“She is going places!”: NWU student takes opportunities for growth amidst pandemic

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Ashburn outside of the CHIP apartments in Stanton Park.

Many events, activities, and opportunities have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and students are finding it more difficult to find opportunities that will help further their skills and professional development. Despite these challenges, one Nebraska Wesleyan student is tackling the pandemic. Chandler Ashburn, a junior political science and communication studies double major, is currently in Washington D.C. with the Capitol Hill Internship Program (CHIP). Despite this opportunity having many virtual aspects, Ashburn is taking advantage of the chance to work with politicians.

Ashburn started her CHIP experience in January. She attends in-person classes and online meetings throughout her day. Many people in Washington D.C. have welcomed her with open arms, especially over Zoom. Ashburn works alongside top U.S. diplomats and foreign service officers working with the countries of Sudan and South Sudan where she says her work involved a lot of reading. She is glad that she “learned a lot of research skills last semester with qualitative and quantitative research methods” which will help her with digesting more difficult pieces. Ashburn is excited to continue networking in Washington D.C. to broaden her expertise. She mentions, “In D.C., every person you walk by is a professional… and you don’t know who you are walking by.” Ashburn also highlights that anyone who is interested in the CHIP program should plan early, be prepared, and the internship is not just for political science majors—anyone can do it!

Ashburn partaking in “husky sled rides during [her] ISEP exchange semester in Finland” during the 2020 spring semester. Her roommate, Gwen Boone, from Arkansas is pictured on the left.
Besides the CHIP program, Ashburn has experienced other educational opportunities outside of Nebraska Wesleyan. In the Spring of 2020, Ashburn studied abroad in Finland at the University of Jyväskylä. One of the main reasons she chose to study at NWU was for the university’s accessible study abroad programs. Choosing Finland as her destination, Ashburn had no preconceived notions about the country. She states, “I wanted something completely random, and I wanted somewhere where people would ask me ‘where is that?’” A big consideration for Ashburn was that she did not speak another language, so she wanted to go somewhere that she could speak English. She says for anyone who goes to another country in Europe to “find the youngest person you can find and they will know English” since many younger generations grew up watching American television shows and listening to westernized music. She also recommends for anyone who is considering study abroad to study the host language of the country they are going to so simple communications can be understood.

When the coronavirus pandemic began disrupting international travel, Ashburn had the opportunity to stay in Finland, but “at that point all of [her] friends had left,” and she felt it would be “emotionally taxing to be alone in a foreign country.” She also felt that “the news and the media were making it seem that Finland would close their borders until July” and did not want to be stuck in Finland until then. Even though leaving Finland was hard, Ashburn had an incredible time and has memories that will last a lifetime. In the end, her study abroad experience was a good “foundation for [her] love for the foreign service” because she got to “read literature by people who are not published in America.” She would have never had access to this content to if she were to take a similar class in the United States. The classes Ashburn took through study abroad, NWU, and her current classes at CHIP are helping solidify her future.

 

Ashburn and her Delta Zeta family during the big/little reveal in the fall of 2020.

Ashburn also mentioned some of her mentors throughout her time at NWU so far. Ashburn met Cinthya (Cece) Ledesma the second semester of Ashburn’s first year in Latin American Politics. About halfway through the semester they had a conversation and from there started studying in the library together. The two “talk every day, study together…and spend most of [their] time together.” Ledesma pushes Ashburn to be better which helps Ashburn not be stationary. Ashburn describes Ledesma as her own personal cheerleader pushing Ashburn in so many ways. For example, Ledesma encouraged Ashburn to go through the Greek life recruitment process so Ashburn would “get herself out there” more. Since Ledesma was in a sorority at the time, she was a great mentor for Ashburn during that aspect besides strictly school. When asked to say some words that come to mind when thinking of Ashburn, Ledesma says that Ashburn “is very kind, very motivated, and very encouraging to others.” The two did study abroad at the same time except Ledesma was in Brazil. Ashburn mentions that it was “nice to talk to her during [their] time abroad and talk about the different culture shocks” they were experiencing. Even though Ashburn considers Ledesma to be one of her mentors, Ledesma also feels that Ashburn has helped her immensely as well and has learned some of her passions through being friends.

 

Ashburn also wants to thank her advisors for all of the help they have given her during her time at NWU. Her first political science advisor, Dr. Kelly Bauer, has been someone Ashburn looks up to because Dr. Bauer “commands a room when she comes into it and asks so many intelligent questions.” Dr. Bauer always wanted to talk about Ashburn’s future, would recommend different opportunities, and encouraged Ashburn to apply for everything. Dr. Bauer is currently taking a year off, so Dr. Nathan Smith is now Ashburn’s political science advisor. Ashburn mentions, “He is such a personable professor” and” he really cares about his students and makes sure his classes are engaging.” Ashburn emphasizes that Dr. Smith truly understands the student perspective since he was recently a graduate school student and has been very impactful to her in a short period of time.

Ashburn’s communication studies advisor is Dr. Karla Jensen. Ashburn says, “She is the one person I can cry to” which is comforting because Dr. Jensen knows how to get Ashburn right back up. Dr. Jensen specifically mentions that she “can absolutely be [herself] and help students find themselves too” which adds onto the personalized attention that Wesleyan offers. Ashburn doesn’t have to share a brave face to Dr. Jensen because Ashburn knows that Dr. Jensen will help her regardless of how she is feeling. Dr. Jensen remembers her first impression of Chandler through a “wonderfully polished email that she sent.” Since they had not met when Dr. Jensen was assigned to be Ashburn’s advisor, Ashburn reached out to Dr. Jensen to get to know each other better. When Ashburn went to Finland, Dr. Jensen was a huge help since she had been on sabbatical a few years prior. Ashburn knows she would not be where she is today without Ledesma, Dr. Bauer, Dr. Smith, and Dr. Jensen because of the personalized attention she has received from each of them.

Ashburn and Ledesma outside of the Cochrane-Woods Library. Ashburn says, “We spent most of our free time together there!”

Besides all of the experiences Ashburn has participated in, on campus she is involved in Delta Zeta sorority where she has previously been the Social Chair and Vice President of Programs and she is a student ambassador. Off campus, Ashburn is a Teammates mentor, a Volunteer Staffer for LAUNCH Leadership, and a Second Baptist Choir member. Overall, Ashburn feels so lucky for all of the opportunities and experiences she has gained at Wesleyan. In the words of Dr. Jensen, “She is going places!”