Kayleigh Sutton (elementary education major), a Diversity Ambassador Scholarship recipient (now the Global Access Ambassador Scholarship), participated in Ghana Education and Culture in summer 2023. 
Thursday, January 4, 2024
Kayleigh Sutton

As a first-generation college student whose education needs to be funded entirely by her own means, I had never imagined that I would have the opportunity to study abroad. Before becoming a diversity ambassador, studying abroad seemed like the sort of thing that would be impossible for me to accomplish. I am also an older student, someone who returned to college later in life after dropping out the first time around. This has often left me feeling as though I don’t quite fit in within my elementary education program.   

My study abroad experience in Ghana changed that. I did not expect to make very many connections with my peers while I was there. I had decided to partake in the experience due to my deep interest in different educational systems and as an interest in broadening my horizons as someone who had never left the United States. I am happy to say that I was wrong. We were a group made up of people with many different experiences, but we were all able to find common ground. It wasn’t just my peers that I made connections with, though. I connected with my host family and was glad to take part in an exchange of cultural knowledge. For every bit of knowledge that I gained about Ghana from my host family, they gained some knowledge about the United States.   

My study abroad program was truly the experience of a lifetime. I got out of my comfort zone and experienced many new foods, saw new places, and met new people. By the end of the trip, I no longer felt like I was an outsider in my program at Iowa as someone who was older and who had transferred in from a community college. I began the trip knowing one person in my program and left knowing so many more; people that I still see around campus today. I hope that first-year students, or any students who are “non-traditional” in the way that I was, realize that as a diversity ambassador, experiences like these are not as out of reach as they might think. 



The Global Access Ambassador Scholarship program provides awards to study abroad for a summer, semester, or academic year. The scholarships are intended to support students who study abroad with the intent to serve as Global Access Ambassadors upon return to the UI campus. Upon completion of the study abroad program and return to UI, award recipients are asked to submit a photo and an open letter to prospective students or suggest an alternate means of sharing with prospective students.

Please note that the opinions and views expressed by ambassadors are solely those of the students and do not reflect or represent the views of International Programs or the University of Iowa.


International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.