Skip to main content

University Honors Program

Alumni Abroad: Olivia LeBlanc

By Kathryn McAuliffe

The dreaded treks up Stu’ Hill and strolls down Lowes Street have led 2021 alumnus Olivia LeBlanc to Pärnu, Estonia, where she is completing a Fulbright grant teaching English to high school students. 

LeBlanc is one of many Dayton alumni abroad using the resources and skills they learned to work for the common good. She first became interested in teaching in Estonia after attending a Fulbright informational seminar sponsored by the University Honors Program. 

“The presentation included information about the Fulbright program and application process and sparked my interest in teaching English in an international classroom. I specifically decided to apply to Estonia because I am interested in educational equity, and wanted to learn about the different aspects of equitable education in Estonia as compared to the United States,” LeBlanc said. 

LeBlanc graduated in May 2021 with her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, a minor in Family Development and a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Certification.

“My education and experiences at UD drastically prepared me for immersing myself in an international classroom. Through my Psychology and TESOL Certification courses, I learned about successful teaching pedagogies and potential challenges I would face in the classroom,” LeBlanc said. “Through my various experiences on campus, I also learned successful communication, organization and leadership skills that have assisted with my language teaching as well.”

It was the resources and professors at UD that made LeBlanc’s time abroad possible. After learning of the program through the  Honors Program, she continued to be supported by the campus community. 

“Take advantage of the resources and connections you can make at UD,” LeBlanc added. “I found that connecting with my professors and peers about my personal interests and goals allowed me to pursue many unique opportunities while at UD. The close-knit community of UD allows for students to pursue their own passions, and if you are interested in becoming involved in something, do not be afraid to ask. You never know what amazing opportunities are available and where they can lead you.”

The transition from life in Dayton, Ohio, to Pärnu, Estonia, led LeBlanc to focus on new mindsets and new relationships. 

“The biggest surprise I have faced while abroad is the more relaxed Estonian lifestyle. It seems that in the United States, we constantly prioritize being busy and tend to stretch ourselves too-thin in school and at work. Although stress is prevalent everywhere, I have learned to relax and to appreciate my surroundings more while living at a ‘slower’ place. I feel that Estonian culture does not constantly prioritize stress and productivity as much as American culture, and it has been a really great change of pace for me,” LeBlanc said. 

Her change in lifestyle came alongside a change in other lifestyle factors as well. Her biggest advice to be accustomed to the change when abroad is to have a “say yes” mentality.

“I wish I knew that it is okay to not know what is going on in a situation and to embrace being uncomfortable,” LeBlanc said. “In the months leading up to leaving for Estonia, I was so stressed about how to prepare myself for this extended period away from home. I learned very quickly that it is useful to approach a situation without any expectations or pressures on yourself, and give yourself grace while you adjust to a new place and culture. I would tell [everyone] to say ‘yes’ to as many invitations and opportunities as you can because you never know what amazing people or experiences you will encounter.”

After completing her Fulbright, LeBlanc will attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison in School Psychology Education Specialist (Ed.S.) program, which involves two years of coursework and one year of a full-time internship. LeBlanc hopes to work with students' academic, behavioral and emotional concerns in diverse school settings. Her newest transition will return her to the U.S., but the memories of Estonia will stay with her forever. 

“The people that I have been able to connect with through Fulbright have absolutely been the best part of my experience. I love working with the students and teachers in Estonia, and everyone has been so incredibly kind and helpful to me. I have also fostered amazing friendships with the other Fulbrighters located in Estonia, and they have been an amazing support system for me as well,” LeBlanc said. “I will keep in touch with the people that I have met in Estonia for the rest of my life.”

You can continue to follow Olivia’s journey here.

Previous Post

Introducing the 2022 Honors Art Exhibition’s ‘Best of Show’

Read about why this year’s artist chooses to participate in the exhibition each year.

Read More