Posted by Aurora University on January 11, 2013
Senior Alissa Evans has always had a sense of adventure and learning, but it was only after arriving at Aurora University that she began to really trust those instincts.
It started with a three-week May Term study-abroad experience in Italy during her freshman year. The trip sparked her desire and determination to explore the world, and motivated her to make a difference in the lives of others.
Evans went on to study for a semester in Spain, Croatia, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, Morocco and Italy. She participated in a two-and-a-half-week program that took her to Latin America. She backpacked through Asia. And then, a painful personal event sparked her most inspiring trip yet.
Last summer, just before Evans was set to travel, her mother passed away. She decided that choosing to make the journey, despite the circumstances, would be the best way to honor her mother. She left the day after the funeral.
“I had no hesitation in my mind. I had to go,” she said. “I had to do it for my mom. I was physically, mentally and spiritually embarking on the journey of my life. I got onto the first plane of what would be many, with tears streaming down my face. As I settled into my seat, I closed my eyes and asked my mom a favor. I asked her to be with me on my journey.”
The majority of that journey was spent in Tacloban City, in the Philippine province of Leyte, where she volunteered at a women’s shelter for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. Because she was the only volunteer working at the shelter at that time, she had the full responsibility of planning a half-day’s worth of activities every day for the residents. Her goal was to inspire the women by helping them realize their potential, while instilling a little light and happiness during a very dark time in their lives.
Evans’ experience blended her educational interests with her passion for traveling and understanding new cultures. As a result, she realized that she wants to work at a women’s shelter. She also has dreams of volunteering with the Peace Corps and pursuing a master’s degree in social work. In the meantime, she is applying what she experienced abroad to what she is learning in the classroom.
“Before I volunteered in the Philippines, I thought I was going to help women during one of the most difficult times in their lives,” she said. “However, they were the ones helping me, demonstrating grace and courage through life’s greatest challenges. I keep pressing forward for my mom. I want to do her justice. I want to continue to be someone she would be proud to call her daughter.”