A study abroad experience with a lasting impact

Author: Omar Dedovic

Last Updated:

Category: Featured

A study abroad trip to Japan led Kelly Lewallen Railey (’96) to a five-year stay in the country post-graduation, along with a position at a major Japanese manufacturer upon her return to the States.

Graduating with a degree in international studies and a minor in French, Kelly was deeply involved in campus life as an active member of Chi Omega, a Brock Scholar and a participant of the Student Alumni Association. During the spring semester of her junior year, Kelly embarked on an incredible journey across the Pacific Ocean to Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan.

With no established relationships with any higher education institutes in Japan at the time, Dr. Richard Rice, Professor Emeritus – UTC Department of History, was instrumental in helping Kelly pursue her interest in Japanese culture and language. While living in Tokyo, Kelly attended class in the daytime and taught English in the evenings to help cover her room and board.

Upon receiving her undergraduate degree from UTC, she set her sights yet again on Japan. “Immediately following graduation, I moved to Yamanashi prefecture, Japan, where I taught English for five years at a Japanese high school and state university,” Kelly shares. “This opportunity led to my employment with the Ministry of Education, which then prepared me for my work at Suzuki.”

Yet, Kelly resumed her passion for education pursuing her graduate degree in elementary education from Berry College in 2013. For the past decade, she has served as a cherished first-grade teacher at Trion Elementary School in Trion, Georgia where she integrates her rich international experiences into the classroom, fostering a love for global understanding among her students.

Reflecting on her time at UTC, Kelly credits the Center for Global Education for shaping her career path. “I think my overseas experiences have helped shape me into the person I am today. Although I am no longer working in an international capacity, I gained valuable experience from studying, living and working in several different countries.”

Her advice to students considering studying abroad is, “Go for it! This may be the only chance you have to pursue this opportunity, so take full advantage of it! The world is your sandbox!”