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Along for her ‘exciting ride’

September 1, 2017

Avery Lafortune, BA'17
Avery Lafortune, BA'17

In her first year, Avery Lafortune jumped at the opportunity to take part in Alternative Spring Break in the Dominican Republic.

In her second year, she spent five weeks participating in a community service learning opportunity in Rwanda. In her third year, she spent a semester abroad studying at the University of Sydney in Australia.

And, in her fourth year, she stayed put.

Of course she didn’t.

Just this past summer, the recent School for Advanced Studies in Arts & Humanities (SASAH) graduate, joined the Vindolanda Field School for a six-week, immersive, hands-on Roman archeological dig in England.

“It’s been an exciting ride,” said Lafortune, BA’17.

“I have truly enjoyed learning in Western lecture halls and tutorial sessions, but there are things you cannot learn in the classroom. You cannot learn through a textbook how to feel the difference between samian pottery and stone. Slides in a lecture hall cannot convey the true beauty or sheer vastness of the landscape surrounding a fort built hundreds of years ago. To learn these things, we need to experience them.”

Lafortune benefited from a Global Opportunities Award to help balance out the costs associated with the trip to Rwanda. Since the awards program was launched in 2012, more than $900,000 has been raised from 76 generous donors. In the 2016/17 academic year, 160 students received Global Opportunities Awards in support of their international learning.

While Lafortune might have been able to find a way to fund the journey on her own, she said the award allowed her the flexibility to seize subsequent international excursions to see first-hand what she studied in class. “As students, we are presented with so many amazing opportunities but, at the same time, it can be difficult to navigate university, make the most of our time here and budget responsibly,” she said. “Donor support has allowed me to partake in more life-changing Western experiences than I would have thought possible. Awards allow students to take advantage of these opportunities – some of which are once-in-a-lifetime – without going further into debt.

“It is so important that Western’s international experiences be available to all students, not just those who can afford them.”

Today, Lafortune feels it’s crucial to learn about other cultures and ways of life – to see the value in differences. The international opportunities she’s had throughout her undergraduate career have afforded her that first-hand perspective; she’s thankful for the role donors have played in providing those to her.

“It is wonderful to know there are donors who value these experiences. Because of their generosity, students can explore, learn and experience other parts of the world. I hope it inspires many of the students who have received awards to pay it forward when they are able to do so.

“We must support each other, especially younger generations still finding their footing in the world.”

This article appeared in the 2017 edition of Annual Impact
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