Last Spring, U of U Learning Abroad alumni and Learning Abroad Outreach Intern, Paul Bowles, was selected as one of five students to speak on a student panel at the Diversity Abroad Conference – the most comprehensive national forum on issues of access, diversity, equity, and inclusion in global education. After submitting an essay and receiving a letter of recommendation from Learning Abroad here at the U, Paul was chosen out of a competitive pool of applicants from across the country.
At the conference, Paul had the opportunity to speak in front of a crowd of over 500 conference attendees about his experiences learning abroad as an LGBTQ student. Over Fall Break 2017, Paul participated on a Faculty-led program to Cuba where students examined the complex intersection between the past and present in relation to current political, economic, social, and environmental changes. “Learning Abroad in Cuba was an eye-opening experience,” said Paul, “…one that pushed me to dive into personal research, expand my Spanish vocabulary, and increase my cross-cultural competency while soaking up the amazing environment I was studying in.”
The conference also provided Paul an opportunity for personal reflection and growth. “[This conference] provided me invaluable perspective on my identity, my undergrad experience, my aspirations in life, and my value as an everyday leader.” Reflecting after the conference, Paul explained “My life’s narrative has been shaped around what I couldn’t do and what wasn’t available to me [because of my LGBTQ identity]. And this is the first time that I’ve been told what I can do and my identity is being celebrated as something valuable.” The goal of Diversity Abroad is that the next generation of young people from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds are equipped with the knowledge, skills and experience to be successful in the 21st century interconnected world.
Like many U of U students who’ve participated on Learning Abroad programs, Paul has been very successful in leveraging his practical academic experiences to start his career. Since graduating in May, Paul has accepted a job with Delta, which, says Paul, wouldn’t have been possible without his international experience. Learning Abroad is thrilled to have had Paul representing the U’s increasingly diverse student body at this year’s annual Diversity Abroad Conference.