Connect with us

Travel

Senior translates love for European travel into graduate school, career plans

Published

on

In the spring of 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic was winding down and Samantha Schatzman ’24 was trying to figure out her next steps. The Arlington, Texas, native was taking online classes at Tarrant Community College — law, religion, art history, “stuff like that,” she said — and “trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.”

Schatzman did know one thing: She wanted to travel. To date, the 26-year-old’s passport has been stamped in Iceland, England, Scotland, Germany, and Italy, and in France — several times.

Samantha Schatzman ’24 takes a selfie on the Dell.

“I love visiting Europe,” she said. “The history, culture, the arts, the language. There’s something about it. The age of it, compared to anything in the U.S., is just so incredible.”

Most of the time, Schatzman travels alone, staying at hostels and making friends with people from all over the world. “Once I was introduced to solo traveling, I would essentially stay at home with my parents for a while, work and save to buy a trip to Europe, and fly over there and stay for a week or two,” she said.

Eventually, in that spring of 2022, Schatzman’s future started coming into focus. “I wanted to do something international,” she said. “I was becoming more and more interested in international politics and news.”

She started looking for a small university with a degree program that would complement her interests. It wasn’t long before she found the University of Lynchburg.

“[It] was exactly what I was looking for: small, liberal arts, really, really interesting international relations and intelligence programs,” she said.

“So, I emailed the professors who were in charge … and said, ‘Can you get me more information [and] tell me what your undergraduate students are doing once they graduate? Any possibility that I can sit in on a class during my visit?’”

Schatzman visited campus and sat in on classes taught by Dr. Brian Crim and Dr. Dave Richards, professors in the intelligence studies program. That fall, she transferred to Lynchburg — a move that surprised some in her family who had never heard of the small liberal arts college in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

“Everybody was, ‘You’re going to Virginia? Where exactly is this school?’” she said. “Everybody in my family had gone to the big Texas schools. My sister graduated from the University of Texas. Big, big Texas state schools.”

Head Delegate Samantha Schatzman ’24 (right) chats with teammate Tucker Davis ’24 at the 2024 Model UN simulation.
Head Delegate Samantha Schatzman ’24 (right) chats with teammate Tucker Davis ’24 at the 2024 Model UN simulation.

Once at Lynchburg, Schatzman hit the ground running. She declared a major in intelligence studies and participated in the 2023 Model European Union. This past April, she led Lynchburg’s Model United Nations delegation, representing Sierra Leone, to an honorable mention — all while playing “mom” to her flu-stricken team.

“I consider it a success, considering I was also helping everyone battle the flu at the time,” she said, adding that she even helped another team. “I became friends with the Dutch delegation. One of their students came up and said, ‘I have a really bad headache, I’m not feeling good. Sorry, I don’t have anything with me.’

“I pulled out Nyquil and Dayquil and a snack and said, ‘Here you go.’”

The leadership skills Schatzman demonstrated as head delegate weren’t lost on Richards, the Model UN class instructor and chair of Lynchburg’s international relations and security studies program.

In fact, Richards credits Schatzman with much of the success of this year’s delegation. She took on the role “with gusto and really helped everyone have a great UN experience, despite a terrible cold virus that ripped through the delegation,” he said.

He added that she’s “the kind of student you wish you had a dozen of.”

Schatzman, who was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 9, also helped lead Lynchburg’s Neurodiverse Student Alliance, an affinity group for students who identify as neurodiverse or have other disabilities and for peers who wish to serve as allies.

“The club is such a wonderful and supportive group on campus,” Schatzman, the group’s co-president, said. “I’m so incredibly proud of how we’ve grown. There were five or six members attending at first and now we have 12 or 13.”

Being part of the group also benefited a research project Schatzman was doing for an internship with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, a U.S. government agency.

She presented her research, “Neurodiversity in the Intelligence Community,” at the 2023 Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference for Undergraduate Scholarship.

“I was working on that … before I went to the first meeting of the NDA,” she said. “I was able to pull quite a bit of good information from the students there and work it into that research.”

During her time at Lynchburg, Schatzman also interned as a data analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency.

With these internship experiences, Crim said, Schatzman “is already a far more experienced intelligence analyst than most people she will meet in her career.”

This week, Schatzman will graduate from Lynchburg with a bachelor’s degree in intelligence studies and a minor in international relations. In September, she’ll fly to Geneva, Switzerland, to start a master’s degree in international relations and diplomacy at the International Institute of Geneva.

After she finishes her master’s, Schatzman wants to be an intelligence analyst for the International Criminal Police Organization, or INTERPOL. She plans to apply for a two-year internship in the agency’s Leon, France, office.

While she initially thought about working for the U.S. government, Schatzman believes she can do more good with an international organization. “[INTERPOL] … focuses on human trafficking, drug rings … and all the stuff that spreads across borders,” she said.

“I would have the ability to help as many people as I could. That’s really my goal here: service.”

As for whether or not her disability will pose any challenges, Schatzman feels confident it will. But she hopes, with “the awareness being brought to neurodiversity and the steadily growing understanding of how it affects people’s lives so differently, I will have … support in the workplace.

“I had it at Lynchburg through various people. Everyone from my professors to [Director of the Center for Accessibility and Disability Resources] Julia Timmons have been incredibly understanding and helpful.

“I can only hope that the growing awareness of neurodiversity will continue to spread and increase and I’m going to do my best to be one of the people who works as an ambassador.”

Continue Reading