Staying Home to See the World

532361_457953810889039_1314322853_nToday’s blog is from Elissa Stiles, a TU Class of 2014 graduate with a degree in International Studies and a minor in Spanish. Elissa currently works as the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Center of Global Education on TU’s campus. She will be attending TU Law School this fall.

Six years ago, I grudgingly added TU to my list of college applications because I knew it would make my parents happy. I had no intention of actually enrolling at TU or being anywhere near Tulsa for the next four years. “Home” was only twenty minutes from campus, I was tired of living in Oklahoma, and I intended to see the world. In spite of my own prejudices, TU kept creeping up toward the top of my college list until one day in April, I realized that my greatest opportunities actually were in Tulsa. I signed an acceptance letter and secretly hoped staying so close to home wouldn’t keep me from seeing the world.

11865318_1134090726618462_7456678881296704807_oToday, I’m writing this from my desk on campus as a full-time employee of the university. I’ve lived in three different countries and visited three others, I’ve studied four foreign languages, and the TU degree hanging in my office recognizes my international studies major – a self-designed program that TU allowed me to create and personalize.

Far from holding me back, TU was my springboard to the world as an undergraduate. I had planned to study abroad once, in Peru; only a few weeks into my summer trip, I knew that international travel was my passion and calling. After an amazing two months of Spanish immersion and Inca exploration, I came back to TU determined to save enough money to go abroad again.

10429364_881188131908724_2879651777751614473_nAs a student, I applied for a job with the Center for Global Education (CGE) and worked as both a peer advisor for TU students going abroad and a summer intern for a Chinese student welcome program. By senior year, I was ready for another adventure, so I packed my bags for a semester in Madagascar followed by a semester in Brazil. I missed my own graduation at TU because I was too busy doing field research during the 2014 World Cup in northeastern Brazil, and I’m so glad I did!

After graduation, I took a human resources job near Tulsa because it paid well. Within a year, I was ready to come home to TU. The CGE announced an open study abroad marketing position, and I applied immediately. After more than four years, I knew that TU was where I belonged – Tulsa taught me to be a world citizen, an ambassador for peace and a humble student. There is no job more valuable, in my mind than affording the same opportunity to every new student on campus.

My job here at TU is perfect, and the only thing that could entice me give it up is yet another opportunity for incredible experience. This fall, I’ll be starting law school – at TU, of course! I can only imagine which new countries I’ll explore through my Tulsa education during my law journey.

High-school “me” would be appalled at the idea of staying in Tulsa so long. Today, I think staying in Tulsa is the best choice I continue to make. TU gave me the wings to see the world.