Jori Hanna | Echo
Courage. Humility. Faith. These are the words senior Kelsey Lavender used to describe her experiences traveling and studying abroad during her time at Taylor. Lavender has been a part of four study abroad trips during her Taylor experience, twice during semesters and twice over the summer.
"(Traveling) has helped me grow as a person because traveling is not always as easy as it sounds," Lavender said. "Traveling takes courage: the courage to go outside your comfort zone and take a giant risk that might not always feel worth it. Traveling requires humility: the ability to admit that you do not know everything and the willingness to learn to see the world through others' eyes. Traveling takes faith: the faith to completely let go of all sense of control, trusting that God is with you through it all and that He will use the experience, whether it is good or bad, to help mold you into who you are meant to be."
According to Charlie Brainer, dean of international programs, Lavender is one of approximately 70 percent of Taylor's campus that has traveled to study or serve off campus (whether overseas or out of state on a Lighthouse trip, J-term opportunity, Taylor World Outreach Spring Break international trip or on a semester program) in their time here.
Lavender's experiences abroad fit into a trend Brainer has been noticing.
"Your generation is a 'global' generation, unlike mine," Brainer said. "The likelihood of students graduating now who will need to travel to live and work in global locations and/or who will need to work with those of very different cultural and ethnic backgrounds is very great. These global engagement experiences provide one way of preparing students for the reality they will face post-graduation."
Studying abroad through one of Taylor Global Engagement Experiences (GEEs) can come about in a variety of different ways. There are departmental trips centered around a particular course or location, such as a trip to Israel or Greece to meet Foundational Core credits, or program specific trips, such as the trip taken by Honors freshmen that varies in location each year.
The GEE to Ecuador and the GEE to Ireland are trips that happen every year, and there are numerous other opportunities through J-term classes (such as Literary London or Israel). Trips like these are important to Lavender.
"Traveling for the purpose of learning is something close to my heart, and I want to encourage other people to go on their own journeys, set out on their own adventures," Lavender said. "God can use a spring break mission trip, a semester abroad, a summer or a J-term trip to completely change the trajectory of your life."
Even if Lavender does not end up working or living abroad in the future, she believes these experiences will impact her for the rest of her life. But as fun and exciting as these experiences can be, she tries to keep things in perspective.
"Failure is inevitable," Lavender said. "You will say and do things that are offensive and/or embarrassing. Whether it is accidentally offending a host mom by not eating every last bite of food on your plate or accidentally asking for a knife to eat your soup with, it will happen. Laugh about it when possible; apologize and move on when necessary. It is all part of the experience."
Lavender knew in high school that she wanted to travel often in college. Whether you've thought much about it or not, the opportunities presented by Taylor may be worth looking into. They were for Lavender.