January 15, 2016
Arden Lee was surprised when friends learned of her decision to spend a semester in Australia on her Global Opportunities (GO) experience—they encouraged Lee to stay closer to home.
"I knew that wouldn't have been the most fulfilling," she said. "With enough planning, anyone should be able to travel."
Lee, a junior creative writing and chemistry major from Livingston, N.J., has a condition called spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a genetic disease that affects the control of muscle movement. Friends feared her condition might make traveling difficult, but Lee persisted.
The Institute for Study Abroad, Butler University (IFSA-Butler), which facilitated Lee's trip, worked with local hotels and Murduch University in Perth, Australia, where Lee attended classes, to ensure she had handicapped access throughout her trip.
"We try to remove the barriers to studying abroad, physically or otherwise, so that our students may be exposed to different cultures while learning valuable things about themselves," said Scott Manning, Susquehanna University's dean of global programs.
This allowed Lee to seize every opportunity that came her way in the land down under, despite her disability.
"I learned that people in wheelchairs don't need to take the easy route," she said. "It's really possible as long as there's plenty of planning beforehand and an open mind for change."
Her experience within the Australian education system—she took classes in ethics, history, diversity and creative writing—-demonstrated to her the value of Susquehanna's small class sizes and liberal arts education.
"I think because they [Australians] begin specializing in high school, they go straight into their program," Lee said. "It made me realize that having a liberal arts education, where one has to take classes outside their major, is really nice. I would never have been exposed to these different classes, and they really gave me a different perspective on how to see the world."
Additionally, Lee experienced the Blue Mountains, went whale watching, visited with wild kangaroos on Heirrison Island and spent Halloween on the beaches of Rottnest Island.
Lee is featured in the Spring 2016 issue of Susquehanna Currents!