Not only has this helped her further explore her interests, but it has developed her into a "globally conscious citizen."
"You can only learn so much in the classroom," said Heins. "You can never truly understand something until you go and you do it, or you experience it. The things I have learned and the people I've met have exceeded my expectations and my ideas about different cultures. Through study abroad, my eyes have been opened so much."
These experiences have not only shaped Claire's academic interests, but helped her explore her love of literature.
Find your fit
"During my freshman year, I somehow found my way into a pirate literature course, which I thought was just going to be about Treasure Island and watching Pirates of the Caribbean. I thought it was going to be so much fun. It turned out to be an upper-level English class. While I was not an English major at the time, it turned out to be one of the most amazing classes that I have taken at USC."
The professor taught me so much about literature. I was taught how to see all the layers and meaning behind the author's words. My final project was about the Island of Tortuga, which was a pirate haven. The project meant I would need to do research in the Special Collections Library. I was surrounded by millions of amazing primary sources from authors all over the world, and I just kind of fell in love.
I never could have imagined it would come out of a class titled Pirate Literature. This professor inspired me to change my major. Looking back, had I not had such an incredible professor and experience, I would not have changed my major and discovered my passion for English.
Expand your options
After her freshman year, Claire enrolled in a Global Classroom program, a study abroad experience led by a USC professor. The class focused on Scottish literature.
"We flew into Edinburgh and got to travel all over the city. We got to see the Robert Burns House and the Walter Scott House, which is really more of a castle. I was blown away by the literary tradition!"
When she returned, Claire knew it wouldn't be long before she would hit the road again.
"I enjoyed my time abroad so much that I signed up for another Maymester. The professor, who taught Japanese Art History, led the class. We flew to Japan and stayed in a Buddhist Temple in Keoto. We traveled all over Keoto, saw ancient temples and shrines, castles and palaces—all while studying the art around us."
Discover new approaches
"A day after I returned from Japan, I flew to Rwanda, where I studied the genocide the country faced. During the month I was there, I did a part-time internship at the main hospital in Kekali, Rwanda. I was working through a program called Solid Africa. A Rwandan woman founded the program. She noticed that many of the people coming from rural areas of Rwanda didn't have access to food because their entire support system is back in their villages. They're not necessarily poor, they just don't have the resources they need when they come to the city. She provides food for the people in the hospital."
"I feel like in America we've cultivated this very ethnocentric idea of the world where we're the best, and then there's everyone else. That's just simply not true. There's so many incredible, inspiring cultures, and histories and peoples in the world that people need to experience for themselves."
Prepare for the path ahead
While the path ahead may be a bit uncertain, Claire feels like her direction is sound.
"I know that I want to graduate with Leadership Distinction in global learning. I'm also going to study abroad again in Scotland, because Scotland has such a rich literary tradition. I am hoping that it will open up opportunities for me to study English and get my PhD in English. It's exciting to incorporate my international studies major into my studies. I enjoy studying international literature and trends that come back to the United States."