By Kate Hoving
“Bear in mind that the measure of a man is the worth of the things he cares about.”
7.3, The Emperor’s Handbook by Marcus Aurelius
It is safe to say that “the path of least resistance” has no place in Carter Trousdale’s lexicon. Perseverance, enthusiasm, discipline and optimism all have permanent residence, though.
This talented young man might be called a Renaissance man — one minute explaining how to play the ukulele, the next, discussing the policy perils of Brexit — except his most characteristic qualities are very much rooted in the Classical age.
First hint? Trousdale would like to meet former Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis not as a resume-building experience, but “because we read the same things. I like stoicism and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, and he does, too!”
Trousdale ’20 began his William & Mary education in fall 2017 as a sophomore transfer student. However, in truth his journey here began long before, when he was 12 years old.
“The first time I heard of W&M was from my grandfather. He taught American history for more than 40 years, and he loves everything about U.S. history. We were reading a book together and came across William & Mary. So I looked it up and signed up to be on the admissions email list when I was 12. I got [the emails] for six years. But I had to wait a couple of years before enrolling.”
After high school, Trousdale received a full scholarship to McDaniel College, a small liberal arts school in Maryland, designing his own major in international entrepreneurship and business administration. But he never gave his hope to attend William & Mary, so when he was finally able to transfer, he did. Was the reality disappointing compared to his expectations? Not a chance.
“Honestly, it’s heaven on earth,” Trousdale replies. “I wake up every morning feeling grateful to be here.”
Heaven, perhaps, but Trousdale’s idea of heaven, which is a crucible of hard work, overcoming obstacles and infinite avenues for his curiosity.
“I wanted to be challenged,” Trousdale responds when asked why he ended up at William & Mary. “I love, love being challenged and here I’m challenged to grow by new ideas, conceptions, and perspectives — by other students in my classes and pretty everyone who opens their mouth and speaks here at W&M. It’s just an amazing environment.”
He always knew he wanted to study abroad. He has been so happy at William & Mary that he was sad to leave campus for a semester. Still, he had his vision of what he needed to do and stayed on track.
“When I was looking to study abroad, I wanted something that was new and different. Something that would challenge my preexisting beliefs and whatever conceptions I had about the world,” Trousdale explains. He goes on to qualify that. “But also somewhere where I could communicate effectively in a language that I love. I’d studied French in high school and college.”
He chose a semester program to Morocco to study the Arabic and French languages and Moroccan politics, history, and culture. It was managed by CIEE, a third-party program. Funding study abroad can seem to be an insurmountable obstacle, but with the help of the Global Education Office at Reves, Trousdale researched scholarships to fund his study abroad experience. He would need to demonstrate an excellent academic track record and potential.
Intelligence and reason … possess the nature and the will to surmount obstacles in their path. 10.33
Trousdale applied for the prestigious Robert M. & Rebecca W. Gates Scholarship. Donated by William & Mary Chancellor Robert M. Gates ’65, L.H.D. ’98 and his wife Rebecca, Gates Scholarships are merit-based awards for outstanding W&M students with a declared major in international relations, global studies or Africana studies. Awards are for semester and summer study abroad programs. First awarded in 2013, these scholarships are very competitive and require both an application essay and interview. He received $7,500 for the semester program, the maximum amount.
Next, he applied for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The Gilman Scholarship Program is a grant program administered by the State Department, and is open to undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university to participate in study and intern abroad programs worldwide. This is another very competitive scholarship for $5,000. As he was filling out the application, Trousdale noticed there was the possibility of an additional $3,000 Critical Language Study (CLS) grant, a government initiative to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages that are critical to national security and economic prosperity. “They said, ‘Oh, you’re studying Arabic! Tell us more!’”
He received both the Gilman and the CLS awards for an additional $8,000. He was on his way.
Be ready and welcome it when it is your turn to experience change. For there is nothing like it to heighten your sensibilities and elevate your mind. 10.12
Trousdale was the only William & Mary student on CIEE’s program based in Rabat, joining students from all over the United States. The semester was a mix of classroom study and travel. “I’d say out of those 16 weeks, we went on excursions during 12 of those weekends, so we visited all the major cities in the country.”
CIEE places students in homestays, and Trousdale lived with a family in a suburb about 45 minutes from downtown Rabat. He liked the energy and diversity in the capital, sensing it was a truer picture of life in Morocco than that of touristy places like Marrakesh or Casablanca. Although the home wasn’t downtown, “and it’s hard to get taxis into the city,” he made the most of his location. “What I loved was that I had a forest next door and a beach down the road. It was absolutely gorgeous,” he recounts. “I love walking and reading, so I’d put on my earbuds, go for a walk, and listen to books or read them on my Kindle at the beach. I probably read twenty books.” His booklist included lots of history — “history books are fun to me” — one favorite being Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari. “Wonderful. Wonderful book. Fascinating.”
The first two weeks in Morocco focused on intensive study of Darija, the Moroccan Arabic dialect that reflects Amazigh (Berber), Spanish and French influences. “My French was more useful than I’d thought,” Trousdale recalls. “When you take Arabic at school in the U.S., you generally study Modern Standard Arabic, which is very different. I was able to communicate well right away with locals using French. But I also really loved studying Darija.”
In addition to appreciating the linguistic legacies from French and other foreign influences, Trousdale was curious about the political and social vestiges of colonization. “A lot of Americans, when they arrive, assume that the effects of colonialism are universally reviled, that the Moroccans must hate the French and everything they did, but I found it was more complicated than that.” The attitudes varied from generation to generation and personal experience. While his contemporaries might be disaffected, their parents enthusiastically lauded the benefits of the transportation, electrical, telecommunications, linguistic, and economic infrastructure the French built.
Trousdale did observe that opportunities for young people are limited and not necessarily dependent on work or preparation. “The major problem [Moroccan] college students face was that, although they are super motivated, hardworking people, they can’t get jobs because there are few openly available jobs.” He attributes that lack of opportunity to what he witnessed as a system that operates largely on connections. By and large, “You’re not going to get a job unless you have an uncle working for the government.”
His experiences also reinforced to him how challenging truly effective foreign development aid is.
“You could have all the legal infrastructure in the world, all the funding in the world, but unless you have a way of implementing it directly to help the people you’re trying to help, if you filter it through any kind of system of bureaucracy within the country, the money’s not going to go to where you want to go.”
That said, he sees his future in international relations and management. “I would love to do management/public sector consulting. I would love to work for the defense/security agencies or in military contracting because I find that work both fascinating and crucial for the advancement and protection of our nation.” Upon graduation, he wants to work for a few years to gain some experience in and exposure to various industries, eventually looking to earn an MBA and JD.
He will be working at NATO this summer in Brussels through an internship with the State Department. “It’s the marriage of multilaterialism and security that I love about NATO and what drew me to the field of international relations in the first place,” he explains.
It will also give him a chance to attend the Women’s World Cup this summer in France. “I love women’s football and can’t wait to pop on over to France and watch the U.S. Women’s National Team.”
His love for women’s football, or soccer, stems from the 2015 Women’s World Cup. “I’m always listening to NPR when I’m driving at home (the car doesn’t have a CD player) and they were broadcasting a story about how the final was up in Canada and most of the seats were empty. So I started wondering: why aren’t people watching this? So I said, ‘O.K., I’m going to watch the final match and see how it is.’ It was the U.S. versus Japan in the final, and we scored four goals in the first twenty minutes. I thought, this is awesome! They’re not taking falls, they’re not acting out [like in men’s soccer]. They’re genuinely playing the game!”
Don’t fear the future. You will face it, if that is your fate, armed with the same reason that protects and guides you in the present. 7.8
Returning to William & Mary, in addition to his studies, Trousdale works at the W&M Raymond A. Mason School of Business’s Advancement, Development, and Alumni Relations office. “I love problem solving. I love fixing things. What I love is optimizing systems and processes not only for the project at hand but for long-term, so the next people, and the next people after them, can use the same system. That’s why management consulting is my dream career. It would just be so much fun!”
On campus, he is in the process of founding Spartan Club, which revolves around intense physical training and culminates in a Spartan Race, a three-mile obstacle course. “We’re creating a community of people who like doing hard things precisely because they’re hard — people who enjoy taking on challenges and overcoming them. Many students at William & Mary love this kind of thing — they’re out there — but they’re not connected. We want to bring people together from all disciplines and backgrounds into a community.” Every Sunday morning, between ten and thirty likeminded men and women push themselves past perceived limitations to truly become who they are.
They’re training for the Spartan Stadion at Nationals Park in D.C. on May 11. “We’re trying to get a William & Mary team together. It will not be easy, but that’s the point.” Trousdale relates with great enthusiasm what’s in store for them: “They have different types of races, but the entry-level ‘sprint’ is three miles and ten obstacles, none of which you know ahead of time. It could be carrying a giant stone, climbing a fifteen-foot wall, crawling under barbed wire, javelin throwing, just all kinds of stuff.”
It’s up to you! 1.17
In his essay for the Gates Scholarship application, Trousdale traced his interest in international relations from his experience at Hoffman Estates High School in Illinois. “I come from a town right outside of Chicago — it’s a very diverse area — and my high school was incredibly diverse, less than 30% Caucasian. It was an amazing place, my teachers were wonderful, and my friends came from all over the world. In the halls, you’d hear conversations in Arabic, Urdu, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Telugu, Turkish, Gujarati, Spanish, etc. So I learned how to say, ‘Hi, how ya’ doing?’ in ten languages, because, as Nelson Mandela once said, ‘if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’”
His experience at school inspired him. “I saw how the world could be, a world where people of all backgrounds can appreciate each other’s cultures and work together to achieve even greater financial, economic, and socio-political victories,” he says. “Because we’re all in the same boat. We’re all humans just trying to make our way in the world. We really don’t need to fight over anything. If we just work together we can accomplish truly amazing things.”
Trousdale was able to meet Chancellor and Mrs. Gates at the Plumeri House over Charter Day weekend, to thank them for his scholarship. “He’s been my role model for so many years. I’ve read all his books. I love what he stands for and what he’s done.” He cites A Passion for Leadership, which he read just last year, as being especially meaningful for him.
Said Trousdale of Gates, “This is the kind of leader we need, this type of thinking is the way the country should be run. And we need a generation of people who can carry that out now.”
Carter Trousdale, it’s up to you.
Quotes are from The Emperor’s Handbook by Marcus Aurelius. A new translation of The Meditations by C. Scot Hicks and David V. Hicks, Scribner, 2002