'On top of the world' in Greece
Latisha Gilliam never imagined when she began college that she would one day study
photography in Europe.
But that’s exactly what the senior nursing major did this past January as she
and two other nursing majors put down their medical textbooks and experienced Greece
through a camera lens.
“We actually took our nursing textbooks with us, hoping that we could study because
we had a big exam coming up when we came back from our trip,” says Latisha, who
created a photography portfolio of ancient ruins as her class assignment for Art
Professor John Lawrence. “We never got them out, though. We decided we needed to
soak in everything we could while we were there.”
Latisha took advantage of the study-away program LaGrange College offers during
Jan Term—the time between fall and spring semesters when students either travel
overseas, hold internships, or take intensive, hands-on courses outside their academic
majors on the campus.
Like 22 other students, Latisha received a travel scholarship from the college
that funded 80 percent of her expenses. Last year, the college began offering all
entering freshmen a $2,500 voucher to study abroad or within the United States
when they reach their junior or senior year.
“It was an opportunity I told myself that I absolutely had to take,” says Latisha,
who grew up and still lives in West Point, about 15 miles from LaGrange. “My mother
and my grandmother both worried about the trip; I was raised that it’s best just
to stay close to home. My grandmother was concerned about the plane, and I told
her, ‘Don’t tell me the day before the trip that the plane is going to fall out
of the sky and into the ocean. I can’t swim.’”
Latisha, 26, also worried about leaving her daughter, Zymaria, 6, but knew she
could continue to rely on her mother and grandmother for support. She says they
have been a key reason she has been able to pursue her Bachelor of Arts in Nursing
degree while still working as a licensed practical nurse at Florence Hand Nursing
“They’ve always provided me a wonderful support system, and Zymaria’s dad also
has helped out when I’ve needed him,” she says. “Zymaria was fine about me going
to Greece. With technology, we were still able to see and talk with each other,
even though we were so busy in Greece that my time talking with her was limited.”
The art, theatre arts and nursing majors who went to Greece explored the National
Museum, the Parthenon and the Acropolis in Athens. They enjoyed the beach and warm
weather on the island of Crete and also visited the Ancient Theater at Epidaurus,
where theatre students performed a scene from “Agamemnon.”
Latisha especially enjoyed exploring Mount Olympus.
“I felt in more ways than one that I was on top of the world,” she says. “Five
years ago, I would never have imagined myself there. Before Greece, if you’d ask
me all the places I’d gone besides LaGrange and West Point, I could count them
on one hand.”
She’ll soon wrap up her last semester as a college student and continue in the
nursing profession, albeit with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree this time
“I have loved taking care of older people in the nursing home,” she says. “I have
just enjoyed getting to know them, and I’ve become very attached to them. It has
given me the chance to have a moment and sit down and listen to their stories.”
With her bachelor’s degree, though, she hopes to head into the faster-paced world
of medical surgical nursing. She will miss her professors and fellow nursing majors
at LaGrange College, she says.
“Once you come into the nursing program at LaGrange College, it becomes your family,
your home,” she says. “I tell people sometimes, ‘This is my home address. I just
spend the night at my other home.’”
She says the professors’ doors are always open, and an appointment is not needed
to visit with them.
“The professors are great; they make sure you are where you should be, both in
your classes and even in your emotional state,” she says. “Non-traditional students
especially can have a lot of things going on at home, and the professors are always
there, whether it’s a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or just to vent.
“Nursing at the college is a hard program,” she says. “Sometimes I feel like I
want to just pull my head off my shoulders or walk away from it because that’s
how tough it is. It takes the professors’ support to make it through.”