summer experience not otherwise available to them on campus or at home. For varsity wrestler and entrepreneurship major Harris Foad ’25, CIE’s summer grant was an opportunity to gain hands-on field experience, work towards finding solutions to a global issue, and scuba dive along one of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world.

Foad was one of four students who received CIE summer grant funding to conduct summer research with Professor Lisa Greer. Since 2011, Greer has been researching the resilience and decline of the endangered Caribbean coral Acropora cervicornis in Belize, collaborating with over 60 undergraduate students in field and laboratory research. This summer, some members of Greer’s CIE summer grant-funded team even had the opportunity to obtain scuba certification prior to their time in Belize, where they collected coral samples to create 3D models of different species. The group also visited Mayan ruins at the Lamanai Archaeological Reserve.

“I had never dived prior to the research project. Seeing the marine wildlife up close was absolutely amazing,” Foad said. “This experience has influenced me to pursue graduate school after I graduate from W&L. The research overall has been one of the highlights of my life, working with some wonderful people within my research group, receiving phenomenal mentorship from Dr. Greer, and traveling to one of the most beautiful places in the world.”

Belize-Crew-1000998-WP-800x533 W&L Around the WorldLisa Greer’s student research team in Belize poses during a dive.

Greer said the experience was equally rewarding for her.

 “I absolutely love working with undergraduate students—it’s one of my favorite parts of the job, especially when I get a crew that is wonderful to work with as this team was,” Greer said. She has worked with approximately 47 students as research assistants during the project’s evolution. This year’s team, along with Greer and other collaborators, recently had an abstract accepted to present their work this fall at the Geological Society of America’s meeting in Philadelphia.

Many students applied for CIE summer grant funding to pursue international internship opportunities. Bridget Osas said living and working in the Spanish language was a factor in her decision to pursue IES Barcelona’s summer internship program. Osas, a strategic communications major and physiology minor, interned for HumanItCare, a remote health monitoring company that has set its sights on growing its international reach. Osas applied her skills in marketing and communications by creating newsletters, blogs, and social media campaigns; she even produced a short video piece for the company’s website. Osas said her internship was personally and professionally fulfilling, allowing her to combine her interests in strategic communication and the medical field. She said she gained experience this summer that will inform her career in medical school and beyond.

“Our society needs physicians who are not only skilled at what they do but are also able to clearly express pressing issues in the health field to the general public when needed,” Osas said.

Osas was paired with two other IES students at her homestay while in the program. During their free time, the group enjoyed the opportunities to explore the surrounding region, an experience Osas said helped her see the value in immersing oneself in another culture.

“There can be a fear of going outside of your comfort zone, especially in thinking about adjusting to a foreign country, but there is also so much growth that comes with that,” Osas said. “There are so many invaluable experiences to be gained from seeing a different culture that one can always take with them and apply in other aspects of life.”

Me-at-Montserrat-near-Barcelona-Spain-WP W&L Around the WorldBridget Osas ’25 at Montserrat near Barcelona, Spain

Cindy Irby, associate director for Center of Global Learning and study abroad advisor, said Washington and Lee’s relationship with a variety of quality internship providers ensures students’ international summer opportunities are substantive and rewarding.

“We know that they’re going to be able to offer legitimate, rigorous internship experiences,” Irby said.

Irby said that for many student-athletes, summer is the only opportunity they may have to be able to fit time abroad into their academic schedule. Lawson Brantley, a member of W&L’s women’s swim team majoring in global politics, said her CIE summer grant provided a unique opportunity to study international law through her placement at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, through the API Global Internship program. Brantley researched legislation surrounding medical suspensions in Australian combat sports, creating a research paper that analyzes and makes recommendations on current regulations.

Brantley said that the Center for International Education has provided her excellent support with study abroad questions and planning. During Brantley’s college search, W&L stood out to her as a place where she could balance her academic and athletic schedules with studying abroad.

“When I was applying to colleges, I knew I really wanted to go abroad—that was something that was very important to me in addition to being a swimmer. It was difficult finding schools where I could do both,” said Brantley, who also had the opportunity to take a Spring Term Abroad course in Italy.

63EFD1D9-A7FB-4C5E-AE72-752E7808FAE2_1_105_c-WP-800x533 W&L Around the WorldLawson Brantley ’24 scuba diving off the coast of Sydney, Australia

Mark Rush, director of the Center of International Education, said the office continues to expand opportunities around the world for W&L students. The latest example of this is the Yucatan Summer Institute, a partnership with Milsaps College that allowed three W&L students to go to Mérida, Mexico, this summer to live and work in the community.

Kendall Schlueter ’25 spent her time in Mérida interning at the Hospital Regional de Alta Especialidad de la Peninsula de Yucatan, a free government hospital for people with complex health conditions. Schlueter, a neuroscience major who intends to minor in Poverty and Human Capability Studies, said her professional experiences exceeded her expectations and provided her with transformational professional connections.

“One of the surgeons I worked with even scheduled a surgery around my availability because he thought it was a case I would want to learn about and observe,” Schlueter said. Her summer also yielded an additional research opportunity thanks to the hospital’s head of urology, who connected her with two medical students in the region doing research on kidney stones.

“The research team needed someone fluent in English to assist with work on this paper, so I will be reviewing case files and helping write a paper about kidney stone cases,” Schlueter said. “It’s an incredible opportunity to get research experience and to continue improving my Spanish skills.”

Renna McNair ’25, a biochemistry major who interned at the same hospital as Schlueter, said the added benefit of the Mérida program was forging new bonds with fellow program participants from W&L.

“I really valued getting to know the other W&L students,” McNair said. “We had only met each other once before we went to Mérida, and I think we all taught each other so much. We now share this unique experience that we will remember forever.”