Incoming Redbird Sarah Sanders has already developed a worldly outlook and a passion for exploration.

Sanders left her town of Marion in Southern Illinois to study abroad as a Rotary youth exchange student in Arequipa, Peru, for her senior year of high school. 

“My experience there was life changing,” said Sanders. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Sanders found that her experience in Peru sparked many new interests within her. She developed an affinity for the culture and Spanish language. She also found her passion for teaching while in Peru, as she had the opportunity to teach Peruvian preschool students.

Therefore, it is fitting that the freshman’s selected major is Spanish teacher education. She was inspired to pursue her Spanish studies by her experience in Peru as well as the Spanish teachers that she had in high school.

“My teachers always encouraged me and really cultivated my desire to learn the language,” said Sanders. “They always gave me the help I needed, and it was obvious that they were passionate about what they taught. Eventually, their passion rubbed off on me.”

“I knew right away that I was meant to spend these four years of my life at ISU. I feel like my questions are always answered and I feel valued as an individual, despite how many other students there are.”—Sarah Sanders

At Marion High School, she participated in the choir and on the forensics team.

“Choir was definitely my favorite activity in high school,” said Sanders. “It really boosted my confidence and gave me purpose. Choir improved my skills as a musician and as a leader.”

High school may be over for Sanders, but her extracurricular involvement will continue into her next chapter at Illinois State University. Sanders is part one of the largest incoming Honors classes in university history. Through the Honors Program, she will have access to a wealth of opportunities, including specialized mentoring, travel, and academic partnerships with faculty members. 

Once she is settled in at Illinois State, Sanders plans to join a choir as well as the forensics team. Additionally, Sanders is interested in finding campus resources to improve her speech and acting skills.

“I want to get out of my comfort zone here and try new things,” said Sanders. “I want to learn something new about myself everyday.” 

From her first visit to campus, Sanders felt at home at Illinois State. “I knew right away that I was meant to spend these four years of my life at ISU,” said Sanders. “I feel like my questions are always answered and I feel valued as an individual, despite how many other students there are.”

While Sanders is ready to embrace all that college has to offer, she already has her sights on making an impact after graduation. As a Spanish teacher education major, Sanders ultimately wants to travel as a teacher. Her goal is to live in a Spanish-speaking country and teach English, but she is also interested in teaching Spanish at an international school. 

“I would love to go back to South America,” said Sanders. “I’m very interested in working on humanitarian efforts there as an educator.”

Sarah Sanders on campus

Sarah Sanders on campus

Sanders’ time in Peru provided her with takeaways that changed her view of the world. “My biggest takeaway was that the world is a big place, but also a small place,” said Sanders. “It’s big in the sense that there’s so much more out there in the world besides my small town or even the United States. However, it’s small in the sense that I got to meet people from all over the world and see our similarities.”

For Sanders, her Peru experience is just the beginning of her world travels.

“I want to see as much of the world as possible,” said Sanders. “I also want to impact the lives of as many students as I can.”

Sanders is the first of five new Redbirds we will feature on over the coming weeks.

Apply now for spring, summer, or fall 2020, or set up a visit to our campus.