GALLIPOLIS — Haleigh Caldwell recently did something no one else in her family had done before.
She left the country.
The 2014 graduate of Gallia Academy High School took her first flight — ever — across the pond in May 2015 for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe.
The 18-day trip was made possible through The Ohio State University’s “But for Ohio State” campaign, which launched in 2009 and ended last month, and raised more than $520 million for student scholarships and support.
According to OSU’s website, the campaign’s name derives from the words of L Brands CEO and former university Board of Trustees Chairman Leslie H. Wexner, who donated $100 million to his alma mater and reportedly said, “But for Ohio State, I would never have been able to go to college.”
The Keith and Linda Monda International Experience Scholarships in the College of Arts and Sciences was created as a part of that larger campaign and enabled Caldwell, one of 50 students selected each year, to travel and study abroad.
Caldwell, now a junior studying speech and hearing science, was a freshman when she attended a seminar led by an alumnus who was chaperoning a study abroad trip in the spring.
“I studied abroad in May 2015 through a MUNDO program called Multicultural Histories and Legacies of London and Paris,” Caldwell said. “I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship through Ohio State from the Monda family that covered half of my costs to go abroad.”
The Monda Scholarship provided the majority of the funds Caldwell needed to pay for her experience. She met the balance by working and asking family for funding for the trip as Christmas and birthday presents.
Caldwell said she, along with eight other recipients, had the chance to meet the scholarship donors and tell them of her experience.
“When it was my turn to talk about my trip, Keith (Monda) was amazed that I had never flown or been out of the country before this trip,” she said. “He was thrilled he was able to make such a large impact on my life with his donation to the university.”
The purpose of her trip, she said, was to study the importance and impact of diversity not only in London and Paris, but also on campus and in the United States.
“We were required to take a course during the spring semester before going abroad where we studied the culture, history and language of the two cities we were about to travel to,” she said. “The course prepared us for what we were about to experience abroad.”
While abroad, Caldwell also spent an entire day volunteering at a homeless shelter in London. The rest of the days, she said, were spent studying, exploring the cities and taking in all the sights.
“My favorites in London were the Imperial War Museum and the Globe Theatre,” she said. “While in Paris, the Catacombs, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Louvre and food blew my mind.”
The trip, Caldwell said, wouldn’t have been possible if not for the support of her parents.
“It’s crazy to think those 18 days made a huge impact on me and my life, and now I’m able to use my story to impact and encourage others to travel and others to donate to enable people like me to have an experience of a lifetime,” she said.
After earning her bachelor’s degree (with a minor in coaching education), Caldwell hopes to attend graduate school and pursue a master’s degree. She hopes to become a speech language pathologist and possibly a coach.
There may also be a second trip across the pond.
“I hope to one day go back,” she said.