Spring 2024 Issue

A World of Opportunity

Two 2024 graduates tell how study abroad programs enhanced their W&M experience

By Jarius Alexander '24 and Sophie Workinger '24

From architecture and design in Copenhagen to human rights movements in Kathmandu, William & Mary students have access to hundreds of study abroad programs in more than 55 countries around the globe.

William & Mary is first among public universities in the nation for study abroad participation, with more than 55% of undergraduates completing a study abroad program. The emphasis on global education is part of the university’s commitment to offering the most personal educational experience of any public university and preparing students to thrive in whatever careers they choose. The diverse opportunities offered by the Reves Center for International Studies’ Global Education Office also include more than $600,000 annually for study abroad scholarships as one of many efforts to reduce financial barriers.

For a firsthand look at the benefits of studying abroad, we asked two 2024 graduates who participated in summer programs through the Reves Center.

The Friends We Made Along the Way

By Jarius Alexander '24

“Beauty to her, as to all who have felt, lay not in the thing, but in what the thing symbolized.”

This line describes the title character in “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” looking down on the majestic Vale of Blackmoor and reminiscing about what it used to mean to her. When I first read it in my Thomas Hardy class at Christ’s College in the University of Cambridge, it flew over my head. How could Tess look at the beauty of the vale and not be struck by its glory? I found myself even more perplexed when our professors took us to see the real Blackmore in all its astounding glory. I remember looking at the long stretch of rolling green hills and charming quaint farms and being mesmerized by how pretty it all was.

As I sit several months removed from my time in England, I’m reminded of all the beautiful things I saw that summer — the streets of Bath, the mysterious Stonehenge, the nightlife of London, the royal mile of Edinburgh and of course Blackmore Vale. Now I look at the pictures of all these amazing places, and Hardy’s words begin to make more sense to me.

When I think back on my summer abroad, the most meaningful part was not the gorgeous locations in Europe, the film and English classes that counted toward my major, or even the scholarship I received that made it all possible. What I think made my study abroad trip amazing were the William & Mary people I got to experience it with. Thanks to them, I learned that world travel was easier than I previously thought, and became aware of postgraduate opportunities outside the U.S., as students described their international dream schools. I remember late nights in the Christ’s College buttery debating our Darwin class over darts and a drink, and warm evenings planning our weekends as a group trying to maximize the number of museums and pubs we could hop in just a few days. From office hours in a local bar to punting down the river Cam, we all grew very close that summer and every day felt like a new adventure.

As I write this piece, I am looking at a picture in which I sit on a beach in Cromer, gazing into a friend’s camera. Even though it’s one of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve been to in my life, what I think is beautiful about the photo isn’t Cromer itself, but what it and my entire summer trip abroad symbolize: The friends I made across the pond.

Jarius Alexander ’24 is an English and film and media studies double major from Nokesville, Virginia. He will be pursuing an M.A.Ed. in secondary English at W&M’s School of Education and plans to apply to the American Film Institute’s screenwriting program.

Discovering a Passion for Environmental Leadership

By Sophie Workinger '24

I spent the spring of 2023 basking in the hot sun of southern Spain — the perfect end to my European studies major. From attending a class on intercultural communication to catching a whirlwind of $30 flights across Europe, my semester in Seville was the idyllic study abroad experience.

Yet after the semester, I wasn’t quite ready to go home. William & Mary was piloting a new study abroad trip in The Hague, Netherlands, focusing on climate change and sea level rise. Starting a week after my semester in Spain, it explored a topic I am passionate about but didn’t major in at William & Mary. Thanks to the Robert M. & Rebecca W. Gates Scholarship, a merit-based scholarship for students in global-related majors, my trip to The Hague was completely funded. Thrilled to start Study Abroad Part II, I packed my bags, said goodbye to my Spanish host family and began my eight-day journey from Spain to the Netherlands.

The Hague program was monumental in my decision to pursue a career in environmental work. Some days, we would attend lectures with local university students or hear a company talk about their new technology for floating wind turbines. Other days, we would learn how to cook with seaweed, attend a conference on environmental education and democracy, or visit innovative flood control architecture. Out of the entire trip, my favorite activity was visiting a parking garage. This was no ordinary garage, though. Instead, it was cleverly designed to protect the nearby town from rising sea levels while simultaneously serving as habitat for native species, a beautiful park for people to enjoy and, of course, a place to park your car.

The program culminated with each of us writing a final paper comparing how the Netherlands and the U.S. deal with a certain aspect of climate change. I chose to explore the disparity between biking in the Netherlands versus in Williamsburg. This paper led me to research urban planning, history, carbon emissions and perceptions toward different modes of transportation — all of which prepared me for an emissions reduction internship with the City of Williamsburg.

I had spent years assuming that if I wanted to fight climate change, I would have to study biology and chemistry, yet my time in The Hague taught me that it truly takes people from all professions and backgrounds. As my senior year winds down, I am looking forward to graduate school, where — thanks to The Hague and a little parking garage — I will pursue nonprofit leadership and environmental studies, preparing myself for a career in helping our planet.

Sophie Workinger ’24 is from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and is double majoring in global studies (European concentration) and government. Next year, she plans to attend graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania.