“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Screenplay
Frances Adams just might be the poster child for University of the Ozarks’ new emphasis on encouraging its students to travel abroad and experience new cultures.
Adams, a senior English and environmental studies major from Plano, Texas, had a whirlwind summer to remember in 2016, visiting eight national parks in the U.S., serving an enriching summer internship in Ireland, soaking up the French culture in a brief sojourn in Paris and participating in an inspirational week-long leadership conference in Vietnam.
“It was really an incredible and unforgettable summer,” said Adams. “My mom was not too happy with me because I was a home a total of about a week all summer, but it was truly exhilarating to travel and experience so much in three months.”
Adams had done very little traveling in her life and had never been outside the U.S. before this past summer. All of that changed in the course of about 64 days this summer when she literally circled the globe.
“I’m just in awe when I think back about eating the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever had and watching the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, surfing in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ireland, and biking through an ancient village in Vietnam and saying ‘Xin chao’ to the local children,” Adams said. “It almost feels surreal at times, but I know this summer has changed me forever.”
Adams’ summer began with a two-week tour of several of the nation’s iconic landmarks as part of the National Parks class, taught by Dr. Jesse Weiss, associate professor of sociology and environmental studies, and Bendex Stevenson, director of Ozarks Outdoors.
Then it was off to Ireland where she spent 10 weeks developing her outdoor and leadership skills through an internship with Donegal Adventure Center in Bundoran, Ireland. Located in the northern part of Ireland, Bundoran is a renowned surfing area that was listed by National Geographic in 2012 as one of the World’s Top 20 Surf Towns.
As part of the adventure center staff, Adams helped teach children and adults about surfing, rock climbing, cliff jumping, and team-building.
“Donegal is full of green, rolling hills, and free dog friends to walk you to work,” Adams said. “In the morning it is rainy, but the misty kind of rain that just barely gets you damp. By the afternoon, if the weather was feeling like it, the sun would come out and really show how beautiful Ireland is. I lived just down the road from the very chilly Atlantic Ocean and got the pleasure to learn how to surf and how to teach kids how to surf as well.”
Adams said the most valuable experience she had in Ireland was interacting with her co-workers, most of whom came from throughout Europe.
“I mostly lived in a hostel with three Spaniards, one Latvian, and one feisty Scottish,” Adams said. “It was an incredible experience. We became an immediate family and they will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Following her internship, Adams also had the opportunity to spend several days touring Paris with fellow Ozarks classmate and Parisian Marie Lebois.
In early August, Adams joined a group of U of O students who attended the 7th annual University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Hanoi, Vietnam. The conference brought together more than 700 emerging world leaders from 69 countries for a leadership development training program. The program was designed for young persons who are committed to making the world a better place for the human race.
“The conference in Vietnam both broke and inspired my heart simultaneously,” Adams said. “Asia is like nothing I have ever experienced before in my life and made a lasting impression on me.”
Adams said her four primary “take-aways” from the Vietnam conference were, Noodles, Shandra Woworuntu, If not you then who, and motorbikes.
“We got to help a local farmer in an ancient village in Vietnam and also listen to a variety of different speakers share there inspirational and sometimes heartbreaking stories of their humanitarian work,” Adams said. “We heard a story about an infant named Noodles who had his eyes taken and sold. We also heard the story of Shandra Woworuntu, who found value after being sold as a sex slave, not once but twice. Those stories really impacted me. The inspirational motto, ‘If not you then who,’ kicks excuses aside and makes humanitarian affairs a tangible goal for all of us. And, the last thing was the sheer amount of motorbikes in Hanoi alone. It was terrifying.”
Adams said her summer experience was yet another chapter in what she describes as her “amazing growth,” since enrolling at Ozarks.
“For starters, Ozarks has broadened my mind in ways I could never have imagined,” she said. “I have grown and matured so much in my time here. I have been encouraged by countless professors who I consider part of my family, much to my mom’s amusement. Professors such as Dr. Brian Hardman, Dr. Bill Eakin, Dr. Sharon Gorman, and Dr. Kim Van Scoy have taught me so many lessons on every subject imaginable. But the one common theme is to look at life with new eyes.”
Topics: Environmental Studies