The Summer That Changed My Life: Testimonies From Our Kansas Women

no place like home Alyssa: Overall, my time here has been absolutely wonderful and better than I could have ever expected or imagined! I have gotten to meet amazing women from all over the world who all have amazing dreams and passions. We all have come together to create a better life for the people, and women in particular, in our communities and countries. The discussions, ideas, and projects that we do together are so great! My favorite times so far have all been in Washington D.C. on the day when I finally got to meet the amazing 20 international women. Over those next few days,  I got to meet even more amazing international women at the SUSI conferences, explore D.C., and try new foods with all of my new sisters! So far, Lawrence has been great, and I am sure it will continue to be! All 25 of us get to attend classes every day that assist us with making sure we are well-equipped to go back to our communities and work on the adaptive challenge we have selected. My adaptive challenge includes working with the international students in my community to make their time in the U.S. is as satisfying as possible, so getting the opportunity to work with so many outstanding international women here is just perfect!  Throughout the past couple of weeks we have gotten many opportunities to meet various inspirational and empowering women from all walks of life who provide motivation for us to continue to fulfill our dreams, just as they have done.  I am so thankful and honored to have been selected for this program. I look forward to future opportunities to share my life-changing experiences with you all! Ally: A Thank You to This Program and the Lawrence Community My experiences at the Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute have been incredible and life-changing. I am so blessed by the women in the program, our facilitators and the Kansas community. To share a part of myself and find that I have things in common with women from all walks of faith, from every part of the world makes my identity as a global citizen even more clear. I have sisters in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pieces of my heart will forever live in India and Mongolia. My family reaches as far as Morocco and Zambia. But as my dedication to the world as a whole has become stronger, I feel an even deeper connection to my Kansas roots. I have been able to share some of my favorite things about my home to these women. Sunrises over campus, thunderstorms, hospitality and a help-your-neighbor attitudeare just a few of the things that make Kansas so special to me. They are a part of my identity. I am so thankful to all those in the community who have taken time out of their lives to recognize the importance of extending a welcome to these incredible women. Believe me when I say that THEY ARE the future of our world. By taking time to hear new perspectives we not only forge a bond, but we enrich our own lives, and the community as a whole. Thank you, from the depths of my heart, to Lawrence and the KU community. You have treated my sisters and me with such generosity and warmth. Because of you, I have built relationships that span the globe and have found a renewed dedication to give back to this community. Thank you for everything. BreShawna: Being a part of this program has been incredible and has had a huge impact on my life. I am grateful and honored to be a part of the Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute, especially as one of the first participants from Kansas to be allowed this opportunity. To start, everything I knew about leadership had to be rewritten. My classical view of a leader and all the experience I gained striving to be a “servant leader”, missed the true point of leadership. Primarily that leadership is not about an individual, but the action of intervening to tackle the difficult challenges to help the entire organization. It changes the perception of leadership away from the glamorous connotation to show that leadership is a process that is uncomfortable, risky, and offers no precedent on the steps that need to be taken. However, it is the only path for impactful change. Then there is the role that the international women play. I have always enjoyed engaging in discussions that highlight the culture differences between people, but that bring forth the similarities that bond them in the process. What surprised me though was how quickly we began to discuss real issues in a way where people were honest, interested, and open to hearing different perspectives. The program focuses on empowering women, yet I did not believe that the problems faced in Kansas would be in anyway similar to those faced in Afghanistan, Pakistan or any of the other 5 countries represented in our program. I have learned otherwise. Each country has unique circumstances and is in a different stage of progress to be sure, yet the core problems we face are identical. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the amazing women in this program. They are women who will change the world and continue to inspire me every day Miranda: The KWLI experience has been so surreal for me! Every minute of every hour of every day is full of priceless memories and friends that will last for a lifetime.  Friends (or sisters as we often refer to one another) that have defined not only who I am but most importantly who I want to be. I’m forever grateful for this opportunity; it’s not every day that you can capture the smile of 7 countries in one photo. We have no borders or boundaries, just love for one another. These women have quickly become a large part of my life and their family has become mine.  Until this journey, I honestly never thought that I’d shared any interests with women from Pakistan or Zambia (just to name a few) but we share more than interests; we share clothes, make up, shoes, jewelry, stories, passions, goals, tears, trust, integrity, and a bond that could never be broken because we’re all the same. Each and every one of them has played a significant role in the way I will live my life for the future. They’ve taught me culture, diversity, and religion but more than any one of these words could explain, they’ve taught me about myself.  They’ve helped me discover a part of me and my heart that I didn’t know existed. They’ve awakened my soul and created a yearning for knowledge within me. I cried when my adventure began. I cried because I was afraid to leave all that I had ever known; my family, my dogs, and my friends, even if only for 6 weeks. Now as our journey comes to a close, I cry because 6 weeks wasn’t nearly long enough to define the best days of my life. These women are my family. Brittany: When Passion and Purpose Come Together, There is No Stopping the Momentum Prior to KWLI it’s easy to say I was lost. Whole-heartedly? No, but I lacked purpose. I knew I was creative. I knew I had engaged in the process of leadership several times and I knew I loved to travel and explore the diversity of this world. None of this, however, had built up my confidence, mission, or purpose. Through the KWLI experience I am whole-heartedly found. Having to troubleshoot daily teaches one a lot about themselves. Having the opportunity to meet women with completely different experiences and needing to build a reputation for yourself gives you a major sense of freedom. My KWLI sisters have helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses and they have never judged. They have fostered the perfect environment in which I can stumble, succeed, fail, and thrive. All of this has built a confidence and purpose within me that I never knew could exist. Lost but now found. With this new confidence and purpose I have developed my dream. Believing in yourself is half the battle and I know the other half has already been tacked with the support and energy of my international family. I can promise my actions in the future will involve global collaborations as the bonds and dreams I share with my sisters is unexplainable. Thank you to the donors, instructors, supporters, and dreamers of KWLI. Thank you for helping me find the greatest me. I am determined to make a difference in the world and I can promise you I will. I would love to share my plan with you on our presentation days. June 29th and 30th. All are welcome! None of this, however, would be possible without you! To constantly learning, thriving, inspiring, and changing the world! Best wishes!