Thursday, June 01, 2017

Leadership lived: Student learns about other cultures by studying abroad

Before enrolling in classes at the University of Illinois Springfield, Abbegayle Stevenson had never traveled outside the country. Now, she’s traveled to five countries in Europe and is about to embark on a summer study abroad trip to Croatia.

“I actually decided I wanted to study abroad when I came for a campus visit before I even started coming to UIS,” she said. “I stopped at the study abroad table and it just seemed so interesting.”

Stevenson, a social work major at UIS, spent the past 9 months studying abroad in Trollhättan, Sweden at Högskolan Väst (University West).

“It was weird at first, because I was so used to coming to UIS, but once I landed in Sweden I could already tell it was going to be a different atmosphere and it was,” she said. “We would have 10 week courses and that was it, so I only had 3 or 4 courses, but it was spread out throughout the semester.”

The shorter classes allowed Stevenson to have time to travel around Europe. She traveled to Norway, Italy, France and Spain and saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Eiffel Tower and the Roman Colosseum. She also made a lot of friends along the way.

“I created some Swedish friends and they helped me out with where to go and places to see,” she said. “They were just all around great friends and I can’t wait to go back and visit them.”

At UIS, Stevenson is a founding member of the Chi Chapter of the Gamma Phi Omega International Sorority Inc. and is a member of the Leadership for Life Service Organization.

Following graduation from UIS, she wants to earn her master’s degree in social work and eventually work for the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS).

However, before she graduates, she plans to continue to travel and experience new cultures by studying abroad. She encourages other UIS students to take advantage.

“People say they found themselves when they studied abroad. I can honestly say that I think I did,” she said. “I grew as a person and as an individual.”

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