Meet Sayjal Waddy ’07, Pitzer alumna and assistant director of study abroad and international programs services.
What do you do in the Office of Study Abroad and International Programs?
I help students understand the process, applications, visas. I also bring awareness to all the study abroad options, especially the Pitzer-run programs in Nepal, Italy, southern Africa, Brazil, Vietnam, Costa Rica, and Ecuador.
What distinguishes Pitzer’s study abroad opportunities?
The variety! Students can do exchanges at other universities or do a program run by Pitzer with a community of learners. We have quite an array, which allows for any major and students with any level of comfortability—whether they have traveled extensively or it’s their first time leaving the country.
We run our own programs, which is rare. If institutions do run their own, it’s one or two. The fact that we run so many is impressive considering the size of our school.
Tell us more about the Pitzer-run study abroad programs.
Their focus is cultural immersion and helping students integrate their academic learning into their everyday lives. We encourage students to go beyond thinking about classes as separate entities. In the Pitzer-run study abroad programs, learning isn’t in silos or formal spaces but comes through many formats that work together to give students a transformative experience.
You have classes, language learning, family stay, and trips. As you grow in your language ability, you better communicate with your family, which helps you improve your language and helps your independent study. One impacts the other. That’s how learning should be.
How did your Pitzer experience influence you?
I was a sociology major and dabbled in everything else. I did what was then Pitzer in Botswana (now Pitzer in Tanzania, South Africa, and Zimbabwe). Being in a community that looked like me and being exposed to the variety of languages—it was transformative. It blew up the ceiling I didn’t realize I had set for myself and made me more confident and aware of global issues. After Pitzer, I went to graduate school at Columbia University in the international transcultural studies department. I wouldn’t have picked a program with a global focus had I not studied abroad.
In my professional life, I have always looked for opportunities that would allow me to engage with an international community and engage in global learning, diversity, equity, and inclusion. I’m happy to now be in the Office of Study Abroad and International Programs as this role encompasses all those interests.
Tell us about your experience on Pitzer’s alumni board from a few years ago.
That was a great opportunity to meet alumni I never otherwise would have met and give back to an institution I love. It didn’t necessarily require financial giving, though members did donate and hopefully still do. Alumni can give back in terms of money, time, opportunities, and opening doors for students to intern and shadow where you work. The alumni board is just one way to do it.
What advice do you have for students who want to study abroad?
Come talk to us! We’d rather talk with you early to help you plan and think about your options versus right before you need to turn in your application. We’re here for any phase, from exploring where to go, to completing an application, to figuring out visas, housing, and what to pack.
The study abroad application deadline is November 15, so reach out to Waddy or anyone else in the office if you need help!