Undergraduate institution: Lebanon Valley College
Undergraduate major and minor: Global Studies and Politics
Graduate studies (year, institution, degree): 2018, George Washington University, MA in International Education
What have you been up to since attending Umbra?
I attended Umbra during the spring semester of my sophomore year and since then, I have been busy doing many different things! When I returned home from Perugia, I returned to Lebanon Valley for my last two years. While there, I was extremely involved in the campus community. I served as President of a club, and honor society, and vice president of the dance team as well as other campus activities. I also interned in the Center for Global Education and the Office of Admissions. Academically, I began to narrow my interests by taking many European-focused international relations classes, and continuing to study Italian. Ultimately, I graduated in May of 2016 with a B.A. in Global Studies and a B.A. in Politics. After graduation, I moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue a Master’s Degree in International Education with a concentration in international higher education.
How has studying abroad impacted your life both personally and professionally?
I truly mean when I say that studying abroad changed my life. From a very young age, I knew I was interested in different cultures, languages, and countries, but I was never able to articulate that into a career. I was an education major at the beginning of college, and while I wanted to be in the education field, teaching was not necessarily my passion. Studying abroad completely opened my eyes to the field of international education. The entire process and experience introduced me to new careers that I did not even know existed. My semester at Umbra allowed me to realize that I am passionate about the education field in an international exchange context. In fact, the day I returned home, I changed my major to Global Studies and Politics, to pursue my dream. From there, I used the lessons and experiences I learned abroad to shape my future. I became more involved with the international community at my college, and even had the opportunity to intern in the Center for Global Education. I credit my time in Perugia with helping me to discover my future career. Now, I am pursuing a graduate degree in International Education hoping to impact the lives of other college students — both American and International. Studying abroad taught me that I can overcome any situation I am faced, and allowed me to grow exponentially as a person. It is hard for me to put into words just how much of an impact studying abroad has had on my life. It allowed me to realize my passion, taught me to be fearless, and gave me the opportunity to expand my horizons in ways I did not even believe was possible.
What are you doing now?
Currently, I am pursuing a M.A. in International Education, and working full-time as Coordinator of the WIN in the USA Program at the International Center for Language Studies in Washington, D.C. The WIN in the USA Program is a J-1 Designated Sponsor Program in the Intern and Trainee Category. Everyday, I get to work with students and recent graduates from around the world who are coming to United States to complete internships. I help coordinate all aspects of the program, including planning orientations, working with visas, and assisting future participants. It has been a great experience so far because I am able to combine all my passions, goals, and aspirations into one job. I was recently elected as the Vice President of Social Activities on the Executive Board of the Graduate School of Human, Education, and Development’s Student Association at GW. I am really excited to get more involved with the school next year, and hope to participate in short-term study abroad programs to Cuba and Japan in the fall and spring.
Are you still in touch with the friends you made in Perugia?
The cool thing about the friends you make while abroad is that you will always be bonded with them. While we certainly do not talk every day, I am still “friends” with them on social media, and it is great to see what everyone is up to. In fact, every few months someone will write in our Facebook group talking about a trip they are taking or some experience they had. The people that I met in Perugia contributed to my amazing experience, and for that, I will be forever grateful.
What is one piece of advice you would give to prospective students thinking of studying abroad?
There are so many pieces of advice I could give to prospective students abroad, but I think the biggest one is to go for it. I entered college knowing that I wanted to study abroad, but that did not stop me from being nervous, afraid, and worried about the future. I do not think it became real until I was officially accepted into Umbra. Getting that email put everything into perspective and suddenly my fears started creeping up. I began to worry especially about the fear of missing out with things that were happening back home. Some of my fears were probably irrational such as thinking that my friends would forget my name while abroad, but others were real and scary. I can see how those fears can easily deter someone from studying abroad, but that is my biggest advice – do not let it. Jump in with two feet, and do it because it will be the most amazing experience of your life.
What is one piece of advice you would give to students studying abroad (during or after their experience)?While studying abroad, there are two main pieces of advice I would give. First, travel as much as possible! My roommates and I wanted to take full advantage of traveling, so we ended up going to 7 different countries and countless Italian cities, but there were still places I wanted to go to. You may never be spending 4 months living in Europe again so take advantage of the transportation system there, and explore the continent. Of course spend weekends in Perugia, too, but go out and explore. The second piece of advice would be to keep a journal. Journaling was something I did every day for the first month, but then I stopped. Looking back on it now, I wish I would have kept up with it. I read my journal the other day, and it details my experiences as they are happening bringing back feelings and emotions. Even though it might seem like a small thing, you will really thank yourself later to be able to look back at all of those memories again. Oh and also, enjoy every moment of it! It goes by so fast!