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 our previous Alumni Ambassadors

A I F S ambassador Isabel Smallman
  • Isabel Smallman
  • University of Tampa
  • Quito, Ecuador, & Berlin, Germany
  • J-Term 2018 / Fall 2019

Hey everyone! My name is Isabel Smallman and I’m from Beverly, MA. In the Fall, I’m going to be a senior at The University of Tampa. I will be graduating with a Marketing major and am involved in the Delta Zeta sorority. I love to travel and have been taking German for 5 years. In January of 2018, I traveled with AIFS to Quito, Ecuador and lived on the Galapagos Islands for two weeks. I then studied again with them in the Fall of 2019 in Berlin, Germany with a homestay. These experiences were amazing and I cannot wait to promote studying abroad on my campus.

“To travel is to live.” ~ Hans Christian Andersen

A I F S ambassador Benjamin Witkowski
  • Benjamin Witkowski
  • University of Wisconsin Whitewater
  • Granada, Spain, & Brixen, Italy
  • Spring 2018 / J-Term 2019

Ciao a tutti! Mi chiamo Benjamin Witkowski and I am a senior at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater. Studying international business has taken me to wonderful and alluring places like England, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany and Morocco. Furthermore, these experiences outside of the United States have afforded me the opportunity to broaden my understanding of how the world functions outside of American norms. These unique cultural dynamics that I encountered have helped to teach me more of who I am and discover the aspirations I desire to achieve.

“Immerse yourself in the host culture as if you were born anew and given the chance to find your personal truth from a clean slate.”

A I F S ambassador Lauryn Long
  • Lauryn Long
  • St. John Fisher College
  • Wollongong, Australia
  • Spring 2019

Hello beautiful people! I’m Lauryn and I currently attend St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. This past semester I was able to experience the most wonderful time of my life traveling, learning and growing by flying to the other side of the world to live in Wollongong, Australia for five months. I embraced every moment while traveling starting with living with my lovely host family in Suva, Fiji to traveling to the center of the Australian desert, making so many memories and connections along the way. I learned a great deal about people and their cultures and made friends all over the world. I also learned about myself and was able to grow more than I ever thought possible in such a short period of time. Travel will always be a part of my life and studying abroad has made my desire to discover unique cultures around the world grow exponentially. What I want to stress most is that it may seem difficult to jump on a plane and leave your comfort zone, but that is where the best things happen! I look forward to helping others to embark on this journey of a lifetime and can’t wait to see where it will take them.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” ~ Helen Keller

A I F S ambassador Kendra Kneisl
  • Kendra Kneisl
  • Duquesne University
  • Salzburg, Austria
  • Spring 2019

Servus! My name is Kendra and I’m a junior studying Corporate Communications with a minor in Intercultural Studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. However, I hail from a small town —where everyone knows everyone; countryside surrounds us; and familiarity ties us all down. That’s why studying abroad was especially important to me: to gain a broader perspective. Distance from all I ever knew coupled with exposure to a new culture and lifestyle was the perfect recipe for growth. Two years ago, I was terrified to even move to Pittsburgh. Now I can successfully say I’ve crossed oceans in pursuit of knowledge, personal growth, and treasured life-long experiences. Salzburg holds a particularly special place in my heart, as my grandparents met there. My grandfather was stationed with the U.S. Army, and my grandmother, who was born in Austria, was living and working with the ski patrol at the time. Taken out of my comfort zone, my experiences through AIFS have shaped me into a more confident individual, willing to forge my own path. I’ve also learned to take life a little less seriously, for change is always on the horizon. My time in Salzburg has taught me to have faith in the unknown, and even embrace it. I’ve gained a worldlier outlook, met students from across the United States, and challenged myself to assimilate as well as practice the German language. Life certainly creates obstacles that can make studying abroad difficult, but I will advise to all I meet: “Please don’t let yourself be one of those obstacles”.

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in.” ~ Isaac Asimov

A I F S ambassador Cayley Pinson
  • Cayley Pinson
  • University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • Viña del Mar, Chile
  • Spring 2019

Hola! My name is Cayley Pinson and I am a junior at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. I’m a double major in Sociology and World Languages and Cultures, studying Spanish. I studied abroad with AIFS in Spring 2019 in Viña del Mar, Chile, and the experience changed my life. Previously, I had never been out of the United States, so getting the opportunity to go to Chile was a huge deal for me! My experience was perfect, in my four months abroad I had the opportunity to visit Patagonia and the southern regions all the way to the Atacama desert and northern regions, practice Spanish with my new friends and in my homestay, study at Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, and so much more. I can’t wait to get back to school this fall and motivate future AIFS students to embark on their own study abroad adventures because I fully believe that every person, especially students, should travel and see what the world has to offer.

“A woman’s station is determined only by her imagination.”

A I F S ambassador Kylie Mankin
  • Kylie Mankin
  • Texas State University
  • San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Spring 2019

Hey Y’all! My name is Kylie Mankin and I am a senior at Texas State University. I am studying International Relations and Political Science which is why I had the opportunity to study abroad! I did my semester abroad in Costa Rica in Spring 2019, so I could work on my language credits and also be near the International Human Rights courts and The University of Peace. My time in Costa Rica changed my outlook on life and helped me prioritize things in my life. I was able to learn so many things about myself and what I want out of life during my journey through Costa Rica. The quote that I have always done my best to live by is “Live to Express, Not to Impress” and Costa Rica definitely helped me achieve the lifestyle to do so.

A I F S ambassador Alejandra Mendez
  • Alejandra Mendez
  • Mount Saint Mary’s University
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Fall 2018

Ahoj! My name is Alejandra Mendez and I’m a senior majoring in Sociology at Mount Saint Mary’s University in California. Studying abroad had been my dream ever since I took a class trip to Europe in high school; it turned out to be a trip that opened my eyes to what’s beyond Los Angeles’ sunny skies, and it gave me a new desire to see more of the world! I chose to spend my semester abroad across the pond in the Czech Republic–completely out of my comfort zone, but the best choice I ever made. I resided in Prague, a city as wondrous as it sounds. I immersed myself in the culture and society and came back to the United States feeling, strangely, more like myself than when I left. I want other students to have that same unforgettable experience and I hope to encourage others to take the leap into the unknown. Na shledanou!

A I F S ambassador Alex Fortescue
  • Alex Fortescue
  • Western Washington University
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Fall 2018

Dobrý den! My name is Alex and I am from Seattle, Washington. I am a senior at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. I am a Computer Science major, and minoring in International Business graduating in Spring 2020. As a Computer Science student, I really had no idea that studying abroad was an opportunity available to me. I realized that this was something I could do when I got involved in the International Business club at my school and I am so thankful that I did. Going abroad was a dream come true that I never even knew I had. At the risk of sounding extremely cliche, my time abroad changed my life forever. I lived in Prague in a dorm with a bunch of other American students I had never met before that became some of my best friends. Going alone taught me how to be independent in a whole new way I never fathomed and experiencing all the different cultures around Europe allowed me to become more open minded in a way I did not know was possible. I am so grateful for this experience and hope I can help others find their way to an experience of a lifetime.

“Great things never came from comfort zones.”

A I F S ambassador Brook Anderson
  • Brook Anderson
  • University of North Dakota
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Fall 2018

Hello everyone! My name is Brook Anderson and I am a junior pursuing a Chemical Engineering major at the University of North Dakota. I have always heard people say that they regret not studying abroad while in college so while I was starting my freshman year I knew that I needed to make it happen. Having a STEM major made the process a little more difficult than expected but I was determined to be able to study abroad. I eventually chose to study in Prague, Czech Republic in the fall of 2018. I went into this experience not knowing much about my country or city of choice but I am so happy that I went with my gut and chose somewhere that I was unfamiliar with. Studying abroad honestly changed my life. I know probably everyone who studies abroad says that but it is 100 percent true! I am now able to view the world in a different way having lived in a different country and having learned about the local cultures. Studying abroad helped me figure out who I want to be and how I want to impact the world around me. I am so excited to help others go on their study abroad journey and to hear about all of the amazing experiences studying abroad has helped them achieve!

“It’s a big world out there. It would be a shame not to experience it” ~ J.D. Andrews

A I F S ambassador Caelan Svartz
  • Caelan Svartz
  • University of Houston
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Spring 2019

Dobry Den! My name is Caelan Svartz and I am a senior at the University of Houston. I am majoring in marketing and minoring in psychology. At UH I have been involved in many organizations such as: Chi Omega Sorority, Orientation Team, Honors College, and American Marketing Association. I spent this past spring semester in the most beautiful city in the world - Prague, Czech Republic! I had the amazing opportunity to study at the respected University of Economics - Prague. I had the time of my life meeting students from all across the U.S. and world, traveling Europe, and falling in love with Prague. Studying abroad made me a more confident, independent, and cultured individual. I wouldn’t trade the countless times I got lost, the overnight bus rides, or the cold weather (cold for a texas girl) for anything! I know the friends and memories I made abroad will last a lifetime and I am thrilled to be able to share my experience with others. My words to live by are “Hakuna Matata.” While it is cliche, I love it for two reasons: the first is that The Lion King is one of my favorite movies and the second reason is because it reminds me to go with the flow and that some of the best moments in life are the small ones where you live in the moment.

A I F S ambassador Kayla Jackson
  • Kayla Jackson
  • Ball State University
  • London, England
  • Summer 2018 / 2019

Hi! My name is Kayla Jackson and I am a senior at Ball State University. I am double majoring in News Journalism and Telecommunication and have a minor in Travel & Tourism. I have been with AIFS for two years, studying abroad the summers of 2018 and 2019 in London, England. I loved London so much that I had to go back again and explore the city even more. I still haven’t gotten my fill of London. I might just have to move there. Even though I absolutely love London, I still want to travel to other places around the world. I love learning about new cultures and exploring new landscapes. AIFS has helped me do just that and I recommend it to anyone and everyone. There is so much out there in this world. I truly believe everyone should study abroad to experience new things and open their minds. Hopefully, I will be able to encourage my fellow Ball State students to study abroad with AIFS this upcoming year.

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible'!” ~ Audrey Hepburn

A I F S ambassador Clarissa Cueva
  • Clarissa Cueva
  • University of San Francisco
  • London, England
  • Spring 2019

Hello! My name is Clarissa Cueva and I’m a senior at the University of San Francisco studying Business Administration and minoring in Theater. I’m a member of the Epsilon Rho chapter of Delta Delta Delta Sorority where I serve as the Director of PR/ Marketing. I traveled with AIFS to London, England for the best semester of my life during the spring of 2019. Never would I have thought that I’d find a second home across the pond! Studying a semester abroad has granted me the opportunity of a true global and cultural education. I left London with a newfound confidence in myself and desire to return in the near future. In just four months, I was able to visit thirteen countries and eighteen cities! Studying abroad has been and will be the best part of my college experience, in addition to being something I wish for all college students to partake in. I look forward to spending the next year inspiring, assisting, and creating new friendships with future AIFS students!

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” ~ Jennifer Lee

A I F S ambassador Jihan Islam
  • Jihan Islam
  • Cal State University Fullerton
  • London, England
  • Fall 2017

Wassup! My name is Jihan Islam and I am currently a senior at Cal State University Fullerton majoring in Communications with an emphasis in Entertainment and Tourism and minoring in Business Administration. I am a first generation college student from Bangladesh and have always been fascinated with cross-cultural communication. I studied abroad at Richmond the American International in London Fall 2017 and had one of the most amazing experiences during my time abroad because I met some of the most amazing people and traveled to some of the most amazing place while learning! Living abroad really sparked a travel bug in me and I have been fascinated with traveling ever since. In addition to being an AIFS Alumni Ambassador I am also a CSUF Global Titans Ambassador this school year! I love promoting and talking about studying abroad because I want as many people as possible to experience studying abroad!

A I F S ambassador Tine Sokun
  • Tine Sokun
  • Xavier University
  • Grenoble, France
  • Fall 2018

Bonjour! My name is Tine Sokun and I’m currently a senior at Xavier University. I’m a Communication Studies major with Advertising and French minors. I knew I wanted to study abroad after meeting foreign exchange students from high school. In the fall semester of my junior year, I finally had the opportunity to study abroad in Grenoble, France. I choose to stay with a host family and that was the best decision I’ve ever made. I got to eat home cooked meals every night, catch the bus every morning, and practice my French on a daily basis. During my time abroad I got the chance to get out of my comfort zone, experience new cultures, and meet amazing people from all over the world. I'm grateful for my time in Grenoble and I can't wait to help others find their own unique experience.

“The world is too big to stay in one place and life is too short to do just one thing.”

A I F S ambassador Anne Marie Liberko
  • Anne Marie Liberko
  • Cornell College
  • Grenoble, France
  • Fall 2018

Bonjour! My name is Anne Marie and I spent the fall of 2018 studying business in Grenoble, France. I loved spending a semester sampling french pastries and wines, forming extraordinary friendships, and simply exploring the world. A famous quote from Eleanor Roosevelt sweetly sums up one of my strongly held views: “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience”. My time traveling has allowed me to feel as though I’m living my life to the fullest. This spring I will be completing my degree in Politics with a minor in Civic Engagement from Cornell College. I am excited to see where the future will take me next.

A I F S ambassador Sierra Spraker
  • Sierra Spraker
  • Chatham University
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Summer 2018

Hey everyone! My name is Sierra and I will be a senior at Chatham University (a super small university in Pittsburgh). I am majoring in History with certificates in Secondary Education - Social Studies and International Studies - Europe. As a part of the International Studies certificate, students must complete a study abroad experience or an internship - so I chose to study abroad! When I learned of my family’s German heritage I instantly fell in love with the culture, so I began taking German language courses my freshman year of college. I decided to study abroad in Berlin, Germany during Summer 2018 because it wouldn’t interrupt my regular coursework and I wanted to be able to practice my German. I once saw this quote when searching for travel inspired tattoo designs and I fell in love instantly. My experience abroad provided me with a global perspective I would have never been able to attain in the United States

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” ~ Gustav Flaubert

A I F S ambassador Natalie Jeffrey
  • Natalie Jeffrey
  • California State University, Chico
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Spring 2019

Szia! My name is Natalie and I’m a senior studying Exercise Physiology with minors in Psychology and Nutrition at California State University, Chico in beautiful Northern California. I’m also a member of the sorority Alpha Omicron Pi and the honor society, Phi Kappa Phi. I had the incredible opportunity of studying abroad at Corvinus University in Budapest, Hungary for the Spring 2019 semester. Studying abroad was always something I wanted to do, but I never thought I would actually go through with it. I realized during my junior year the only thing holding me back was myself and that it was an opportunity I couldn’t let pass by, so decided to pursue it. That turned out to be the best decision of my life. Budapest was my dream city and I was lucky enough that AIFS had recently started offering a program there, so I knew immediately that’s where I wanted to go. Both of my grandparents on my mom’s side are from Hungary, so I’ve always been fascinated with the country and wanted to learn more about my family, our heritage and our culture. Living in Hungary for a semester gave me the opportunity to do exactly that and even connect with some of my relatives that live there. Living in Budapest also allowed me to improve my Hungarian language skills which is something I’ve always wanted to do but has been a challenge in the past. Studying at Corvinus also gave me an opportunity to take classes different from the ones I normally would. During my semester abroad, I studied European history which has drastically changed my perspective and given me the ability to see things on a much more global scale. I’m extremely grateful for the time I spent abroad because of how it allowed me to travel, connect with my heritage, and develop a more global perspective, and I really want to encourage others to experience this as well. It might sound cliche to say studying abroad changed my life, but it truly did. It has made me realize how much I love traveling, exploring new places, and learning about other cultures and ways of life. I now see myself as a world citizen and I want to encourage everyone to travel as I think it’s essential for helping us to understand each other and the world we live in. The most important takeaway from my time abroad has been to live life to the fullest and not to put things off. Life is short and it’s better to take advantage of every opportunity while you can than to live with regrets.

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” ~ Mark Twain

A I F S ambassador Abigail Barr
  • Abigail Barr
  • The University of Alabama
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Spring 2019

Hello! My name is Abigail Barr and I am from Naperville, Illinois. I am a junior at The University of Alabama. I am a double major in accounting and finance with a minor in computer technology and applications. I am a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. I traveled with AIFS to Budapest, Hungary in the spring of 2019. I had never left the country prior to studying abroad and while in Europe I went to 18 new countries. Being abroad was an incredible experience and I recommend it to everyone. I look forward to being back on campus in the fall and sharing my experience with my peers.

“This is not the end. This is the beginning.” ~ Nick Saban

A I F S ambassador Mary Kate O’Shaughnessy
  • Mary Kate O’Shaughnessy
  • Assumption College
  • Maynooth, Ireland
  • Spring 2019

Hi everyone! My name is Mary Kate O’Shaughnessy and I’m a senior at Assumption College in Worcester, MA. I’m majoring in chemistry and minoring in math and a member of the Cross Country / Track and Field team! In my spare time, I tutor chemistry and play in my college jazz band. Studying abroad at Maynooth University in Ireland was a dream come true for me! I was able to take classes that aren’t offered at home and I was able to visit members of my family that I had never met before! I wanted to study abroad in Ireland to connect with my roots and experience what it’s like to live halfway around the world. I met people from all over the world and I met some of my best friends during my time at Maynooth. I traveled all over Ireland and also was able to travel to Amsterdam, Budapest, Venice, Rome, Naples, and Barcelona and I definitely have the travel bug now! I can’t wait to help others find their own study abroad experience!

“Work smarter not harder.”

A I F S ambassador Amie Knowles
  • Amie Knowles
  • Emmanuel College
  • Rome, Italy
  • Spring 2018

Ciao! My name is Amie and I am from a small town in New Hampshire. Currently, I am a rising Senior at Emmanuel College, in Boston, MA. I am majoring in Elementary Education and plan to graduate in the Spring of 2020. When I’m not busy with sports, school, and clubs I am usually drawing or painting. In the Spring of 2018, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Rome, Italy! Being a lover of art, this was an incredible experience. This experience not only satisfied my need for art, but made me discover my true potential. I was able to travel to Krakow, Poland and Florence, Italy thanks to AIFS. Not only was I taking classes at my university, but I had the chance to volunteer in a school. I was able to teach 3rd graders English. Being a future educator, this was an experience that I will always remember. This experience allowed me to discover that I want to be an international teacher one day. I believe that I left Italy with a better perception of life after college, confidence, and the capability to be fearless in situations where I may not fit in at first. I am incredibly grateful for my experience abroad. I cannot wait to inspire others to take the jump, study abroad, and discover what life truly has to offer them.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~ Gandhi

A I F S ambassador Caleb Callanan
  • Caleb Callanan
  • University of Saint Thomas
  • Rome, Italy
  • Spring 2018 / 2019

Ciao! My name is Caleb, and I am an International Business major at the University of Saint Thomas, in Minnesota. I studied abroad twice with AIFS, once in Spring 2018 and again in Spring 2019, both times in Rome, Italy! Each time brought new and incredible experiences and friends, both from around the country, and the world! During my most recent semester I was afforded the incredible opportunity to intern at the Embassy of the Republic of Malta to Italy! During my internship I attended meetings at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as a representative of Malta and even met the president of Malta! I also enjoyed travelling around Europe, and discovered the exciting adventure that is travelling with only a backpack! My favorite part of studying abroad was learning how to adapt to and learn about new cultures, languages and currencies, all while immersing myself in all that was new around me. Each semester spent in Rome increased my love of the city, confidence in myself and desire to explore! I look forward to helping other students achieve their study abroad dream!

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” ~ T. S. Eliot

A I F S ambassador Brianna Higgins
  • Brianna Higgins
  • University of Rhode Island
  • Florence, Italy
  • Spring 2019

Hello! My name is Brianna Higgins and I am a senior studying Entrepreneurial Management with a minor in Textiles, Merchandise, and Design at the University of Rhode Island. I had known back in high school that I wanted to study abroad, but had no idea how life changing the experience would be. I traveled with AIFS to Florence, Italy for my Spring 2019 semester and loved every moment of it. While I always wanted to study abroad for my love of travel, this experience actually made me change as a person in the best ways possible. I mean, if you go to Italy you’re definitely going to come back a better cook because the food and cooking classes are amazing. What I didn’t expect to come back thinking of were new ways I could be greener for the environment, how to appreciate wine as if I was a connoisseur, and how much I seriously miss Tuscany. This was a trip I plan on going back to some day, and I can’t wait to help others like me find an experience just as perfect to go on.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” ~ Helen Keller

A I F S ambassador Meredith McLaurin
  • Meredith McLaurin
  • Mississippi State University
  • Rome, Italy
  • Spring 2019

Ciao! My name is Meredith McLaurin and I am a rising senior at Mississippi State University in Starkville, MS. I am an Educational Psychology Major with an emphasis on Mental Health Counseling. I am a member of the Chi Omega Sorority. I studied abroad with AIFS in Spring of 2019 in Rome, Italy. When I decided to study abroad I had never traveled out of the country and when I came back I had been to 11 different countries in 100 days. Italy being my absolute favorite. Whether it was staring at the David in Florence, sitting by the sea in Naples, or walking by the Vatican every day on my way to school, Italy always knew how to take my breath away. Roma changed me into a better person, student, and friend. I would make the choice to change my life by studying abroad again and again. I cannot wait to share my experience and use the lessons I learned to help others with their AIFS experience.

“And above all watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.” ~ Roald Dahl

A I F S ambassador Tricia-Marie Thomas
  • Tricia-Marie Thomas
  • Howard University
  • Wellington, New Zealand
  • Spring 2019

Kia ora all! My name is Tricia-Marie and I’m a senior international business major at Howard University originally from Austin, Texas. It was always my intention to study abroad, in order to give me a leg up on my career by actually seeing how business was done abroad. However, I really went so that I could begin to see the world for how big it really is, and to learn about ways of life that are different than mine. Living on my own in another country is completely different than living on my own in college, and I feel much more confident about and prepared for life. Studying in New Zealand in particular, I learned how to depend on myself and others for learning, teaching, and growing. I was so excited to go so far away from what I knew, and I had the absolute best time! I encourage everyone to try and make it out to the Asia-Pacific region at least once in their life; there is SO much to learn and see. And even if you can’t, my goal is to help people to at least get out and see some of this big, beautiful world we live in!

“There is nothing so comforting in this world as kindness.” ~ Frances Hogdson Burnett

A I F S ambassador Dmitry Tereshenko
  • Dmitry Tereshenko
  • UNC Charlotte
  • St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Spring 2019

My name is Dmitry Tereshenko and I’m from Concord, NC. I’m a junior at UNC Charlotte pursuing majors in English and Anthropology and minors in Linguistics and Russian Studies. I’ve wanted to study abroad and see the world since the beginning of high school. Last summer, I studied abroad in Stellenbosch, South Africa and I just finished a semester in St. Petersburg, Russia with AIFS, and let me tell you, I don’t think I will ever complain about cold weather in North Carolina ever again! One of my favorite moments from Russia was when a couple of classmates and I took a weekend trip up to Murmansk (the largest city in the Arctic Circle) to hunt down the Aurora Borealis – and we found them! – where the temperature got as low as -24ºC (-12ºF)!! I decided to study abroad in Russia to work on improving my Russian and to connect some with my ethnic Ukrainian heritage. Being and living in the culture that my dad grew up in was an incredible experience that helped me become closer with a part of myself. I even met family which was something I never expected when I bought my plane tickets and flew myself across the world!

“Every person has something meaningful to say in the conversation of life.” ~ Bryant McGill

A I F S ambassador Kenzi Moore
  • Kenzi Moore
  • Miami University
  • Stellenbosch, South Africa
  • J-Term 2019

Hi everyone! My name is Kenzi and I’ll be a senior at Miami University in Ohio. I am majoring in psychology and minoring in family relationships. Throughout my time in college, I knew that I wanted to study abroad so that I could experience new things as well as step outside my comfort zone. During last year’s January term, I chose to study abroad in Stellenbosch, South Africa. It was the best decision I have ever made. During my time abroad, I met new people and was immersed in a new culture that helped me develop new insights and perspectives. Stepping outside of my comfort zone allowed me to gain a new sense of confidence and try things I would have never tried before, like completing the world’s highest bridge bungy! I wouldn’t trade my time in South Africa for anything and would encourage anyone to take the leap and go abroad!

“She was unstoppable, not because she did not have failures or doubts, but because she continued despite them.” ~ Beau Taplin

A I F S ambassador Sarah Velasquez
  • Sarah Velasquez
  • Point Loma Nazarene University
  • Stellenbosch, South Africa
  • Fall 2018

Hi! My name is Sarah Velasquez and I’m from La Verne, California. I’m a senior Political Science student at Point Loma Nazarene University. In the Fall of 2018, I studied abroad in Stellenbosch, South Africa. A big part of this decision was my desire to connect with my mom’s side of the family and experience the culture she grew up with. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to learn in such a unique place; it continues to color and enrich every aspect of my life.

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

A I F S ambassador Olivia Becker
  • Olivia Becker
  • California Lutheran University
  • Granada, Spain
  • Spring 2019

Hi there! My name is Olivia and I’m a junior at California Lutheran University. I’m studying to teach English to Speakers of Other Languages, which I got to do in the form of an internship in an elementary school during my Spring 2019 semester in Granada! In addition to this priceless professional experience, my Spanish skills improved a ton while abroad by practicing every day with my host family, taking four classes in Spanish, and hanging out with new Spanish friends. I made a social life out of going to linguistic intercambios: organized language exchanges at bars. By the end of the semester, I felt that I had created a second life for myself because I felt so comfortable with the people and places I had come to know in Granada. That’s why I tattooed the quote “viajar es vivir dos veces,” which means “to travel is to live two times,” on my back during my last week in Granada. I feel like I packed a lifetime of adventures into my four months of living in Spain. I hope I can persuade everyone I come into contact with as an Alumni Ambassador to see the value in studying abroad to learn about a foreign culture, and consequently, about themselves!

A I F S ambassador Megan Longerbeam
  • Megan Longerbeam
  • University of South Florida
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Fall 2018

Hi everyone! My name is Megan Longerbeam and I am a senior at the University of South Florida. I am studying Global Business and Spanish which is why I decided to study abroad in Barcelona, Spain during the Fall 2018 semester. I absolutely loved my time abroad and travelled to a total of 11 countries. Before I left on my study abroad experience I was incredibly nervous, being that it was my first time going to Europe and the fact that I was going alone. Now I can say that going abroad alone was one of the biggest learning experiences in my life and I’m so happy I did it. I feel like I can now live by the phrase “vivir sin miedo,” which means to live without fear. After studying abroad, I feel like there is nothing I can’t face and I want to share my experiences with everyone else so that they can go through their own life-changing experience.

A I F S ambassador Charlize Melendez
  • Charlize Melendez
  • The University of South Carolina
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Fall 2018

Hey guys! My name is Charlize Melendez and I’m a Senior majoring in International Business and Finance at the University of South Carolina. I spent Fall 2018 in Barcelona, Spain with AIFS and then spent Spring 2019 in Milan, Italy through a direct exchange program! Last Fall, I was able to live with a host family and it was the best decision I could have ever made! We became so close that I went back and stayed with them during my semester in Milan! Living with Raquel and Luis gave my roommate (now BFF) and I an authentic Catalan experience, complete with homemade food and Christmas Tree decorating! In the last year I’ve visited 11 countries and the best part is that I was able to do it on a budget! As a first generation, full scholarship, college student, I want everyone to know that they have the opportunity to study abroad, regardless of financial situation! Words to live by: “For When I am Weak, Then I am Strong.” Sometimes you feel scared, alone, and homesick, but it makes you SO much stronger if you keep the faith!

A I F S ambassador Pippa Robinson
  • Pippa Robinson
  • North Dakota State University
  • Granada, Spain
  • Spring 2019

Hello! My name is Pippa and I will be a senior studying Hospitality and Tourism Management at North Dakota State University. I studied abroad in Granada, Spain Spring 2019 and it was amazing. I studied Spanish in high school and fell in love with it but I didn’t want to continue it in college. This was why I chose to study in Granada. I got the best of both worlds: I was able to learn Spanish out of the classroom and was able to study in a different country. I want future students to know that studying abroad fits many different paths and that there are always options available. I never thought that I would financially be able to study abroad but there are always ways available and I’m so glad that I found those ways.

“You can always make more money but you can’t make more time.”

A I F S ambassador Samantha Gonzalez
  • Samantha Gonzalez
  • Carroll University
  • Granada, Spain
  • Spring 2018

Hola a todos! My name is Samantha and I’ll be a senior at Carroll University located in Wisconsin. I am a double major in Nursing and Spanish with a minor in Psychology. As a nursing student, I did not know it was possible to study abroad until one of my spanish advisors brought it up to my attention. I decided to study abroad in Granada, Spain spring of 2018. I had the opportunity to be the first from the program to participate in their medical internship. Thus, I was able to practice my spanish in the medical field and put into practice all that I have learned thus far in the nursing program. I had the ability to work with some of the most incredible doctors and helped deliver two babies. For this opportunity, I could not be more thankful! A year has passed, and I continue to thank the universe for the long lasting friendships that I have made and to falling in love with a country I now call my second home. To those who are scared of traveling on their own, “it feels good to be lost in the right direction,” so take the risk and begin to live the life you’ve always dreamed of.

“The most beautiful in the world is, of course, the world itself.” ~ Wallace Stevens

A I F S ambassador Tessa Kirk
  • Tessa Kirk
  • California Lutheran University
  • Granada, Spain
  • Spring 2018

Hola, soy Tessa! I am a senior at California Lutheran University and I studied abroad in Granada, Spain spring 2018. I am a double major in psychology and spanish. Studying abroad really did change me and I can still see the effects a year later. This is my second year being an ambassador and seeing and hearing other people's stories last year help me keep mine alive. I think that this program truly has helped me to be able to share my experience with others in a professional manner and in a way to excite others to also take the leap and study abroad. Studying abroad helped me so much of the world and has made me eager to travel more. Some words I like to live by are “A dream is a wish your heart makes”-Cinderella. They’re cheesy but I think they are very accurate, if you dream something it means something to you and you must follow that dream, especially if it is studying abroad!

A I F S ambassador Alina Zárate
  • Alina Zárate
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • Granada, Spain
  • Fall 2018

¡Hola a todos! My name is Alina Zárate and I am a freshman at the University of California, Berkeley and will be majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies. My first study abroad experience with AIFS was when I was 10 years old in Florence, Italy thanks to my parents who headed a faculty-led program. Since then I have participated in AIFS programs five other times with my most recent experience being the Fall 2018 semester in Granada, Spain. Travel has always been central to my life and while every time abroad adds value, my decision to take a Gap Year with AIFS provided unique experiences that I would not have found alone. In Spain, I made strong connections with my host family, friends, and professors, played sports, volunteered within the city of Granada, took workshop courses, and completely immersed myself in the language and culture of my host country because of AIFS. I hope that as an AIFS Ambassador I can encourage other students to go abroad and see the value of an immersive program like AIFS.

“Vacation is a noun, Travel is a verb. Be a Traveler!” ~ M. Fitzgibbons

A I F S ambassador Claire Barkley
  • Claire Barkley
  • Rhodes College
  • Madrid, Spain
  • Fall 2018

Hi My name is Claire Barkley and I am a rising senior at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. I am a Political Science Major and English minor. I studied abroad with AIFS in the fall of 2018 in Madrid, Spain. I went abroad without knowing anyone, an experience I highly recommend, and I found that there is no better way to make life-long friends than by traveling and navigating foreign countries together. I made friends instantly through AIFS and I will never forget the awesome adventures we had together traveling around Europe and the Mediterranean. I arrived knowing only a little bit of Spanish, and I left considering Madrid to be a second home. Throughout my four months in Madrid, I grew to be confident navigating, communicating with locals, and exploring on my own. I took classes at a well-respected Spanish University in the heart of Madrid, Universidad Nebrija, where my classes consisted of students from all over the world. I learned so much about Spanish and European politics, while gaining new perspectives along the way from my professors and peers. After my experience with AIFS, I realized how much I love to travel and experience living amongst other cultures, that I am currently in the process of applying to graduate programs abroad.

“I am no longer afraid of becoming lost, because the journey back always reveals something new, and that is ultimately good for the artist.” ~ Billy Joel

A I F S ambassador Laura Viarengo
  • Laura Viarengo
  • University of California, Irvine
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Fall 2018

Hi everyone!! My name is Laura Viarengo and I am a third year Business Administration major at the University of California, Irvine! Fall semester of 2018 I went abroad with AIFS and got to live in Barcelona, Spain for four life-changing months. Going abroad was one of the best decisions I ever made and allowed me to travel, meet amazing new people, and experience so many new cultures. Living in Barcelona and being able to experience Spanish culture firsthand was amazing and I miss it more and more everyday. I loved being able to take the metro all around the city after school and explore beautiful, historical sites all around me. I cannot wait for my next adventure abroad and look forward to returning to Barcelona in the future and reminiscing the wonderful city I got to live in when I studied abroad.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” ~ Helen Keller

A I F S ambassador Luzmia Ligonde
  • Luzmia Ligonde
  • University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Spring 2019

Hi everyone! My name is Luzmia Ligonde and I’m a senior at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. I am majoring in public health with a minor in political science. I am an individual who constantly yearns to experience new cultures and new people and so naturally, traveling has always been a hobby to me. Originating from Haiti, it was a great opportunity to study abroad in Barcelona at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona in the Spring of 2019 where I took political science classes. I thought that it would be a strategic move to be able to observe and learn about European politics. It has been one of the best decisions for my newly growing career as it has exposed me to a different way of thinking. As of right now, I don’t know what life has in store for me after I graduate with my bachelor’s, but after the experience that I’ve had in Barcelona—I know for certain that my career will take off in a country abroad. As cliche as it may sound, the one thing that resonated with me during my travels is the famous quote “you only live once.” We tend to say it so often that we forget the power that it truly holds. Constantly reminding myself that I will only live these moments once, it pushed me to go above my limits. It is thanks to that mindset I’ve been able to explore over five different European countries.

A I F S ambassador Liza Thorell
  • Liza Thorell
  • University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Spring 2018

Hey y’all I’m Liza Thorell! I am a Senior at The University of North Carolina Wilmington in Wilmington, NC (Wilmington is Tree Hill for One tree hill lovers). I am currently studying Communications studies. I am also the president of my sorority, Alpha Xi Delta. Spring 2018 I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad for a whole semester in Barcelona, Spain. This is something I have dreamed about doing since I was a kid so I was so excited to go! I had the greatest time abroad, I was able to go to 11 countries and even got the chance to go to Morocco in Africa! Prior to studying abroad I had traveled to Europe, but actually living in Europe was totally different. Living abroad gave me the opportunity to become immersed in a completely different culture. I lived in an AIFS apartment abroad with assigned roommates. Those three assigned roommates went from roommates to best friends and my little Spanish apartment became my new home! Studying abroad was the greatest experience of my life and I miss it everyday!! Thank you AIFS for giving me the best experience abroad, I can’t wait to be an AIFS Ambassador!