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Senior takes advantage of KEY travel experiences

Feb 14, 2020
Two women smile on a bridge in Amsterdam
Two women smile on a bridge in Amsterdam

KOKOMO, Ind. – From visiting a village for dementia patients in Amsterdam, learning the latest in psychology research at a professional conference in Chicago, and hearing an Oscar-award-winning actress in person in Bloomington, Erica Washington’s worldview has expanded at Indiana University Kokomo.

Washington, from Carmel, took advantage of nearly every travel opportunity available to her while earning her degree in psychology.

“It’s allowed me to take what I’ve learned in the classroom, and see how it’s applied in the real world,” she said.

“I just wanted to explore and become part of different opportunities. It gives me the chance to see how other people live and think, and to consider my own beliefs.”

All of these were part of the IU Kokomo Experience and You, or KEY, program, a distinctive program that gives students a chance to connect with people, and participate in real-world experiences. The goal is for every student to have at least one travel experience within his or her major.

Washington has a quiet personality, and participating in KEY activities has pushed her out of her comfort zone to talk to people.

“I’ve come out of my shell because knowing I could successfully travel out of the country made me more confident,” she said.

Washington’s travel experiences included a week in Austria and the Netherlands, examining how mental health care is provided in Europe, attending the Midwest Psychological Association and American Psychological Association conferences in Chicago, and participating in IU’s Bicentennial Celebration, which featured a keynote by actress Viola Davis. 

Washington was fascinated by the dementia villages in Europe, which provide places for patients to live in homes with roommates, paired up based on compatibility. They have freedom within their village to go to the grocery store, clubs, libraries, and craft areas, among other quality of life amenities.

“It’s not like being in a nursing home, stuck in one room,” she said. “They have therapists to help them, and they can do things on their own.”

The trip to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Vienna, Austria, was her first time traveling outside the country — but it won’t be her last. 

 “I plan to go back soon,” she said. “It was amazing.”

In addition to returning to those countries, she wants to visit France, Australia, and Africa.

Washington has glimpsed her future in psychology through KEY. She is performing research with Rosalyn Davis, clinical associate professor of psychology, studying relationship issues among minority populations. Coupled with her research, traveling to conferences allowed her to meet people working in psychology, and to consider careers within the field. She enjoyed the opportunity to attend sessions with experts, and hear about current research in a wide variety of psychological areas.

With so many options available, Washington is undecided on her future for now, but knows it will include graduate school at some point.

“There are so many different classes and paths to consider,” she said.

Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.

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