WASHINGTON, PA (Dec. 19, 2013)—If you ask Thary Chea where she’ll land after graduation, what she wants to be when she grows up, or if she’s going to change the world one day, she’ll tell you that you can never know these things for sure—you just have to know that you’re on your way.
The Washington & Jefferson (W&J) College senior is set to graduate in May and, with two Magellan Projects under her belt, she’s ready to take on new challenges, maybe even in new countries.
“To put it simply, the Magellan Project has changed me,” Chea wrote in a column for the November 2013 Magellan Messenger. “Probably even ruined me a little bit—or at least my future bank account—because I’ve discovered a true passion for diversity, culture and traveling. I know that I’ll be spending the rest of my life searching for new adventures.”
Chea, an International Business and Spanish double major from New Hartford, N.Y., is one of 65 W&J students who completed Magellan Projects in 2013. Established in 2008, the Magellan Project provides scholarship funding for students to spend the summer pursuing independent projects and internships that extend liberal arts learning outside the classroom.
Chea first participated in the Magellan Project two years ago, inspired by an intersession trip to Nicaragua, and by her work with underprivileged youth in the Washington, Pa. area.
In July 2012, she traveled to Cochabamba, Bolivia, where she volunteered for four weeks at a foundation called Niños con Valor, an orphanage designed to serve children living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. She also worked with other organizations in their efforts to develop and transform the community.
Her travels didn’t stop there. From Bolivia, Chea went directly to Quito, Ecuador to fulfill a semester at Universidad San Francisco de Quito. That experience led to her second Magellan Project.
“I fell in love with the city so I decided to find other opportunities to go back,” she said. “I did a lot of research and ultimately ended up deciding to take on a marketing and public relations internship with South American Explorers, a non-profit organization that functions as an information network for travelers in South America.”
Chea worked in all aspects of the organization, and created a formal internship program and guidebook for future South American Explorers interns.
“At the end of the internship, my boss was impressed with the work I had done, and I felt so proud that I made a meaningful contribution with the help of the knowledge I gained at W&J,” she said.
Brianne Bilsky, Magellan Project Program Coordinator, said projects can become the first step to a lifetime of intellectual curiosity, cultural appreciation and confidence in the ability to handle the unexpected. She said Chea is the perfect example of this.
“[Thary] used her first Magellan not only to learn about some of the challenges that come with living in a foreign country, but also to make important discoveries about herself and what she truly is capable of,” Bilsky said.
Magellan students are able to use skills from their W&J classes in real-world settings through the project, allowing them to see how their skills and talents on campus can transfer to helping others in a new setting.
“These experiences benefit not only the individual student, but also the campus community as a whole,” she said. “When students return from their Magellan, they bring with them new perspectives, ideas, and questions that help all of us think more critically about how we see and participate in the world around us.”
Chea is now looking for career opportunities that combine her management experience with the ability to travel. Without opportunities afforded to her at W&J, she said, she might still be worried about what she’ll be when she grows up.
“When I applied to come here, I made a commitment to make an impact in our community and abroad, and now as a senior, I know that I’ve gone above and beyond anything I had ever anticipated doing.”