Kindra Begley's time in Wales served to provide her with new perspectives and broaden her world view. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)
By Dixie Reid
Kindra Begley’s restless spirit was first stirred by a family trip to the Bahamas when she was a kid. She’s since visited 20 U.S. states.
She promised herself when she enrolled at Sacramento State as a freshman in 2016 that she would someday study abroad. However, she was distracted by her studies – she’s a criminal justice major, minoring in sociology, sometimes carrying 18 units a semester – and with her work as a New-Student Orientation leader.
Begley heard something during an orientation session that caused her finally to embark on a foreign academic adventure. It was the theme song for California State University (CSU) International Programs Study Abroad, which offers students the opportunity to attend universities in 18 countries.
“The song was I Lived, by OneRepublic,” Begley says. “It means a lot to me, and I knew from that day that I was going to study abroad. It was going to happen.”
Among song’s lyrics: I did it all/ I owned every second that this world could give/ I saw so many places.
Begley took the song as a sign and applied to just one school for the 2018-19 academic year: Swansea University, on the southern coast of Wales. Its location alongside Swansea Bay appealed to a Californian who loves the ocean, but the United Kingdom’s weather proved chillier than she likes.
“I used to say that the sun was broken, because we’d get sunshine but no heat,” she jokes.
Begley took classes in criminology and criminal justice, quickly settled into her new surroundings, and made a slew of new friends, 60 of whom she continues to interact with on social media. Her parents visited her at Swansea University during Christmas break.
She returned home to Galt in June 2019 with new resolve, a new understanding of herself, and a new tattoo: the dragon depicted on the Welsh national flag.
“I hate to use clichés for study abroad, but it changes your life,” Begley says. “There is no other way to describe it. It’s the most amazing thing you’ll ever do in college. You can only benefit from studying abroad.
“You’ll grow in ways you don’t expect. Before I went, I was extroverted to the max, but I realized that I was still in my shell. Being at Swansea created this ‘why not?’ personality,” she says. “I never expected that I needed to grow in that way. As a student, you may not recognize the change right away, but when you come back, you’ll see it in yourself.”
Begley was among 180 Sac State students who traveled abroad to study last year, double the number from three years ago, says Paul Hofmann, associate vice president for International Programs and Global Engagement.
Sacramento State ranks 12th nationally among master’s colleges and universities for the number of students participating in long-term study-abroad programs, according to Open Doors.
“Sacramento State benefits when our students experience the world, and the world benefits when they get to experience our students,” says University President Robert S. Nelsen, whose President’s Circle provides grants each year to help 15 students with their expenses.
“The more our students learn about different cultures and perspectives, the richer our community will become,” Nelsen says. “I am always impressed when students study abroad, and I look forward to hearing about their adventures and the new insights they gain from our worldwide partners.”
Begley says she wants to go to law school after she graduates from Sac State in Spring 2020. She’s proud to say that she will “Finish in Four” – graduate in four years. She often thought she’d like to practice constitutional law, but a class on diversity, crime, and criminal justice at Swansea broadened her horizons.
She now wants to pursue international human rights law and to study in the United Kingdom. She’s also interested in pursuing a master’s degree in philosophy, to study possible adverse effects corporations can have on low-income cities and countries.
“I grew up in a small town, but I went halfway around the world,” Begley says. “I got homesick, and there was culture shock. But 16 years of education – kindergarten through college – in one place is equal to just one year abroad, in terms of your resilience.”
Editor's note: Because of an editing error, an earier version of this story included a photo cutline that incorrectly identified the country where Kindra Begley studied overseas. She studied in Wales.