When Claire Rickard ’18 from Montgomery, AL, chose Rhodes College, she knew she wanted to major in international studies, but she had no idea that she would be traveling across the globe in the next four years. “When I toured Rhodes and visited an international relations class, I liked both the class and professor. I also was enthralled with Memphis as a city: its culture, food, and volunteer opportunities. Finally, I liked the balance between classes and social life at Rhodes,” Rickard says.
“I come from a very conservative part of Alabama, and I grew up hearing rhetoric I viewed as problematic. This led me to seek news sources on my own, which began my passion for international affairs.”
The summer after her sophomore year, Rickard decided to explore international relations through a non-academic lens. After researching different internships, she applied to the Intern Group, a program that offers international opportunities for various career fields. Through the program, Rickard worked in London in a counterterrorism program. “My favorite part of the entire experience was connecting and learning about other cultures and world views in London,” says Rickard. “This opportunity encouraged me to go abroad for an entire semester my junior year.”
The spring semester of her junior year, Rickard traveled to Amman, Jordan, through the CIEE study abroad program. Living in an apartment with other study-abroad students, Rickard spent much of her time studying Arabic and traveling throughout the Middle East. “The Middle East is so different from the U.S. that every experience was new and exciting. The most memorable experiences were spending time in the Wadi Rum Desert, sharing a meal with a family in Palestine, visiting the Old City in Jerusalem, and the markets in downtown Amman,” Rickard recalls.
Wanting to further her time in the Middle East, Rickard became interested in Rhodes’ Mertie W. Buckman International Internship Program. This merit-based program funds students’ working and travel abroad experiences. “I was attracted to the Buckman program because it encourages and challenges students to expand their horizons, which is something I am always interested in doing. The funding from the fellowships allows students to dream bigger and freer about where they want to go.”
After rounds of applications and interviews, Rickard was accepted into the program for the summer of 2017. Although she had a job lined up with an NGO in Jordan, she had to search for a new one after the State Department issued a travel warning for the country. She decided on France to further her knowledge of the French language. While living with a French couple, Rickard worked at a non-profit. “I was helping to make a web series that talked about social issues. My focus was on homelessness in Paris, which was interesting because coming from a small town in Alabama, I wasn’t used to the issue of homelessness. This work gave me an entirely new perspective on social issues,” Rickard says.
Although Rickard’s future career plan is undecided, her multiple experiences have helped her to realize where she wants to make an impact. “The Middle East is beautiful and rich with culture, and the people are so warm and kind. I have learned I am passionate about issues related to refugees, conflict resolution, and counterterrorism. There is still so much to learn from the Middle East.”
By Ellie Johnson ’20