Natasha Levanti, '12
Immersion in another culture led to research on international leadership and equality and plans for graduate school overseas
April 26, 2012
Studying abroad in Denmark changed everything for Natasha Levanti, ’12.
She was able to learn a new language, conduct research on international leadership and equality, interview members of the Danish Parliament and plan her future.
“I’m from a small town in Florida and I liked the small community feel of Richmond, but I knew when I came here that I wanted to study abroad,” says Levanti, who spent her junior year abroad. “Scholarships and financial aid made that possible."
While she was in Denmark, one of her professors told her to think about how she could use the resources available to her. She spent the year conducting interviews with members of the Danish Parliament for her honors thesis in leadership studies.
“I asked if he thought it would be possible for me to talk to them in person rather than just read about their perspectives,” she says. “He made a couple of calls to his friends in Parliament and a friend in academia and set up the interviews.”
Some of the leaders required her to answer a few questions in Danish before she interviewed them. She had no trouble doing so thanks to her Danish language classes.
After spending her senior year on campus working with her thesis adviser, Dr. Joanne Ciulla, to fine-tune the questions, she went back to the country during winter break to conduct more interviews.
Levanti has spent the better part of her senior year “trying to understand the perception of equality in Danish society and how leaders view themselves within their society and in relation to citizens.
“The leaders there like to blend in. They don’t wear suits or ties, and they pull up on their bikes. You can’t tell that they’re any different from the average citizen. They really have a deep-seated view of equality.”
The research “is how both of my majors started coming together,” says Levanti, a double major in leadership studies and international studies. “They’re a good pairing and I think they really complement each other.”
She received the Fredric M. Jablin Award for Undergraduate Research prior to her senior year to assist her financially.
After graduation, Levanti plans to pursue a master’s degree in European public affairs in the Netherlands. After that, “I know I want to work abroad either in politics or business,” she says. “I know I eventually want to get a Ph.D. and continue doing this type of research.”
When she graduates this year, she will do so with her host family from Denmark in attendance. Levanti says she feels like she expanded her family – another way studying abroad changed her life.
“They taped a piece of paper to the top of my Christmas present saying that they were going to come for graduation,” she says. “After graduation, they’re going to Florida to meet my family.”