UIS student Sean Flamand (on the right in the picture above, second from top) is insatiably curious about life in other countries. Last summer, he traveled to Japan with a UIS group to study at the Ashikaga Institute of Technology.
This spring, thanks in part to the James L. Lundquist Memorial Scholarship, Sean will be able to study at the University of Valencia in Spain–this time on his own and for the whole semester.
Deeply grateful, Sean wrote the following letter to the Lundquist family. We reproduce it here with his permission (we added the headings).
A home among the cornfields
I come from Kaneville, a town in northern Illinois which is the home of no more than 500 residents.
When I rode the bus to school, I saw cornfields all around my high school. When I went with my parents to the grocery store, I saw cornfields all along the way.
Outside of our front window, which has a view extending to the edge of town, I could make out where the fields start. I spent the first 18 years of my life in that house, and I still go back every holiday.
Don’t get me wrong: I love my hometown.
Kaneville is a peaceful little village and our yard was always plenty big enough for me and my two older siblings. But, especially once I got into high school, it wasn’t ever quite enough.
This was a result of my personality. Even as a kid, I wanted to take in more.
Reading transported him to new worlds
My sister taught me to read, and I read everything I could, quickly moving up the reading levels until I was tracking words across pages at age 12 that a high school sophomore might have had trouble with.
I wasn’t a genius or anything; I was just insatiably curious, and the fact that my mom homeschooled me until high school left me plenty of time to read anything and everything.
Fantasy has always been my favorite. The idea of whole worlds playing host to magical powers and beings always kept me hungry for more and more stories.
I was always reading and wishing I could explore those worlds firsthand—not out of any dislike for my own world, but out of a desire to step outside the minuscule slice that made up everything I’d ever seen.
Discovering that the real world equaled imaginary worlds
It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I truly discovered there’s just as much to be excited about in the real world.
This was when I got the amazing opportunity that year to take a spring break trip to Europe, one that would see me spend two days in Amsterdam and a week in London.
I talk about this trip in almost every personal narrative I write. I even talked about it for the essay that helped me get this scholarship. I’ll mention it again; the trip changed my life.
When I got back to the United States, after seeing sights like the labyrinth of Amsterdam’s canals, Big Ben, and the Tower of London brought to life up close, I was well and truly bitten by the travel bug, so to speak.
I resolved right then, that no matter what career I eventually call my own, it would have to be something that would allow me to just go at every opportunity. I never wanted to not be a traveler.
A common thread throughout all that he learns and experiences
Perhaps I’ve entirely missed the point of this letter. Perhaps you wanted to hear me relay all of my extracurriculars, from Leadership for Life to my job copy editing for The Journal, to helping put together The Alchemist Review, to all of my classes and my major and disciplinary passion: English.
But I wanted to tell a more personal story, one that gives you a sense of exactly what you’re helping me to accomplish.
It’s not that all those organizations are secondary—far from it. I love what I do with each and every one of them.
It’s just that connecting them all is my insatiable desire to be out there, to experience every possible culture in the hopes of understanding them as best I can and putting my vocational skills to use with that newfound understanding.
Not a day goes by that I don’t come across another place in the news and wonder what it would be like to be there.
The essential piece for the next year
So I must say a most sincere thank-you. Without the James L. Lundquist Memorial Scholarship, I would not have the financial flexibility to study abroad this summer and during the spring 2016 semester.
You’ve brought me so much closer to quenching my thirst for exploration, and I hope this brief letter outlines exactly what that means to me.
Thanks, Sean, for letting us post your letter. We are proud to have Sean as a UIS student in Spain. Stay tuned for next week’s entry, featuring Santiago Pedraza, a student from Spain who is getting his degree at UIS.
We welcome your gifts of any size to the James L. Lundquist Memorial Scholarship Fund. Every gift helps students benefit from study-abroad experiences.