Monday, February 10, 2014

Leadership lived: Studying abroad gives student a global voice

Dexter Burns had never left the United States before coming to the University of Illinois Springfield. However, that changed when the senior Global Studies major discovered the Study Abroad Program.

Burns traveled to Peru for a summer and most recently spent a semester at the University of Colima in Mexico thanks to a partnership between the two universities.

“This is something I really wanted to be able to do, to travel to a new country as a citizen of the world, instead of an American,” said Burns.

The part of Mexico he visited has acquired a reputation of being unsafe for foreign visitors, however Burns always felt safe.

“There were a lot of rumors about the insecurity of Mexico and a lot of worries about safety, but when I got there it was the total opposite,” he said.

During his visit, he actively worked to fight the stereotype and was even interviewed by a local newspaper and television station.

“(The reporter) came over and said ‘why don’t you come and tell the whole world because Mexico has such of a bad reputation’. That’s what the newspaper (article) is about. Not listening to the rumors, actually going to experience it yourself,” said Burns.

For Burns, leadership means taking a stand. He wanted to experience the Mexican culture for himself and didn’t let rumors prevent him from traveling.

“You’re able to just become a new person when you go there. There’s nothing like being submerged in the culture,” he said.

Burns encourages other UIS students to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad.

“I definitely would encourage other people to study abroad. It’s one thing to read about a foreign country, it’s another thing to actually be there,” he said.

Burns is an international student organization ambassador and is living in the International House on campus this year.

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