Loading player for https://video.vt.edu/media/IPA+Blog+-+Madison+Storm/1_dxgd3m7b...

Madison’s Experience

Madison knew she wanted to spend a semester abroad to develop her leadership and communication skills, and the Creating Sustainable Social Change program offered through Pamplin featured everything she was looking for.

“My study abroad experience allowed me to learn outside of the traditional classroom setting. My worldview changed and I gained new perspectives on cultures and communities that I hadn’t previously considered.”

For the first nine weeks of this fall semester program, students stay in Lugano, Switzerland. This convenient location allowed Madison to explore various other European countries and cities including Amsterdam; Florence, Rome, and Verona, Italy; Paris, France; Austria; Barcelona, Spain; Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland; and Budapest, Hungary. 

The last four weeks of the program take place in Africa. Madison traveled to Nyamyumba, Rwanda with her fellow classmates on the trip to volunteer at a school. She says this experience helped her to realize what she wants to do after graduation. 

“After my month of applying my learning and volunteering in Rwanda, I realized I wanted to someday work with a company that made an effort to give back to the community. I also developed a new appreciation for my educational opportunities. Watching my students in Nyamyumba come to learn each day during their summer break helped me to realize I wanted to pursue a Master’s degree following my Bachelor’s.”

Madison admits that being away from home for so long was difficult at first, but it helped her to bond with the other students on the trip. 

“During the month we spent in Africa I was unable to contact my friends and family back home. I missed being around loved ones and didn’t know the girls in my location very well when we first arrived. I think we all struggled with this at first, but our shared challenges allowed us to grow close during the month because we spent so much time together.”

In addition to growing closer with her classmates and realizing what she wants to do post-graduation, some of Madison’s most standout memories from the trip came from her time in Rwanda.  

“It’s hard to pick a favorite memory, but my last day in Nyamyumba was the most memorable. We stayed at the school longer — well-past the end of the school day — playing soccer, dancing, and hanging out with the students we’d grown so close to one last time. Music was playing and everyone was so happy to be together — it was a really difficult place to say goodbye to.” 

Key Advice From Madison on Studying Abroad

“Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone! I know it’s scary being away from your friends for so long, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you should take advantage of it. Travel to new places, eat new foods, and meet new people-- and keep a journal so you can remember it all!”