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Alumni Spotlight: Lydia Hickman (’07)

June 9, 2017 / Catherine Nicholas / Blog

After graduating from VCU, Lydia Hickman (Class of 2007) spent two years in Shanghai teaching English. She then worked as a high school English teaching assistant in Paris, after which she enrolled in a master’s program at Paris Descartes University. An internship for that master’s led her to Dakar, Senegal.

In Dakar, Lydia helped create Social Change Factory, a civic leadership center that creates and implements programs designed to involve youth in community development while nurturing leadership and social responsibility. On SCF’s televised competition, Voix des Jeunes, teams representing universities and business schools from around Senegal propose researched solutions to development challenges related to a variety of themes such as agriculture, gender issues or education. As Project Coordinator, Lydia oversees the program’s execution in Senegal as well as in Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire where the project has expanded.

What does Lydia love about Senegal?  “The country is at a somewhat exciting stage in its development where there is so much to do and create . . . In Senegal everyone has a project of some sort.”  Lydia speaks and works primarily in French.  “People are often impressed to meet an American that speaks a second language,” she says. “We don’t have the best reputation abroad concerning our interest in cultures and languages besides our own. They’re even more surprised to learn that I went to a high school that required me to study two languages. I guess I am actually pretty proud to share that information with them and show that at a small Governor’s school in little ol’ Richmond, Virginia, students are doing exceptional things contrary to the negative stereotypes the world attributes to us in the US.”

Her advice for current students: “Think internationally. There is a large world out there filled with people doing incredible things. Take your language classes seriously. Learn as many as you can. The opportunities that speaking another language can offer you truly are endless…. Study abroad or take a gap year to travel as soon as you can. I cannot put into words all that I’ve learned out there living and experiencing the beautiful and diverse peoples and cultures of our world.”

“Also, talk to alumni . . . We know things and we’ve experienced things, probably much of what you hope to someday learn and experience. We’re all bonded by the unique experience of being a green dragon. Reach out to some of us and take advantage of that enormous resource.”

This profile originally ran in our 2015-16 Annual Report.

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