For some college students, the so-called “real world” looks pretty scary. Bills, debts and taxes piling up. Bad bosses and jobs that often don’t pay a living wage. It’s like a cramped, tiny box you have to squeeze yourself into—and maybe you’ll get stuck there forever like so many adults you know.
Cecilia Trotter, a graduate of the University of Mississippi and Sullivan Foundation programming alumnus, sees it differently. Her experience with the Sullivan Foundation’s 2019 Study Abroad program in Prague—plus the Foundation’s twice-yearly Ignite Retreats—taught her that post-college life is an adventure to be embraced, not dreaded.
“Sometimes, I feel like college students hear things like, ‘Do not join the real world—it’s a trap.’ But I’m excited to move forward,” Trotter said. “And meeting people through the Sullivan Foundation has solidified that for me.”
Trotter was one of about 30 students who made the life-changing journey to Prague with the Foundation. This summer, the Foundation will take a new cohort of young changemakers to Strasbourg, France, one of Europe’s major capital cities, for Sullivan’s Study Abroad France program from June 25 to July 23.
The deadline to apply is March 15, and scholarships of up to $2,000 are available from the Sullivan Foundation and its study-abroad partner, the CEPA (Customized Educational Programs Abroad) Foundation.
Click here to learn more and apply for the Sullivan Foundation’s Study Abroad France program.
This year’s study-abroad curriculum includes three courses for student leaders and changemakers who want to build a better world:
Leading for Impact + Innovation: Taught by Dr. Jody Holland, an associate professor of public policy leadership at the University of Mississippi, and Spud Marshall, a social entrepreneur and the Sullivan Foundation’s director of student engagement, this course will introduce students to the emerging field of social entrepreneurship and innovation. They will begin to develop their individual and collective capacities to innovate and implement impactful, sustainable, and scalable methods of solving society’s problems. Each student will develop an original blueprint for social innovation and change while working with local partners and enterprises.
Click here to learn more about the Leading for Impact + Innovation course.
Intercultural Communication: This course introduces students to key concepts and theories surrounding international and intercultural communication. In an increasingly interdependent world, intercultural communication is an asset to students of all majors, providing them with the knowledge, skills, insights and sensitivities to become upstanding citizens and successful leaders.
Leadership by Design: This thought-provoking course explores leadership philosophies and styles. Students will learn how to effectively interact in culturally appropriate and sustainable ways and discover how to serve as global leaders in a complex world through readings, research, dialogue, critical analysis and interactive learning.
Lori Babb enjoys a visit to Prague’s famous astronomical clock during her Sullivan study-abroad experience.
Lori Babb, a graduate of Campbell University who’s currently pursuing her master’s degree at Duke University, said her Sullivan Foundation study-abroad courses in 2019 “were innovative on all fronts.” She added, “Oftentimes, as we delved into project development or topic brainstorming, Dr. Holland would challenge our ideas with nonconventional ideals or devil’s-advocate perspectives. It helped shift my thought process to anticipate hardships and adapt when those inevitable problems arise.”
Related: Lori Babb aims to use social entrepreneurship and bioethics to “change the world.”
The Foundation’s study-abroad coursework shifted Duke University student Bella Almeida’s perspective as well. She is the founder of Earthy Creations, a social enterprise at Duke that turns used materials into stunning works of art. The concept, she said, evolved quickly thanks to her study-abroad coursework.
Bella Almeida, founder of Earthy Creations at Duke University
“Originally, I simply wanted to start a club at my school that allowed me to express my creative side and make a difference for an issue that really mattered to me—the environmental crisis,” Almeida said. “However, when I went to the study-abroad program and was pushed to think in terms of an ‘enterprise,’ I realized that the idea for Earthy Creations could be converted into a business model through the sale of the pieces.”
Earthy Creations has since flourished into an ever-growing network of talented, eco-conscious artists who transform literal trash—the kind of stuff that would normally end up in landfills—into objects of beauty and lasting value. The student creators make money from the sale of their artwork on the Earthy Creations’ website, and so does Almeida, all while raising awareness about threats to the environment, promoting recycling and demonstrating the power of art to transform communities.
Related: Duke student turns trash into stunning sustainable art
Almeida said the Sullivan Foundation’s study-abroad program was “a transformative experience that really helped me develop my business idea by teaching me to identify and research the problem, define a mission, assess costs and competition, set milestones, and determine a measure of impact before implementation. The program also helped me believe in myself and in my idea because I received a lot of encouragement and support from students and professors alike.”
Beatrice Kleeger of Earthy Creations paints moods with used coffee grounds.
Trotter said the program’s leadership course stressed “innovative thinking” that any young person can use in charting their future path and career, even if they don’t plan to become social entrepreneurs. “I found, in my own experience, that the ability to think creatively and innovatively fits any interest,” she said. “Whether a student is interested in politics, medicine, art or engineering, this program allows them to take the things they are passionate about and form ideas on how to move their interests forward.”
Related: Ole Miss changemaker Cecilia Trotter says “yes” to risks and new life experiences
For her part, Babb especially enjoyed getting to know the social entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers she met in her study-abroad trip, including some who had studied overseas with the Sullivan Foundation in the past. “To be able to see and meet those who experienced the same program and who took those strides to ignite change and create social enterprises was incredibly inspiring,” Babb said. “It also emphasizes how life-changing this summer abroad can be if you utilize and maximize the skills and resources the program provides.”
Babb loved her study-abroad experience—as well as the Ignite Retreats—so much that she became a Sullivan Ambassador for the Foundation. “I recognized the greatness of what the Sullivan Foundation has to offer through its programming and events, and it [felt] almost selfish to keep it to myself,” she said. “I truly think these experiences shifted the big-picture trajectory of my life.”
“I learned how to widen my scope when approaching not only academics or business but in all aspects,” Babb continued. “This mindset of igniting change and working towards a common good shifts your perspective on everything.”
Babb added that her month-long study-abroad adventure taught her another lesson that will stay with her forever. “Never underestimate the greatness you hold within you,” she said. “Hone your skill sets, continually learn from the world around you and harness your internal power. You can change the world.”