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Campus News

Vira I. Heinz Scholars share study abroad experiences

Rachel Pellegrino Nov 18, 2021

Four Waynesburg University students – CeCe Fitts, Amanda Latta, Rachel Pellegrino and Emily Schafer – virtually studied abroad this summer through the Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership. The students recently hosted a cultural workshop to share their experiences with the Waynesburg community.

“We encouraged our audience to think globally, be engaged in the world of every day, and to think critically of facts presented,” Latta said. “More than anything, we strived to expose the audience to a different, not wrong or right, way of thinking.”

The Vira I. Heinz Program offers students who have never traveled outside of the United States the opportunity to participate in international experiences, leadership development and community service. Students admitted into the program receive a scholarship to put towards an international experience of their choosing.

Even though the 2021 Vira I. Heinz Scholars were unable to study abroad in person, their virtual study abroad experiences still proved to be valuable.

CeCe Fitts, Costa Rica

Fitts, a senior marine biology major, virtually studied abroad in San Jose, Cosa Rica. She learned about tropical marine biology and the issues facing marine life in Costa Rica.

“The highlight of my experience was simply being able to learn about my major, and now I’m applying that to what I’m learning this fall,” Fitts said.

As for her advice to others interested in studying abroad, Fitt said, “I would say don’t jump to conclusions because [nine times out of ten], your ‘common knowledge’ is wrong; be respectful of other people’s cultures.”

Amanda Latta, South Africa and South Korea

Latta, a senior international culture and political science double major with minors in psychology and history, virtually studied and interned abroad in South Africa and South Korea. She learned about South African international diplomacy and foreign relations as well as Korean language studies.

In addition to learning more about her major, Latta said she observed several cultural differences.

“The main difference I observed between South Africa and America is that the level of education/awareness in South Africa far exceeds America. In South Korea, I observed that they are looking for punctual perfection in their work,” Latta said.

Rachel Pellegrino, Italy

Pellegrino, a senior communication major with concentrations in electronic media and journalism, virtually studied and interned abroad in Florence, Italy. She learned about the Italian culture and gained experience internationally working in the field of journalism.

“The highlight of my experience was working alongside professionals in my field and gaining useful skills that I can utilize after graduation,” Pellegrino said. “I also greatly enjoyed developing my global perspective through learning about Italian culture and accepting cultural differences.”

Pellegrino emphasized the value of studying abroad.

“Studying abroad, whether in-person or virtual, is a great opportunity. I encourage anyone that has the opportunity to take advantage of it because learning and living in a cross-cultural setting is truly a wonderful experience,” Pellegrino said.

Emily Schafer, Costa Rica

Schafer, a senior nursing major, virtually studied abroad in Costa Rica, where she learned about alternative health care.

“The highlight of my study abroad experience was the personal growth and the increased understanding that I was able to take away from it. I learned so many things about holistic health as well as about Costa Rica that I will carry with me in all future endeavors,” Schafer said.

Schafer also encourages those who might be interested in studying abroad to go into it with an open mind.

“Be ready to learn and grow,” she said. “This will make the experience so much more worthwhile.”

Interested in applying to be a 2022 Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership scholar? Contact Pat Bristor, associate dean of students.

About The Heinz Endowments

The Heinz Endowments is devoted to the mission of helping our region prosper as a vibrant center of creativity, learning, and social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Core to its work is the vision of a just community where all are included and where everyone who calls southwestern Pennsylvania home has a real and meaningful opportunity to thrive.