SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Wofford College senior Lindsey Grace Perret believes everybody has a story, and she’s eager to hear all of them when she travels to Latin America starting next week as the college’s Presidential International Scholar.
The Spanish major from Charleston, S.C., will be conducting independent research focused on women as agents of change in that region of the world, but she’s excited to meet as many people as possible and to learn more about them. “I’m excited to get to know a part of the world I’ve never experienced before,” she says. “I’ve never been to any of the countries that I’ll be visiting on the trip – Nicaragua, Mexico and the Dominican Republic – and every culture has its little quirks that are so intriguing. I’m also thrilled to see what I’ll stumble upon in my research. It’s easy to forget that everyone you pass on the street has a story as complex and as vivid as yours, and I want to hear those stories.”
Perret leaves for her journey next Wednesday, Aug. 27. She will return in January. She is the 31st scholar in the college’s innovative program that allows one student to travel internationally to research an independent project. The scholar is selected each year by Wofford’s president as “the singular student best fitted to benefit humankind.”
She’s been taking care of a lot of details – banking, Department of State paperwork and more – in preparation. “The most productive way I’ve been preparing is by spending lots of time with family and friends. Knowing that I have a network that supports me through the great parts and the scary parts gives me the most peace of mind as I leave in just a few days.”
Perret admits to being a little nervous, but she isn’t new to the study abroad experience, having spent last semester in Argentina. However, with that trip she was part of a group taking classes and going on excursions together – “everything was very structured. For this trip, I’ll be doing a portion in Nicaragua like that, where I’ll be learning with a group of other international students and going on educational excursions. The part that is new to me is the independent portion. From early December to mid-January, I’ll be independently traveling through Mexico and the Dominican Republic.”
She has set up connections for her research in all of her destinations through the Wofford alumni network, friends of her family and “friends of friends (who) have reached out to me with ideas and organizations that they know of in Central America.”
In her first year at Wofford, Perret was introduced to the Arcadia community, a primarily Hispanic neighborhood. “I fell in love with the children while tutoring them, and I kept getting more and more involved. The Hispanic Alliance of Spartanburg has now been meeting for almost two years, and I’ve learned a lot about community organizing by going to the meetings with stakeholders in the area.”
As a Bonner Scholar at Wofford, Perret discovered the Global Leadership Program in Panama, where the focus is on leadership and social entrepreneurship.
“My Wofford education has everything to do with why I chose women as agents of change for my research topic,” she says. “Every course I’ve taken at Wofford has been interdisciplinary and has challenged me to critically think about real world problems. More than anything, my Wofford education has taught me to ask the hard questions about why the world is so hard on so many and what we can do to end that struggle.”
Perret, a graduate of Academic Magnet High School in Charleston, started volunteering when she was in high school, serving as the missions chair at her church, St. Andrews Parish United Methodist Church. She also has volunteered at Crisis Ministries, as a rape crisis advocate with People Against Rape, and with the American Red Cross.
She is the daughter of Pauline Hendricks Perret of Charleston, and is a Dean’s List student. She chairs the corps of volunteers working with students at Arcadia Elementary School in Spartanburg School District 6 as tutors of English as a Second Language students and working to improve the environment for the young students through planning community events and applying for grants.
At Wofford, in addition to being a student staff member in the Admission Office, Perret is a member of Alpha Phi Omega, which conducts service projects on campus, in the local community and globally; Twin Towers service organization, specifically working with the local ARCH ministries to bring first graders to campus to encourage an interest in continuing education; and Spectrum, striving to create a safe space for all Wofford students regardless of gender or sexual orientation. She also is a participant in the Hispanic Alliance of Spartanburg, which builds collaboration among service providers and the Hispanic community. She is a member of Sigma Delta Pi, the Spanish honor society.
Funded by an anonymous donor, the Presidential International Scholarship program provides the selected student the opportunity to travel and study independently for five months during the scholar’s senior year, returning for the spring semester.
Perret will be blogging while on her journey as the Presidential International Scholar. Follow her adventures at http://blogs.wofford.edu/presidential_scholar/.