Alumna encourages students to study abroad

After studying in Japan as a college student, accepting a marriage proposal at Machu Picchu in Peru and traveling across the Serengeti Desert, Tracy Williams is back for her fifth year assisting TCU students with their study abroad plans.Williams, the assistant director of the Center for International Education, said she may have a love for travel, but her greatest passion is to share this love with students.

“My dream for the last 10 years has been to educate people about cultural differences,” Williams said. “We can’t achieve the next level of humanity-peace and understanding-without respect for other people and cultures.”

Williams was born in Kearney, Neb. She took her first chance to go abroad in high school by studying in Belgium for a year.

She graduated from TCU in 1996 with a degree in French and Japanese and a year of studies in Japan under her belt.

After graduation, Williams lived in France for a year, where she said she decided to return to the United States in order to improve the experience of college students studying abroad.

She taught an adult class in 1998 about international travel at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. There she met her future husband, Andy Williams, a railroad lobbyist and fellow lover of traveling.

“I attended her lecture and was blown away by her enthusiasm about international affairs and her ability to connect with the people she was lecturing,” he said.

While she was teaching the class in Missouri, Williams received calls from the TCU International Education office to see if she was interested in replacing Delia Pitts, the director of the study abroad programs, who was retiring.

“To be honest, at first I was reluctant to fill this position,” Williams said.

She said she loved her teaching job, wanted to stay near her family and was nervous about the move’s impact on her new relationship.

After a second call from Pitts encouraging her to apply, Williams agreed to accept the coordinating position at TCU.

“My husband said he was willing to follow me to exotic places, but he’d settle for Texas as well,” Williams joked.

She said she loved being at TCU as a student and saw the school was supportive of improving study abroad programs, which made the position more appealing.

“This is my job because college students are at such a critical age for travel – they are mature enough to understand and appreciate a different culture and young enough for it to make a profound impact and change their life,” she said.

Williams comes from a line of educators, including her father, a former professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, so a position that allows her to work with students fits her perfectly, Andy Williams said.

Susan Layne, Williams’ colleague and the coordinator for the TCU London Centre, said traveling is in Tracy’s blood – it’s not just her job description but also her personal interest.

“Her job is the way she lives her life,” Layne said.

Williams described the impact traveling has had on her life. She said such experiences as seeing lions in their natural habitat in Africa “makes you feel privileged to be a part of this world.”

Andy Williams said it’s her sharp instincts and hard work that has enabled her to positively impact the students she works with.

“And don’t forget her enthusiasm,” he said. “It can inspire anyone.”

Junior Adam Gamwell worked with Williams before he studied in Peru last summer.

“She’s passionate about her job,” Gamwell, an anthropology and religion major, said. “She wants to help people see the world like she has. She wants to share with students the importance of getting across borders.”

Williams said her position has allowed her to begin to fulfill that dream.

“I want students to gain the same knowledge I have of the beauty and depth that this world has, that its people have,” she said.

By sharing her knowledge and experience with TCU students and encouraging them to study abroad, Williams said, “I have begun to make a small dent in this dream.