I always wanted to study abroad, even before i knew what college i was going to attend.
Growing up, Katarina Eller ’11 heard her mother, Karen Haas ’78, talk of studying overseas and dreamt of the day she could do the same. “I always wanted to study abroad, even before I knew what college I was going to attend,” she reflects.
As a German and Spanish double major at Elizabethtown, Katarina lived her dream, enrolling in BCA Study Abroad’s program at Universidad Veracruzana in Xalapa, Mexico, in the fall semester of her junior year and at Philipps University in Marburg, Germany, in the spring semester. During her adventures, she enjoyed classes, explored the cities’ culture, and practiced her language skills with locals. “It was a little intimidating at first. But at some point, it just clicked. Unfortunately, a semester in one country just isn’t long enough,” Katarina recalls wistfully.
Language, though, was not the only challenge the Elizabethtown student had to face. From birth, Katarina’s vision has been impaired by retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a potentially blinding eye disorder. “My eyes are a bit like magnifying glasses. I can see very well close up, but cannot see very far in front of me,” she explains.
Instead of being constrained by ROP, Katarina has sought assistance in reaching her goals throughout her college experience. Through the Office of Disability Services, she’s been able to access the Kurzweil Program, which converts text to audio, to alleviate some of the strain of extensive college reading. And on her journeys abroad, local BCA directors and others guided her on personal tours through the foreign cities, to familiarize Katarina with the terrain.
On her own overseas, she found an independent lifestyle not complicated by her vision. “I didn’t have to rely on anybody to get around,” she reflects about the cities, with their readily available public transportation and easily traversed streets. “I could walk everywhere or take the bus or train. It was easy to explore the culture and exciting to be independent.”
After graduation, Katarina, who is undaunted about pursuing life to the fullest, hopes to complete two years of service overseas with the Peace Corps or Brethren Volunteer Service. She believes this first step on her career path—“being able to travel, gain experience and help people”—will equip her for a life of service as an interpreter in a school or hospital setting.