"You never know when or how you'll find your life's passion, or your new best friend, but it can only happen if you put yourself out there and get involved," says Randolph-Macon College alumna Elanya Chin '13. She speaks from experience. The world traveler—she's been to 30 countries in the past five years—has a passion for exploration, and for meeting people.
Chin, a Morristown, New Jersey native, majored in philosophy and international studies and minored in ethics and Spanish at R-MC. She considers her philosophy major her "touchstone"—a foundation that helped her learn how to think, and something she continually returns to as she processes all that she experiences.
"My philosophy professors—including Benjamin Huff and Donna Turney—created an open space in which students could ask the tough questions that people have wondered about for thousands of years," she says.
A Traveler at Heart
Chin's love for travel was fostered at R-MC, where she participated in three travel-study courses. In conjunction with the course Remembering the Holocaust, Chin traveled to Berlin, Germany; Warsaw and Krakow, Poland; and Prague, Czech Republic.
"It was my first time in Europe and I was absolutely enthralled," she says. "From the architecture to the languages, everything about traveling abroad spoke to me." Chin also explored El Salvador, where she helped build housing for a family in need, and she spent a semester living with a host family and taking Spanish courses in Valparaíso, Chile.
"Studying abroad taught me how to be independent and how to navigate through new cultures," she says. "Each time I traveled, I returned to R-MC with renewed gratitude for Ashland's supportive community. Randolph-Macon inspires students to think globally and act locally."
From Ashland to Madrid
After graduating from R-MC, Chin moved to Madrid, Spain where she served as a culture and language ambassador at a secondary school. It was a tremendous turning point for her—a crash course in learning how to create lesson plans, grade papers, and improvise on a moment's notice. From Madrid she headed to Austin, Texas, where she worked for International Studies Abroad, an international education provider that creates custom programs for colleges across the U.S. In spring 2016, Chin began a two-year master's program at the Pontificia Universidad de Católica in Valparaíso, Chile in international relations.
"It is surreal to be back at the same university where I studied abroad in 2012," she says. "All of my classes are taught in Spanish and I am privileged to have classmates from all over the world. From visiting the congress in Chile, to attending a lecture by New Zealand's president of the senate, to meeting the U.S. Ambassador to Chile, every week is an exciting challenge." After this semester ends, Chin will intern with the United States Embassy in Lima, Perú. The chance to work alongside Foreign Service officers and serve the United States is both intimidating and thrilling, she says.
"Randolph-Macon College was the first step toward realizing my passion for working in international diplomacy. I hope that interning at the Embassy will be another step closer to making my dream come true."
Chin is grateful to R-MC faculty and staff for their mentorship.
"Professor Turney, my academic advisor, is the reason I was able to balance such a challenging academic schedule," she says. "She provided clear insight and showed me how to keep things in perspective. And I discussed philosophy with Professor Huff before I had even taken a course with him—that's a testament to how supportive the R-MC faculty is. He led by example in providing tools to create a moral compass for how to live our lives as decent and engaged people."
Staff in the Office of International Education, including Tammi Reichel (study abroad advisor) and Mayumi Nakamura (assistant director of international education), also served as mentors.
"I spent countless hours talking to them, deliberating how to study abroad for a semester, and figuring out how to continue living abroad after college," she recalls. "Thanks to them, I never gave up on my dream of pursuing an international career. They gave me the confidence to trust my gut and take risks."
The best thing about being a Yellow Jacket, says Chin, is being part of a family both before and after graduation.
"Just like in a family, you are encouraged to be the best version of yourself," she says. "As a student at R-MC, I always felt like the campus was humming with a purposeful energy. It still does. I have that same feeling each time I visit."