So much of the study abroad experience centers on the initial stages — getting accepted to the right program, coordinating with advisors about classes, visas, packing, traveling, and arriving — but what happens when a student gets back stateside?
For many students, arriving home means trying to absorb their experience and find a place for it in their academic and professional narrative. The fall semester students who are our new Ambassador Student Advisors (ASAs) are penning that part of their story now. (And they are getting paid while they do it!)
What’s an Ambassador Student Advisor?
Carefully selected ASA students partner with IFSA staff to help oversee and guide the development of our Global Ambassador Program while advocating for study abroad on their own campuses. Each ASA oversees a cohort of 10-15 global ambassadors, and they are responsible for conducting virtual training sessions, providing advice for campus outreach, and guiding them through the requirements of the Global Ambassador program. It is a unique opportunity for them to mentor a group of peers on topics related to study abroad.
Each ASA also completes a capstone project that allows them to contribute a student voice on key initiatives and working groups within IFSA. Past students have participated in conversations surrounding race and ethnicity, financial aid and scholarships, the LGBTQ+ community, and experiential learning. Students hone their skills and their knowledge of international education by attending an Indianapolis-based training and workshop series and by receiving mentorship from IFSA employees.
“The training our ASAs receive in Indianapolis is integral to helping them better understand IFSA,” says Heather Gregg Reed, IFSA’s Director of Alumni Outreach. “At the heart of our organization is a strong commitment to students and unpacking the ways in which we achieve those commitments will not only help these program alumni become better mentors and leaders, it gives them a new vocabulary for understanding their own study abroad experiences as well.”
We chatted with three of the 2018 Fall ASAs about what it was like abroad, and why they are excited to tell other students about it.
Sindiso (Sindi) Mafico
- Skidmore College, Sociology major, International Affairs and Media & Film minors
- IFSA University of Sydney Partnership Sydney, Australia
“I’ve been an international student since I was 13, so I guess you could say I’ve been studying abroad since I was 13,” says Sindi Mafico. “I meet so many people who say that they are intimidated by studying in another country. I want people to know that you can only gain from it. It’s such an amazing opportunity, why not?”
Sydney gave her a new perspective on her studies in Sociology. She explains how in the U.S., most of her classes focus on three famous theorists. “There, it was about application of theory to your life, to current events, to what’s going on in the world today,” she says. “Not just in Australia, the whole world.
“I like the fact that study abroad encourages interculturalism, where you have a lot of cross cultural dialog,” says Mafico. “You get to meet people with completely different backgrounds who you would have never interacted with if you didn’t go to their space, go to their country, and embrace their culture.”
- Bates College, Politics major, Mathematics and Spanish minors
- Studied at the Argentine Universities Program Buenos Aires
“I wanted to study abroad because I wanted to be out of my comfort zone,” says Anna Setzer. “I’ve learned how much fun that can be and how you can grow as a person.”
Setzer pushed herself by volunteering with a local Jewish elementary school, teaching English to 6th graders. It allowed her to interact with Argentines that she wouldn’t have otherwise.
Another pivotal part of Setzer’s study abroad experience was wrestling with her own racial identity. She often found that people would ask where she was from and continue to press until she told them that she was from the U.S. but born in China. “It reflects the fact that I am still figuring out my identity,” says Setzer. “When people look at me they often make so many assumptions, which happens everywhere.”
It’s her hope that as a Global Ambassador she will be able to tell her story to those who are considering studying abroad. “I wanted to share my experience and learn from other students,” says Setzer. “I think you have to ask the right questions and have a listening ear.”
- University of Puget Sound, Computer Science major
- IFSA University of Otago Partnership Dunedin, New Zealand
Jake Redmond chose to spend most of his time with local students, and even joined a laser tag team while he was there.
“[Joining that team] was a big leap of faith,” says Redmond. “… I am a lot more open about trying new things and meeting new people now, because it worked out well once, who’s to say it won’t again.
“I definitely had a very good initial experience,” he continues. “It came at a good time for me. I needed something like that. I want to be able to pay it forward, so that those who had a good experience can get the most out of it.”
As a computer scientist, Redmond often works remotely with colleagues all over the world. He found that his time abroad made him more sensitive to cultural differences, time zone restrictions, and better work practices for a global field.
Ambassadors have a unique opportunity — one that gives them a platform to tell their story abroad and bring it into the context of their academic and professional future. We are pleased to welcome the 2018 ASAs and all the mentorship that they bring to other students.