Alumni Spotlight: Deyontavis Williams-Hightower


Deyontavis majors in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing at Knox College. His go to dance move features traditional step dancing performed by many African Americans.

Why did you pick this program?

The Dublin Writer's program was new and a great opportunity for me to go abroad while tending to my major. With a lot of encouragement from family and the staff at the IES Center for global studies, I received help in picking out the best program for me. Dublin was safe, lively, had a different atmosphere, full of culture and history, and had wonderful people who greeted and supported me while I was there.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

I strongly encourage them to do it. Study abroad is a great privilege and for many, like myself, possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity. Getting the chance to study in a new environment for some many months is worthwhile. It's not only a time to be a student but a traveler and a student who networks because you'll be meeting so many people to help you down the road in your life and career.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

There's a lot of advice to give but one that I feel is important is to come with an open mind. You're not going to be close to family back home because you'll be with a new family. You'll be independent, learn to travel, absorb thing in the culture that you've never thought about, see things most people only dreamed of seeing, and standing in places you might not ever see again. Keep all your possibilities open and take advantage of them.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

Even though I studied in Dublin, Ireland there was a moment during spring break where I was the only student out of 45 in the program to visit Rome for 4 days. The only things I carried with me were a bag of clothes, a laptop, and a journal.

On the first day I came into the airport, I took public transportation, met a woman who guided me through the subway, the streets or Rome, the buildings of mixed hotels and hostels, towards my hostel and after 90 minutes to 2 hours in that trip, we did not understand each other. I had a guardian angel guide me through Rome on my first day there and the only conversation we had was exchanging our names. I did not speak the language even though I loved the culture, had a printed out map with little understanding of the directions, and I didn't have a working phone. My internet could only be used when I got to my hostel, or while I remained in the airport and I relied on knowledge of coming to Ireland for the first time to help me on my travels to Rome.

I tell this story to everyone to show that studying abroad gave me the chance to meet people, to go places, even though I was lost, and still have fun and be surprised by the unexpected.

What is the food like and what if I don't like it?

That's the most common question I get when talking about studying abroad. Don't be troubled by what the food is like and be open to trying new things. Restaurants, grocery shopping, homemade meals if you're with a family host, they'll all good times to try something new for once. You'll never go hungry because good food is always available and sometimes favorite foods are there as well. Don't immediately default to eating food that's familiar, try the food and say you tried it, whether one time or not, because food is only have the experience of the journey.