Alumni

Meet the AIFS Alumni Ambassadors

Introducing the current AIFS Alumni Ambassadors! These students recently studied abroad with AIFS and are back on campus sharing their experiences and talking to students who are considering study abroad.

If you would like to contact one of the Ambassadors to talk about studying abroad, please email alumni@aifs.com.

Meet Last Year's AIFS Ambassadors

A I F S ambassador Molly Dexter
  • Molly Dexter
  • Point Loma Nazarene University
  • Stellenbosch, South Africa
  • Fall 2016

I am Molly Dexter, a senior at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. I am currently studying Political Science and International Development. I love hiking with my two dogs, rollerblading, reading, and of course traveling. Getting to live in South Africa for 5 months was a dream come true. I made some amazing American and South African friends and was able to learn and experience South Africa’s culture. I went into it open minded, not knowing what to expect, and I came back with knowledge about so many injustices; not only in South Africa, but all over the world, including the U.S. It was perhaps the most influential time in my life and helped me find what field of work I want to pursue. Not to mention how much fun it was and the absolutely crazy adventures I went on, like shark cage diving in the great white shark capital of the world. It’s funny but sometimes I find myself using the lingo in situations that end up being a bit awkward. I’ll occasionally ask for tomato sauce (what South Africans call Ketchup) and I get really questionable looks from waiters. My experiences helped me gain confidence to travel alone and be much more willing to engage and connect with strangers. I hope that as an AIFS Alumni Ambassador I can help others experience amazing cultures and learn more about themselves and others.

A I F S ambassador Sara Whitman
  • Sara Whitman
  • Hofstra University
  • Perth, Australia
  • Spring 2017

I am a senior at Hofstra University, majoring in journalism with minors in public relations, rhetorical studies and integrated media. On campus, I am a member of Phi Sigma Sigma, the Pre-professional Fraternity in the Arts and Sciences of Communications Zeta Phi Eta and my school’s radio and television stations. I have always been in love with falling in love with new places, and I am beyond thankful I had enough leeway in my degree to allow me to study abroad in the place I had always dreamed of visiting: Australia. Murdoch University and AIFS planned incredible trips for study abroad and exchange students that took me up and down the whole coast of Western Australia. I was also lucky enough to also visit Sydney, Cairns and New Zealand. I am super proud of myself for planning and executing a trip to Thailand with my friends at the end of the semester. Studying abroad has allowed me to live my dream of travelling as well as truly reflect on myself as an individual, for which I am forever grateful. Something I live by, which has been cemented in me after my abroad experience, is to always remember where I come from, but to never forget where I have been.

A I F S ambassador Nicole Remus
  • Nicole Remus
  • Minnesota State University, Mankato
  • Perth, Australia
  • Spring 2017

Hey everyone! My name is Nicole Remus and I am a junior at Minnesota State University, Mankato. I got the exciting opportunity to study abroad for a semester in Perth, Australia. It even started with a crazy week of classes in Fiji, where we had an amazing host family to show us around. Since I am still undecided in my major, I have currently been completing my general education courses and was able to do so abroad. There was never a dull moment during my semester in Australia. I got to explore the outback, Fiji and the East coast, snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, and even go to Bali! I was able to do all of this and so much more with all the amazing friends I made! I made so many amazing memories with so many awesome people. The quote “life is short, and the world is wide,” always helped me remember to stay present in the moment and enjoy every second. My time abroad has helped grow me as a person in numerous ways and I want to help encourage people to study abroad as an AIFS ambassador!

A I F S ambassador Erin Cummiskey
  • Erin Cummiskey
  • University of Puget Sound
  • Salzburg, Austria
  • Spring 2017

I’m from a small gold-mining town in Northern California and, after deciding I could use some more rain, am now working towards a psychology degree at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. By the good graces of my school, I was able to study abroad in Salzburg, Austria during spring semester where I caught the travel bug and became excited to see even more. I have recently had eight of my poems published in literary journals nationwide and hope to put out a collection in the near future. During the summers, I work at a nonprofit domestic violence and sexual assault organization in my hometown, and during the school year I make pizzas, participate in the film/media production and women’s intersectionality clubs on campus, am a DJ for an 80s New Wave radio show, and am a board member for my university’s chapter of Psi Chi International Honor Society. My passions are acting, crocheting blankets, and watching The Office over and over again.

“Twenty years from now you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

A I F S ambassador William (Billy) Mayer
  • William (Billy) Mayer
  • Siena College
  • Viña del Mar, Chile
  • Spring 2017

Hola a todos! My name is Billy, and I am a senior Political Science and Spanish double major with a minor in international studies and a double certificate in Latin American Studies and Community Development (it’s a mouth-full, I know). In the Spring of 2017, I studied abroad in Viña del Mar, Chile at Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez. Even though it is so difficult for me to describe this amazing experience in words, one good way to describe it is through a joke that my study abroad friends and I always say to each other. We say “I peaked in Chile.” By this, we just mean that we really feel as though our experience in Chile was one of the best experiences we’ll have in our lifetime. For me, I met some of my best friends, made connections and lived with a wonderful host family, got so close to my AIFS coordinator and got to know dozens of beautiful places all throughout Chile and neighboring countries. I enjoyed my experience in Chile so much that I extended my semester an additional three weeks to travel around South America, only missing three countries until I’ve been to every country in South America! My study abroad experience combined with this travel experience actually changed my favorite quote to one you see above. I realized that people of the world, and especially of different countries, live in such diverse and different ways, but we’re all connected by something. For this reason, I learned that the best way to discover that thing and get to know all cultures the most is to live life a little crazy, and if people think you’re crazy long the way, so be it! Anyway, as an AIFS ambassador, I look forward to sharing my study abroad experience and helping others enjoy as much as I did! Salud and Chao!

“Hay un cierto placer en la locura, que solo la locura conoce”/“There is a certain pleasure in madness, that only the mad know”

A I F S ambassador Courtney Cooper
  • Courtney Cooper
  • University of South Carolina
  • San José, Costa Rica
  • Fall 2016

Hi! My name is Courtney Cooper and I am a rising senior at the University of South Carolina but I am originally from California. I am a Public Health major with a dance minor and am planning to get my Masters in Public Health in the future. I studied abroad in the beautiful country of Costa Rica in the Fall of 2016. I saw sloths, crazy looking fruits, and more monkeys than I’ve ever seen in my life. I am involved in a student organization that promotes sustainability on my home campus, so I was interested in going to a country that is mindful about the environment. Additionally, I love studying Spanish, so being able to totally immerse myself in that language was really exciting for me! I had an absolutely amazing time traveling around to all the corners of the country; watching sea turtles hatch, eating the best mango I have ever had, exploring natural hot springs, zip lining through the rainforest, and spending time with an incredible host family. However, I did not realize the impact being abroad had on me until I returned to the U.S. It completely changed how I handle frustrations in my life. Instead of viewing them as a totally negative experience, I try to look at the more difficult parts of life as learning opportunities. I couldn’t have done it without the AIFS staff- they were helpful, encouraging, and pushed us to explore. They truly gave us the tools we needed to succeed abroad and I could not be more grateful for my experience. I am very excited to be part of the Alumni Ambassador Program and give back to an organization that gave me so much!

A I F S ambassador Zsa’mine Hopkins
  • Zsa’mine Hopkins
  • Howard University
  • San José, Costa Rica
  • Spring 2017

Hello my name is Zsa’mine Hopkins,I’m a senior Political Science major, Spanish minor from California. I attend Howard University in Washington DC and was able to take part in the experience of a lifetime, living where most only vacation. I STUDIED ABROAD IN COSTA RICA!! Now I’m kind of obsessed with everything foreign language and am hoping traveling the rest of the world happens sooner rather than later. I’m also giving the vegetarian life a try and appreciating art along the way. I’m all about self empowerment and got a tattoo while abroad to reiterate that; Song of Solomon 4:7 “you are altogether beautiful my darling there is no flaw in you.”

A I F S ambassador Rachel Blanco
  • Rachel Blanco
  • The College of William and Mary
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Fall 2016

Ahoj! My name is Rachel Blanco and I am a senior at the College of William and Mary, where I study history and sociology. I spent fall semester of my junior year studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic. My time abroad taught me so much about my own culture and perspective, and it really threw me out of my comfort zone. There is truly nothing that compares to the experience of traveling to a new country/city every weekend, learning first-hand about your resident country’s culture each day, and studying the history of a place while living in it. I wouldn’t trade my experience abroad for the world, and I became an AIFS Alumni Ambassador to help encourage others to experience it for themselves. My best argument for why it’s important to go abroad is a Neale Donald Walsch quote that came to be my motto while I was in Europe and has stuck with me since: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

A I F S ambassador Nadia Hucko
  • Nadia Hucko
  • University of Vermont
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Spring 2017

Dobry den! My name is Nadia Hucko and I am currently a senior at the University of Vermont. There, I major in public communications and minor in consumer advertising. For my spring 2017 semester, I was fortunate enough to be able to study abroad in Prague at the University of Economics. Since entering my freshman year of college, I knew studying abroad was something I wanted to do. Being in Prague was the most incredible adventure I’ve ever done. Since Prague is in Central Europe, I was able to visit 13 countries and 21 cities in just four short months. Being away from home for such a long time was tough at times but the friends you make along the way make it much, much better. The people you met end up becoming some of your best friends because you are all constantly together experiencing the same new and exciting things. Being from Boston, I ended up watching the Patriots win their fifth Super Bowl at 5:00AM with people I just met days before. Becoming an AIFS Alumni Ambassador will give me the opportunity to relive other students dreams of studying abroad and allow them to make the absolute most out of their experience.

“If European cities were a necklace, Prague would be a diamond among the pearls.” -Anonymous

A I F S ambassador Jake Walkinshaw
  • Jake Walkinshaw
  • University of Rhode Island
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Academic Year 2016/17

Dobry Den! My name is Jake and I am a senior at the University of Rhode Island majoring in history and political science with a focus in international relations. I studied abroad the fall and spring semesters of 2016/2017 during my junior year at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. Spending the whole year abroad really helped strengthen my independence and my understanding of different cultures and ways of thinking, and it is something that I will take with me for the rest of my life. My time in Prague as well as traveling around Central Europe gave me the opportunity the explore a part of the world that I have never been to before and has motivated me to go out an explore more parts of our world. Throughout my time abroad I have met the greatest people, made the best of friends, ate the outrageous food that is Central European cuisine, drank the best beer (yes, Czech beer is the best), and visited beautiful cities. After spending a year in a country that I have never been to before I have started to consider Prague my home, and I will truly miss it. I hope with being an AIFS Alumni Ambassador I will be able to share what I have learned throughout my study abroad experience and share it with other people so that they will be motivated to explore more of this world! Ahoj! Nashledanou!

A I F S ambassador Rachel Larson
  • Rachel Larson
  • University of Minnesota Duluth
  • London, England
  • Spring 2017

Hello! My name is Rachel Larson and I will be a senior this year at the University of Minnesota Duluth with a communications major and international studies minor. My whole life had led up to me studying abroad last semester (Spring 2017). Even though I was well prepared and thought I had everything under control, my experience wasn’t the best. I struggled harder than I ever thought possible. I almost bought a plane ticket home several times. But the AIFS staff was beyond wonderful, they kept telling me to try one more week, one more week. I quickly discovered Hyde Park to be a place where I could go to escape and think, I walked a lot (10 miles a day) to discover new corners of the city, met some amazing locals, and I eventually got more comfortable. All of a sudden it was May and I completed the program. I found my two close friends and stayed within the United Kingdom. But I did it. I didn’t let my anxiety keep me from living my dreams. I am excited to be working with AIFS and encouraging other students to take these opportunities of a lifetime, but be aware of everything that may happen. It isn’t as much of a cookie cutter experience that others make it seem on their social media. But it is an experience like no other where you can learn things about yourself and the world that you can’t back home. See where the world will take you. Cheers!

A I F S ambassador Nick Peterson
  • Nick Peterson
  • University of St. Thomas
  • London, England
  • Spring 2017

Ello Gub! My name is Nick Peterson and I’ll be a senior at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN where I am majoring in Marketing. I studied abroad in London in the spring of 2017 where I also traveled to many other places during my four months in Europe. Living independently abroad for a whole semester was a once in a lifetime experience where I was always learning, adjusting, and trying new things. Studying abroad also introduced me to some incredible friends who I was beyond grateful to have met and experience the adventure of being college students in Europe. I am excited to share my story of studying abroad to help others realize that they should take the chance and just go for it! It’s very cool, very European!

A I F S ambassador Keely Fickau
  • Keely Fickau
  • Marymount Manhattan College
  • London, England
  • January Term 2017

Aloha! I’m Keely Fickau. I’m studying Communications with minor in dance and journalism at Marymount Manhattan College and I am a senior. I was raised in Hershey PA and moved to New York City, at the age of 18 years old. I’ve been lucky enough to work with incoming freshman and transfer students as a peer leader. I’m excited to be able to work with all students who are interested to study abroad. My interests and passions live through dancing at Broadway Dance Center, eating the most craziest desserts that can only be found in New York City and watching new and old TV shows on Netflix with my boyfriend. My motto that I live by is “It’s cool to be kind. It’s cool to be weird. It’s cool to be honest and to be secure with yourself.” - Sophia Amoruso, #GIRLBOSS

A I F S ambassador Mikayla Lawrence
  • Mikayla Lawrence
  • Western Washington University
  • London, England
  • Spring 2017

Hey there! I'm Mikayla, and I'm headed into my senior year at Western Washington University after an amazing semester in London, England. I'm an avid reader, writer and traveler, so the U.K. was my perfect temporary home! There, I met some of my best friends, visited places I will never forget, and learned that registering for Friday classes was a really bad idea. I'm more independent, confident and ambitious, and I can't thank AIFS enough for the opportunity to grow like that – which is why it's so important to me to help others find that same experience. In typical literature-student fashion, I truly believe that the world is a book, and those who do not travel only read one page. I can't wait to hop on another plane, but I wouldn't want to spend my time in the States any other way than helping others do just that (and living vicariously through you, obviously). Cheers, everyone!

A I F S ambassador Danielle Pantano
  • Danielle Pantano
  • Florida Atlantic University
  • London, England
  • Spring 2016

Hiya! I’m Danielle, a senior Marketing student at FAU in sunny south Florida. During the spring semester of my sophomore year I left home for my semester abroad in London, England. Ever since I can remember I have dreamed of living in England, London in particular, and that spring my dream became a reality. For the past eleven summers I have been surrounded by international staff , mostly from England. They all come over on a program with Camp America to work and live in camps across the United States for the summer. It just so happened, that the camp that I attended, and now work at, was a part of this program. In being surrounded by all these people, and hearing their stories, I knew that I had to cross the pond at some point in my life. My semester abroad was more than I could have imagined. It taught me a lot about myself and the people around me. It taught me to live outside my comfort zone and experience life in a way that I didn’t think I would ever get to. I made new friends and new memories that will stay with me for a lifetime. Everything they tell you about travel and study abroad is truer than I can tell you and if you are wondering whether you should study abroad, the answer is why haven’t you already?

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” - Saint Augustine

A I F S ambassador Peter Kivuva
  • Peter Kivuva
  • University of South Florida
  • London, England
  • Spring 2017

Welcome to a glimpse of my life! My name is Peter and I am a senior at the University of South Florida who is months away from finishing a Bachelor’s degree in Finance. The quote you read above was a text that I received from my best friend while sitting at the airport on my way to what would be the semester that would change my entire life. I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to study abroad during my college years. I’d heard of all the benefits from it: introspective growth, financial independence, advantages in career opportunities, new friendships all across the globe, etc. I planned to study abroad during the latter of my sophomore year (Spring 2016) and was devastated when it didn’t happen due to financial reasons. I spent the entirety of 2016 making sure not to squander this dream by gradually preparing for Spring 2017. With the aid of several scholarships, I was able to fund my entire study abroad semester and even had some extra cash to spend while abroad. I maintained a blog throughout the semester so that when I get old, I can look back on the experiences I had in Europe with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met. As you can imagine, there shouldn’t be sand dunes in England like the ones you see in that photo above of me in the Sahara Desert. During the semester, I was able to travel to over a dozen countries and I am currently still traveling through the summer as well! There are countless stories and experiences that I could share with you in words, but take this leap of faith and create some for yourself. As an AIFS Ambassador, I am more than willing to help you every step of the way in making this the most memorable experience of your life.

“You’re taking on the world and finding out how vast and yet how small it really is. It’s big enough to always keep you wide eyed and gasping and small enough to feel like it belongs to you.” - Kiwi Guasco

A I F S ambassador Megan Slack
  • Megan Slack
  • Xavier University
  • Grenoble, France
  • Spring 2017

Hi everyone! My name is Megan, and I’m a senior Biology and French double major. Although my fields of study may initially seem unrelated, I think both are driven by my endless curiosity and the desire to expand my worldview in new, challenging ways. Study abroad enabled me to do this by immersing myself in a new culture, deepening my cultural understanding, drastically improving my French skills, and developing a new sense of independence and maturity. It changed my life, and I am so excited to share my passion for international education with my classmates this year! To me, study abroad is about crossing the threshold from tourist to sojourner. Instead of just taking cute Instagram photos and buying souvenir key chains, you are really pushed to understand and participate in local cultural customs. Having both the courage and the cultural humility to do this is certainly not easy, but it is absolutely worthwhile. When I’m not busy traveling the world, you can find me studying, horseback riding, reading a good book, attending a concert, drinking coffee, watching Netflix, arguing about politics, or working in a research lab.

“Hay un cierto placer en la locura, que solo la locura conoce”/“There is a certain pleasure in madness, that only the mad know”

A I F S ambassador Melia Markham
  • Melia Markham
  • University of Nebraska at Omaha
  • Paris, France
  • Spring 2017

Salut! My name is Melia Markham and I am a junior double majoring in French and International Studies. I spent the spring 2017 semester in Paris, France studying French language. My time in Paris helped me grow in ways I never imagined I could. I learned how to be independent and self-assured, and after my semester abroad, I feel that I can handle any situation thrown at me. I went on many adventures outside of Paris, travelling Europe with friends I made through AIFs as well as taking some trips completely on my own. I made it to 10 different countries in a single semester! Studying abroad was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made, and I am excited to share my experience with other students once I’m back at my campus!

“I ride the subway, read the signs. I let the seasons change my mind.” - Lorde

A I F S ambassador Lilyan Rene Ching
  • Lilyan Rene Ching
  • Fullerton College
  • Cannes, France
  • Fall 2016

Hello! I’m Lily, and I am a double major in International Relations and French, I desire to work in the Peace Corps and eventually work in a diplomatic field after university. I have numerous experiences working abroad that make me a diverse and experienced candidate for these positions. In high school I interned with a documentary studio called “Princebury Studios” and travelled to China to help capture and show the differences in education across the world. In the past I have worked in Cambodia and in the past three years I have worked in Nairobi and Turkana, Kenya through non-profit organizations to help support the schools and people through various projects in order to help them develop in the best way possible within their own culture. Last year I lived in Cannes, France through AIFS and took a full French language immersion course for the duration of my time there. I grew greatly in my language capabilities and feel confident when speaking, reading, and writing in French and I believe my experiences studying and working in diverse environments has grown my mind and advanced my passion to work for and with people, countries, and cultures.

A I F S ambassador Kate Loomis
  • Kate Loomis
  • Carroll University
  • Athens, Greece
  • Spring 2017

Hi! My name is Kate Loomis and I will be a senior at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin. I am double majoring in Public Health and Health Care Administration with plans of attending graduate school for a Masters of Public Health with an emphasis in Epidemiology. I originally wasn’t planning on studying abroad because my course load is super strict on when I can take classes and the order I take them in. One day I was just scrolling through my school’s traveling abroad experiences (we need a cultural experience to graduate from Carroll University) and I noticed there was an option for Greece. Ever since I could remember, I have always wanted to travel to Greece and experience the culture and mythology. I looked through it in hope and found out that I could study abroad for J-term and summer instead of an entire semester abroad. I choose J-term because I didn’t know if I could handle more than a month from my friends and family. It ended up being the perfect amount of time for me and I absolutely loved my experience in Athens. The course I took was basically a field trip every day to the ancient monuments of Athens while we were lectured about the mythical and actual history of how it came to be. I met an amazing group of friends that I clicked with instantly. Every day we traveled around Athens, finding hidden gems and eating amazing food. It was a great experience for me being on my own and I can’t wait to help students on my campus find their dream location for studying abroad, no matter what term they go. I am super excited to be an AIFS Alumni Ambassador because I have found that I love helping my friends with their traveling preparations, so I can’t wait to help the people I don’t know.

A I F S ambassador Katrina Hanson
  • Katrina Hanson
  • Bethel University
  • Hyderabad, India
  • Spring 2017

Hi! I’m Katrina and I am a junior at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, pursuing a degree in business. I studied abroad at the University of Hyderabad in India in the spring of 2017. Going abroad in college was something I dreamed of all my life. Living and studying in India was amazing, I was exposed to a completely different culture and met a lot of wonderful people, I am so glad I was able to have this experience. I believe it is so important to spend time in another culture because it is a great way to learn about the world and grow as a person. I hope to go back to India in the near future and am looking forward to being an Alumni Ambassador!

A I F S ambassador Catherine Rollins
  • Catherine Rollins
  • California State University San Marcos
  • Rome, Italy
  • Spring 2017

Hi! I'm Catherine. I am a senior at California State University San Marcos studying communication. I was fortunate enough to spend a semester in Rome, Italy where I learned more about myself and the world than I ever thought possible. Coming from an Italian background really inspired me to learn more about my culture as it related to the language, the food and the everyday way of life. I was even able to attend Easter Mass at the church where my grandparents got married in Italy almost 60 years ago! Having the opportunity to study while also seeing the world gave me extreme perspective on how the idea of learning is way more complex than a textbook could ever provide. I hope to encourage and educate prospective students on studying abroad and why AIFS is the best choice, of course.

A I F S ambassador Blair Budzinski
  • Blair Budzinski
  • St. John Fisher College
  • Rome, Italy
  • Spring 2017

Ciao! I’m Blair Budzinski, and I am from Buffalo, NY. I am about to be a senior at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY, majoring in Human Resource Management. I just returned from the world's best semester in Rome, Italy. In Rome, I met the greatest people, got to go on countless adventures, and eat the BEST food in my life. Every day of these four months was like a dream, and living one block away from the Vatican didn’t hurt either! Walking past that breathtaking view every morning helped me get motivated for the day and ready for classes. Classes in Rome were ones I never thought of taking when I was home in Rochester, but I am so happy AIFS opened my doors to them, they helped me find a new passion. Not only did Rome become my second home, I got to visit 7 countries and 28 cities; experiencing their culture broadened my horizons for the future. What everyone says about studying abroad is true, it is a once in a lifetime experience, but what I never expected was my new level of independence. I hope I get to help you experience this freeing and wonderful feeling one day!

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, I’m possible.” - Audrey Hepburn

A I F S ambassador Jaqueline Martinez
  • Jaqueline Martinez
  • Sacramento City College
  • Florence, Italy
  • Spring 2017

Ciao! I’m Jaqueline, I am on my second year studying in Sacramento City College. I studied abroad in Florence, Italy in Spring 2017. Studying abroad was the best decision ever! I love being able to learn about different cultures and AIFS has helped me learn more. While I was in Florence, I was able to figure out the major I wanted to pursue. I will be studying psychology to pursue a career in counseling. I enjoy trying new things especially when I am traveling. The first thing I learned in Italy was to ask “What do you recommend” which is “Che cosa mi consiglia” . This phrase gave me have the best meals ever in all the restaurants I tried. I was scared to travel alone for the first time, but as soon as I walked through the streets of Italy the fear went away. If I ever get another opportunity to study abroad I would not hesitate in taking it.

A I F S ambassador Nick Deveau
  • Nick Deveau
  • Curry College
  • Rome, Italy
  • Spring 2017

Hi, my name is Nick and I am going into my Senior year at Curry College as a Communication major with a minor in Psychology. Studying abroad this past Spring was the best decision, as it not only taught me independence, but truly culturized my understanding of the world. I met many great people along the way, and learned things about myself that I would have never learned otherwise. Along with spending a great deal of my time in Rome, I was able to travel to 12 countries, and visit 24 cities. Outside of Rome, Ireland was my favorite, as the views and culture there are truly something you can only understand when you experience it. Living in Rome however, my favorite part was living by the vatican, and being a short walk away from the Colosseum and other breathtaking views. The food was phenomenal, and the people were incredible. They truly made you feel like Rome was your home now too. All of this was made possible by AIFS, and choosing them was a no brainer. They are well organized and give a great balance of help, but also freedom. I hope that as an AIFS Alumni Ambassador, I can encourage people to step out of their comfort zone and go after their goals, because it will be the best decision they make!

“On the other side of your maximum fears, are the best things in life.” - Will Smith

A I F S ambassador Sophie Spiegel
  • Sophie Spiegel
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • Florence, Italy
  • Spring 2017

Ciao! My name is Sophie Spiegel, and I’m a senior at UC Berkeley pursuing a degree in media studies. Last spring, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy and can confidently say it was the best three and a half months of my life! I arrived in Europe not knowing a single soul but left with an amazing group of friends only a few months later. During my stay, I felt completely immersed in Italian culture which was made possible by the awesome activities that AIFS provided, including wine tastings, gelato tours, and dinners with Italians. Every morning, I woke up and browsed the leather market, walked the antique, beautiful streets, and admired Florence’s rich history and culture. Although Florence is by far my favorite place in the entire world, I was also able to travel to eight other European countries with my friends! I had amazing experiences both academically and socially, and I highly encourage everyone on the fence about studying abroad to take the leap and just do it. After this experience, I was able to look at my own life and values with a better global perspective. I definitely caught the travel bug, and I can’t wait to help others actualize their dreams of studying abroad!

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” - Susan Sontag

A I F S ambassador Julie Jent
  • Julie Jent
  • Berea College
  • St.Petersburg, Russia
  • Spring 2017

Julie Jent is a rising senior from Kentucky, attending that state’s Berea College, where she majors in Political Science. She speaks Bahasa Indonesian and Russian. She has received a Gilman Scholarship for study in Russia. In addition Julie has also studied in Indonesia on the USDINDO Summer Studies program. Julie participated as a Youth Ambassador in Malaysia under the “Kennedy-Lugar YES- Abroad Scholarship” while she was a senior in high school. She is on her school’s debate team, alumni council, and philanthropy committee, as well as the National Council of Young Leaders. The White House and Education Department recognized her with invitations to the Beating the Odds and Champion of Change conferences. In her spare time Julie enjoys weight lifting, extreme sports, and magic tricks.

A I F S ambassador McKenzy Kelley
  • McKenzy Kelley
  • Lake Forest College
  • Stellenbosch, South Africa
  • Spring 2017

Hello! My name is McKenzy Kelley and I am a rising senior at Lake Forest College. I am pursuing a major in African American Studies and a minor in Sociology and Anthropology. This previous spring semester I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad at Stellenbosch University in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Living and learning abroad, away from the comforts of home, truly forced me to become more independent and open to meeting new people and trying new things. This experience certainly opened my eyes to how oblivious as well as unaware I was about the world around me, global awareness and cultural understanding was something I gained being abroad. This journey undeniably provided me with a stronger desire to travel and to experience new countries that hold different cultures and customs from my own. I am looking forward to working as an AIFS Alumni Ambassador and sharing my study abroad experiences with other students.

A I F S ambassador McKenna Jacobson
  • McKenna Jacobson
  • California Lutheran University
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Spring 2017

Hi! I’m McKenna and I’m going to be a senior studying Business and Marketing at California Lutheran University in Southern California. I studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain during the Spring 2017 semester and it was one of the best experiences of my life. Since the beginning of college, I knew I wanted to study abroad, but I had to transfer universities after my freshman year and I wasn’t sure if it would be a possibility for me. When I discovered AIFS, my dream became a reality. I originally saw myself studying abroad in London, England, but I had to complete a language requirement for my degree, so it made more sense for me to go to a non-English speaking country. Choosing to go to Barcelona was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I instantly fell in love with the lifestyle in Spain. I strengthened my Spanish comprehension and speaking abilities, and got to travel almost every weekend in Spain and to other countries as well. AIFS gives students the tools they need to balance their studies, traveling, and having a social life in exciting, new places. The staff is always available to help you with whatever you need, whether it’s dealing with homesickness or a recommendation for dinner. Studying abroad gives you the chance to experience a new culture and way of life, meet new people, and grow as an individual by gaining a global perspective. I can’t wait to meet prospective students and share my experience and insights with them. I strongly believe that everyone should study abroad if they have the opportunity!

A I F S ambassador Gina Baca
  • Gina Baca
  • Rowan University
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • January Term 2017

Hi everyone! My name is Gina Baca and I will be a junior at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey this upcoming year. I am an emergency management major and pursuing a biology minor with a concentration in law and justice. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to study abroad in Barcelona, Spain over the January term of 2017. Experiencing the cultural differences between Spain and the United States was very life changing, and ignited my desire to travel even more. I have developed friendships with the other students that have continued beyond our time in Spain. I truly felt that AIFS made my time abroad greater than I could have imagined, and helped to create one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I am excited to encourage other students to study abroad so that they too can make amazing memories and meet new people just like I did.

A I F S ambassador Nick Surovec
  • Nick Surovec
  • Grand Valley State University
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Spring 2017

Hi! My name is Nick Surovec and I am a senior at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In the spring, I will be graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance and business economics. The highlight of my college experience will undoubtedly be the semester I spent in Barcelona, Spain. The four months I spent abroad was very eventful as I made my way to twelve different countries, significantly improved my Spanish, and came home with countless memories. Going abroad I was told to never turn down an invite and to try new things. Living by this advice I came back home with experiences that I would never have been exposed to at home. One of my favorite quotes is “there is no growth in a comfort zone and no comfort in a growth zone.” This quote pushed me over the edge to go abroad as I felt this was a great opportunity to better myself. I am eager to help encourage others make a decision that their future selves will thank them for.

A I F S ambassador Lydia T. Johnson
  • Lydia T. Johnson
  • Howard University
  • Granada, Spain
  • Spring 2017

Hi everyone! My name is Lydia and I am a junior Political Science and Spanish double major with a French and Japanese double minor at Howard University in Washington, DC. I am originally from Atlanta, Georgia but I currently live in Cleveland, Ohio. When I graduate I hope to participate in the Peace Corps and move on to earn my J.D. and Master’s in International Relations. I recently spent my spring 2017 semester at La Universidad de Granada in Granada, Spain, where I was exposed to an amazing culture and incredible intensive learning environment. Studying foreign languages and international politics is my passion, so I'm extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to study abroad with AIFS. I got to not only explore the wonderful city of Granada (mi segundo hogar) but also Morocco & other European countries and learn about the dynamics of their cultures and roles within the European Union from a firsthand perspective. Where I come from some people have never even left their neighborhood, making my time abroad something of a rarity. I hope I can take my experiences from this past semester to inspire those around me to not only see the world, but to be an active part of it. Words I live by: A mistake without a lesson learned is just a wasted opportunity.

A I F S ambassador Greta Banks
  • Greta Banks
  • University of Alabama
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Spring 2017

Hello! My name is Greta and I am a junior at the University of Alabama, majoring in economics and public relations. I have always wanted to explore and experience as much of the world as possible, which is why I studied abroad this spring in Barcelona. I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, so Spanish has been a part of my life since I was young. I also love the sun and the warmth, so Spain seemed like a perfect choice. I have never loved living anywhere like I did Barcelona. Barcelona gave me four amazing months of warm, sunny days, beautiful hikes, trips to the beach, and great food. It also brought me to the people who would walk three miles up hill to split a baguette and watch the sunrise over the mountains. My time abroad taught me so much beyond what I learned in my classes while there. Everyday brought new experiences, and every weekend a new adventure. I love to encourage and inspire others to study abroad, as it is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done.

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist.” –Oscar Wilde

A I F S ambassador Kaitlyn Emerson
  • Kaitlyn Emerson
  • University of Wyoming
  • Salamanca, Spain
  • Fall 2016

Hola! Kaitlyn’s the name, traveling and learning are the game. I absolutely loved my time abroad in Salamanca, Spain during the Fall 2016 semester. In those five months, I gained valuable lessons in learning to love myself, improving my Spanish speaking capabilities, developing respect and appreciation for different cultures, and eating chocolate croissants every day without gaining any (okay, maybe a little) weight! Every single experience I had abroad from the miniscule things like walking to the Plaza Mayor to enjoy some gelato on a hot day (or a cold one -- gelato has no limitations) to the grand excursions in Morocco, Italy, or the Canary Islands have affected who I am today. Not a day goes by that I don’t use what I learned from my time spent in Salamanca. Currently, I’m a senior studying Spanish, Spanish Education, and Religious Studies at the University of Wyoming. I love to learn new things which is why I’m so addicted to adventure. In my free time when I’m not studying, eating, teaching Spanish, or working for high school programs I love to read, hike, color, bake, play with my two dogs and three cats, and take spontaneous trips to Barnes & Noble that usually end in my book shelf a bit fuller and my wallet a bit lighter. A few things you should know about me: I’m an avid Harry Potter nerd, enjoy a good cup of coffee, and am a fan of the oxford comma.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” - Walt Disney

A I F S ambassador Naomi Stewart
  • Naomi Stewart
  • Hawai'i Pacific University
  • Granada, Spain
  • Spring 2017

¡Hola y Aloha! My name is Naomi Stewart and I am currently a Senior at HPU majoring in anthropology with minors in spanish and art history. I have lived most of my life in Southern California, but have moved around to 3 different states and 7 different cities (let's just say Hobbs, New Mexico wasn't much of a desert paradise). While I do claim to be a Californian, I am ethnically part-Hawaiian and Guyanese. I enjoy writing poetry, singing, and of course travel. I had the opportunity to spend a semester in Granada, Spain where I improved my Spanish speaking and writing skills; lived with a host family; and experienced a rich history evident in modern culture. I visited amazing places like Barcelona, Sevilla, and even Morocco! I volunteered with the homeless, singing with them in a choir (oh how their off-key voices managed to lilt), and ate pasteles for days. I could go on and on about Spain, but i must say that overall I met so many unique people and made unforgettable memories. I recommend study abroad to any student in any field! It's definitely a worthwhile learning experience!

“Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3

A I F S ambassador Alana Madore
  • Alana Madore
  • University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Spring 2017

Hola! My name is Alana Madore and I am will be a senior at UMass Lowell next year, majoring in business with concentrations in marketing and management. I just recently got back from the most amazing city in the world, Barcelona, Spain. My four months of studying abroad was the greatest experience of my entire life. I traveled to so many different countries, learned about new cultures, met amazing friends, and of course ate and drank the yummiest food. Barcelona has so much to offer and taught me lessons about the world and things about myself. Whether we spent our days shopping in the windy streets of the gothic quarter, tanning on the beach, hiking up the bunkers, or eating tapas at 10 PM we always had a great time. I am so grateful to have been a part of such an amazing study abroad program like AIFS. They have made my experience better than I ever thought was possible. I cannot wait to return to my new home away from home in the future. I encourage everyone to break out of their comfort zone and travel, you never know what you’re missing till you go out there and see it for yourself.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” - Saint Augustine of Hippo

A I F S ambassador Michella Mousaed
  • Michella Mousaed
  • Mount Saint Mary’s University
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Fall 2017

¡Hola! My name is Michella and I am a senior at Mount Saint Mary's University in Los Angeles. I am majoring in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management and Marketing. In the fall of 2018, I studied abroad in the beautiful Barcelona, Spain. This is a place full of well preserved history, architecture, art, and some of the best music one will ever hear. My study abroad experience is one I will not forget and one that is filled with wonder, exploration of different cities and the expanding of my own personal limitations. I did a lot of traveling with friends and by my myself. I was the most vulnerable by myself but that is when I got to experience Barcelona in a new way from the museums, historical churches, different community events, and random trips to different parts of the city. Traveling in Spain allowed me the opportunity to join two community groups where I got to volunteer during my free time. I even got to join an amazing international women's group that introduced me to fun events and introduced me to amazing women living in other countries. I have changed dramatically throughout this entire program and I want everyone to experience a form of study abroad transformation in their lifetime. Please let me know if I can be any help in navigating the study abroad process!

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (ESV)

A I F S ambassador Kassy Blaschak
  • Kassy Blaschak
  • Drake University
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Spring 2017

Hi everyone! I’m Kassy and I am a junior at Drake University, studying Marketing, International Business, and Spanish. I just got back from the most beautiful place in the world, Barcelona, Spain! Not only did I fall in love with traveling, a new culture, and amazing food, but I also met tons of lifelong friends along the way. My experience in Spain was spent exploring, traveling to 12 countries, volunteering at Terral, and learning things about the world and myself that I never thought possible. It has sparked the travel bug in me and I am already planning my adventures back. Studying abroad was the best decision I have ever made and I can’t wait to help others to do the same!

“What is life, but one grand adventure”

A I F S ambassador Brittney Schrader
  • Brittney Schrader
  • Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
  • European Art and Architecture, Travel
  • Summer 2016

Hello, Hallo, Bonjour, and Ciao! I’m Brittney, and I will be entering my final year at SIUE. Previously an Art Education major, I made an instinctive switch to Art History just before studying abroad on the AIFS European Art and Architecture program. This whirlwind adventure took me through six different countries in just four short weeks, and allowed me to see and experience more than I’ve ever known in my life. Before I had left, I’d never been out of the country or traveled without someone I already knew; I’d never even set foot on an airplane! I knew that this trip was going to be a life-changer, and was determined that those changes would be for the better. Though my experience was short, and not without struggle, I left Europe calling it home. I went into academic year 2016-2017 armed with everything I learned about art history and global culture, and couldn’t be happier with my decision to refocus my major. After graduation, I hope to further this experience by turning it into a career in International Education. As for going into 2017-2018, I’m honored to call myself an AIFS Ambassador, and cannot wait to share my experience with others in a way that inspires them to step out of their own comfort zones and take the fantastic leap into Study Abroad!