Seniors Keara Crook, Deja Jenkins, and Domanique Rahman attended the Diversity Abroad Global Student Leadership Summit in Boston, where they had the opportunity to network with professionals, engage in critical dialogue about their study abroad experiences, and participate in hands-on training sessions.
The leadership summit is a platform that allows underrepresented students to speak about their study abroad experiences. By engaging in the forum, students also learn to leverage their international experience for the benefit of their own communities, and think about next steps in global careers.
“It is important for underrepresented students in study abroad to have opportunities like this so they can connect with the larger community of students who have found ways to engage with international education despite financial and other barriers,” said Dr. Bren Tooley, director of the Stellyes Center for Global Studies.
“The conference also provides opportunities for them to think about next steps in leadership and careers connected with internationalization and also learn about ways to encourage their underrepresented peers to engage in study abroad,” she added.
Jenkins, who studied abroad in Greece, commented that having a space to reflect on her experiences allowed her to better articulate what she had learned from it.
“I was able to meet other students and leaders that engage with people and cultures beyond their comfort zone, and they really empowered me to continue working on finding school or work overseas,” she said. “Participation in conferences like this help provide students like me with the courage and information to encourage peers to consider all aspects of their international experience, even the challenging ones.”
Jenkins remarked that she most enjoyed hearing Dr. Aaron Bruce, the keynote speaker for the conference, speak about pursuing a global education as a person of color. “He spoke to us about how to advocate and believe in ourselves while doing so, regardless of financial circumstances or academic background.”
Crook, who studied abroad in Thailand, Ireland, and China, was able to meet with IES and Fulbright representatives to discuss future job opportunities. She described the experience as “eye-opening.”
“I was able to network with a variety of professionals and students during the conference. I got to hear so many stories about hardships, realizations, and triumphs of other students, and I got to share mine,” Crook said. “I learned a lot about my identity, how to promote diversity and how I may impact the Knox community through the experiences I’ve had. ”
Crook, who advocates for study abroad at Knox through her role as IES abroad ambassador and Stellyes Center assistant, said that she “cannot wait to start thinking about and implementing some of the conference’s key points into the Knox community.”
All three students received support from the Stellyes Center for Global Studies and a Richter award to attend the summit. The seniors are also a part of the TRIO Achievement Program, which provides individualized support for student academic success and personal growth.