By: Bethany Melvin
“Travel is an opportunity to try on new ways of being, knowing and existing in the world, and I think it’s important for all of us to experience how people in a different context live their lives,” says Bethany Galipeau-Konate, Director of International Programs at Shenandoah University’s Center for International Programs. On campus, Galipeau-Konate is responsible for overseeing both inbound and outbound international activities. The Center for International Programs supports the international students coming to study at SU and organizes education abroad programming such as the Global Citizenship Project (GCP), Global Experiential Learning (GEL) trips, and semester abroad. “I love this work because it allows me to introduce students to the life-changing experience of international travel and intercultural understanding.”
Galipeau-Konate first encountered Shenandoah University while they were on a GCP trip in Mali, West Africa in 2005. Galipeau-Konate was there volunteering for the Peace Corps, a two year service commitment in one country of service, when her life took a big change. She was introduced to the Shenandoah University GCP group through a friend, and ended up relocating to Winchester after her Peace Corps service so that her boyfriend who is now her husband of 10 years could attend SU. Throughout this, she discovered her passion for travel could be turned into a career.
While her time in Mali was a huge part of her life’s journey, it wasn’t the only international experience Galipeau-Konate has had. In fact, she has been all over the world throughout her life. While she was born in Tennessee where her parents were going to college, she spent the majority of her formative years in Indonesia where her parents were working.
While Galipeau-Konate loves it here in Virginia, her favorite place she has lived is the remote village where she grew up in Indonesia. “It was ‘home,’ and I also loved it so much because of the natural beauty of the mountains and the rainforest,” says Galipeau-Konate.
Not only has Galipeau-Konate lived in many places around the world, she has traveled to even more. “It is almost impossible to just pick one favorite of all the places I’ve been! One location that I’m grateful I was lucky enough to experience was Timbuktu, Mali,” says Galipeau-Konate. She reminisced on the, “mystique and historical significance that made it a really interesting place to explore.” She also mentioned that the current political instability in the region means that traveling there is not exactly feasible for outsiders at the moment, which is why she is so thankful to have had the chance to visit during happier times.
To those who are considering traveling, whether it be in the state, country or overseas, Galipeau-Konate has a few words of encouragement. “It sounds a little simplistic, but just do it! Travel is one of the experiences that can radically reshape your perspective on the world and on yourself, and it is much easier to do it when you’re young and have less responsibilities. The things that make you afraid to do it usually turn out to be non-issues once you’re out there. Even when things don’t go according to plan, and they won’t, you have an opportunity to learn about how to be resourceful and find depths of courage and creativity within yourself that gives you more confidence.”
Galipeau-Konate is in the heart of GCP selection season, which is keeping her and her office very busy. GCP is an application based program that if selected, students, faculty and staff are taken on a trip abroad. However, students have to wait after finding out if they were selected until their surprise destination is revealed at the same time their group members are. GCP is a wonderful program offered at SU, and one that is also close to Galipeau-Konate’s heart. Selected participants will be chosen and announced this Friday, October 18, 2019 and the International Convocation where destinations and groups will be announced will be held November 13, 2019. The SU community is invited to attend the exciting event!