AFS-USA Speedwell Foundation Study Abroad Program: One Returnee’s Lifelong Global Vision
When she got on the plane to Brazil in 1970, Jenny Messner had no expectations. Until that moment, the farthest from home the Pennsylvania country girl had traveled was the Jersey Shore.
Over forty years later, Messner’s year studying abroad with AFS-USA still shapes her life in ways she never could have imagined. Fluent in Portuguese, with a successful career in international banking behind her, she now helps local teenagers, like she once was, have the same opportunity to have a life-changing AFS experience abroad. For 2013-14, Jenny and her husband Mike’s Speedwell Foundation will send 30 students from Pennsylvania’s Lancaster and Lebanon counties to study abroad in 13 different countries with AFS.
Motivated by a love of languages, a poster in a display case at her high school, and an inspirational AFS Volunteer, Jenny was told in December of her junior year that she had been accepted to live and study in Brazil for the next year.
A whirlwind three weeks later, Messner was on a hilltop overlooking the white sand beaches of Rio de Janeiro, about as far away as she could be from rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
“I just remember being so impressed with how welcomed I was down there: blown away by how they could bring me into their home and share their culture with me,” Messner said. “It made me want to give back, and I think what it has sparked in me was this desire to make sure other people [can study abroad].” The Messner’s daughter Rebecca studied abroad in Italy with AFS.
“Brazil and AFS changed me into a global person,” Jenny said. “I definitely became aware that the world was something to get to know rather than to hide from. There’s no doubt it set me up to be a global citizen.”