Study Abroad Trip Makes Lifetime Impact

Studying abroad always seemed like a pipedream to junior Lindsey Worthington.

She wished to travel the world, experience new cultures, see new places and meet new people, but for a full-time student on a budget, it always seemed just out of the picture.

When she heard about a scholarship opportunity in her Modern Political Economy class with Joe McGarrity, Ph.D., economics professor in the College of Business, she still didn’t believe it was possible.

“I was doing math homework while he talked about it,” said Worthington, a chemistry major. “I was in a class full of business majors and never thought I would win.”

The scholarship required students to have letters to the editor published in local outlets. Worthington’s letter, “Trump Trading,” was published May 11, 2017, by Arkansas Times.

Then, the letters were reviewed by a committee put together by McGarrity. The best letter netted the student with a scholarship for a study abroad trip to Italy.

Worthington never thought she could win, but she did.

Over three weeks in 2017, she visited Florence, Rome, Siena, Pisa, and Orvieto among a handful of other Italian cities.

“That trip taught me so many things,” said Worthington. “I saw how a different culture has its own values and perspective.”

One of her most treasured moments was the time she spent interacting with a local jeweler in her shop. They barely spoke the same language, but the two found a way to interact and learn about one another over the better part of an hour.

There was also the countless pieces of art and incredible buildings and architecture.

“You can look at all the passages you want, but there is only so much you can learn from reading about a topic in a book,” said Worthington. “Standing in front of it and experiencing it is completely different. You’re floored.”

McGarrity said many of his students, like Worthington, have similar experiences, coming back from the three-week journey transformed.

“It’s a life-changing experience,” he said. “It’s meant for them to confront their assumptions. What happens when you see people doing something a certain way and you’re doing it completely different? You reconsider the way you live your life. You would never have thought to  make these changes if you had not experienced the foreign culture.”

Since returning, Worthington looks at many things in a different light, whether it’s exercise after walking extensively in Italy or among the endless trees in Arkansas, a rare treat in the sprawling cities of Italy.

“I’m a changed person because I went,” said Worthington. “What I believe, who I am, I feel like a more well-rounded person having had this experience.”

Her personal experience is why Worthington thinks scholarships like the one she received are so important to students like her who might not have had such an opportunity without it.

“It provides so much to a student’s experience and life. You’re not just pouring into a three-week trip,” said Worthington. “I’ll carry that trip with me forever. It’s something I’ll tell my children and grandchildren about. No one can ever take that experience from me.”