Washington & Jefferson students travel abroad on scholarship

February 7, 2013
Carley Adams, left, and Breanna Gleason will experience their first trips abroad as recipients of Vira I. Heinz Program scholarships. - Aaron Kendeall / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Two young women who have never had the opportunity to travel abroad will get the chance to study overseas for about a month as recipients of the Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership scholarship.

Carley Adams and Breanna Gleason, both sophomores at Washington & Jefferson College, will be able to broaden their horizons by traveling to foreign lands as part of the inclusive study abroad experience. After the spring semester ends in May, both students will take part in summer study abroad programs. Adams will travel to Costa Rica while Gleason will go to Ireland.

“I am really excited to be able to say I went to Dublin,” Gleason said. “Few of my friends have been able to go abroad. I look forward to gaining experience and being able to share it.”

Gleason, an international studies major, serves as an ambassador to international students arriving at W&J. As part of the orientation process, students often talked about the places they’ve been.

“I was always a little embarrassed because everyone knows so much about the world and I only know about Pittsburghese,” Gleason said. “So, I’m really looking forward to studying abroad.”

Adams, a graduate of Peters Township High School, will be using her scholarship to combat HIV and AIDS in Cartago, Costa Rica.

“I’m really looking forward to what I’m going to be able to bring back,” Adams said. “Whatever I learn about the conditions and stigmas in Costa Rica will help me raise awareness here.”

A communications major, Adams will work with Cross-Cultural Solutions, a nonprofit organization specializing in matching volunteers with initiatives around the globe.

“I knew I wanted to do AIDS work,” Adams said. “This college program is allowing me to do it.”

In the past, she has worked as a sexual education teacher at Trinity High School in Washington. In addition to volunteer work, Adams said she had always been interested in studying abroad in order to touch up on her Spanish. Her father, Dr. Rocco Adams, earned his medical degree at Universidad de Guadalajara in Mexico.

“I was his Spanish-speaking buddy,” Adams said. “I’m a little nervous about nobody speaking English. I have a feeling that when I get there, it’s going to be stressful, and I’m sure it will be frustrating at times. But my father always said the best way to learn a language is to go over there.”

Gleason, a graduate of Ambridge High School, will study at both Trinity College in Dublin in the Republic of Ireland and at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She said she chose to study there because of her Irish heritage and her love of traditional Irish step dancing, which she competed in through high school.

“I immediately wanted to go to Ireland because I couldn’t have afforded it without Vira Heinz,” Gleason said.

For Gleason, this trip abroad is just the first step in what is hoped will be a career based on jet-setting travel. The sophomore is hoping to continue her studies in graduate school after leaving W&J with a bachelor’s degree in international studies. She said she will study Ireland’s economy, laws and culture during the trip.

W&J Director of Global Education Traci Fruehauf said the two young women exemplified just the type of character the Heinz program was looking for.

“I think the exciting thing about this program is that it’s not just simply giving money to students to go abroad,” Fruehauf said, “but it really is focused on leadership development.”

In addition to the international trip, all of the roughly 45 students participating in the program from colleges and universities across the region will take part in multicultural and leadership retreats prior to and following their excursions. Upon returning, students are required to complete graduation projects, drawing on their experiences to create programs in their own communities.

“The whole idea is to think globally and act locally,” Fruehauf said.



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